Ways to invite birdsongs into your lessons
It is that time of the evening again when I'm out for a relaxing walk in the woods after a busy day. I have a slight headache and my eyelids feel heavy after spending eight hours in front of a screen. As soon as I step into nature, a brown thrasher greets me with its chirpy song. Its brown plumage contrasts against the blue sky above me. A friendly magpie hops nearby and its dance makes me chuckle. After soaking in all the smells, sounds and bright colours around me I feel how the tiredness is gradually leaving my body.
My daily routines are synced to the happy dawn chorus and soothing birdsongs at dusk. But what I find incredible is that those natural sounds allow me to lull my mind and birth new ideas for my visualisations, articles and lesson plans.
Scientists say that listening to birds is a natural way to
relax your body;
quieten your mind;
improve your concentration;
remember things better;
stay in the present moment;
notice what is around you;
bring fresh ideas for your writing
Here’s an interesting fact. Teachers in a school in Liverpool found out that when students were played a soundscape of birdsong, they were more alert and were able to concentrate on their studies better.
I have been using the calming effect of natural sounds in my lessons for years. What I have noticed is that birdsongs help my students focus better, make them more inquisitive about nature and allow them to process and connect ideas in new ways.
One of the easiest ways to bring those chirping sounds in the classroom is by playing something off YouTube, Soundcloud or Spotify. You could also download the free RSPB radio app and play those natural tunes while the students are working. Or why don't you ask them to choose their “favourite natural soundtrack of the week” that could be played quietly during the lessons?
Another way I invite nature into my classes is by tuning into www.tree.fm where a stunning picture accompanied by natural sounds takes you to various forests in the world. I use this website not only because of the comforting birdsongs but also because it is a wonderful way to unleash my students’ imagination.
Here is how you could do it:
*Once you're on the website, click on “Choose a random forest”
*When the picture is revealed, read which part of the world it comes from and talk to your students if they know anything about this particular country as well as the flora and fauna one can see there.
*Ask them to envisage what they can see, hear, touch, smell or even taste there.
*Invite them to write a story imagining they’re in this particular forest. Encourage them to be guided by the sounds they can hear. What happens when a bird goes quiet? Maybe it is intimidated by their presence or an animal has scared it.
NB. Before the writing process begins, you may want to discuss with your students the genre of their story. Maybe they would like to write a mystery, quest, science fiction, or a romantic story.
If you want to spark your students’ love for preserving our planet, you could lead a discussion about the changes this forest would undergo unless we reversed the effects of climate changes.
In addition, you may want to ask them to do some research about this forest and what plants and animals can be seen there. How is that forest similar or different from a forest they are familiar with?
And if the weather permits, why don't you take your students outdoors and practise creative writing in some real woods?
If you like this post, you may want to check out An Autumn Walk in the Park, which I wrote about a year ago.
How do you welcome nature in your classroom? I would love to hear your ideas. Please, leave a comment below.
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Finally, I am so happy to announce that my book "101 activities to teach English mindfully" is sold on Amazon. (Kindle and Paperback edition) You can also purchase it from my online store, where you'll receive a pdf copy.
The book includes my students' favourite mindful exercises divided in the following sections:
*Mindful Breathing *Visualisations *Wake up the Senses *Expressing Gratitude *The Power of Kindness *The Power of Positivity *Reading Activities *Creative Activities *Miscellaneous The publication is suitable for all English/EFL teachers who are eager to introduce mindfulness in their classes. I have also described the principles of mindfulness and why they are beneficial for our students. So even if you are not familiar with mindful teaching, you are covered. The activities are fun, engaging and are appropriate for both traditional and online lessons.
In order for this book to be beneficial to you at its best, I have included a few personal stories as well as links to other resources which could be used as follow-up exercises. In addition, you will find eight extra worksheets which you will need for some of the activities. And I have a special treat for you. I have decided to share five of my students’ favourite mindful lesson plans.
Until we meet again, be blessed