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America’s Bird: Bald Eagle Vs. Turkey

By:  |  May 19, 2020  |    861 Words

Liberty Nation GenZ  believes in educating young Americans about our country, the Constitution, and the history that created U.S. culture. This elementary level lesson plan can be used in the classroom or the home, and adapted to a range of student abilities.


  • Students will gain recognition of key U.S. symbols, figures, and native birds (turkey, bald eagle, Benjamin Franklin, great seal).
  • Students will practice reading and comprehending an informational text.
  • Students will complete a creative project to reinforce their learning.


ARTICLE: America’s Bird: Bald Eagle Vs. Turkey

HANDOUT: Describing words for birds

HANDOUT: Fill in the gaps comprehension exercise

HANDOUT: Design a seal activity


  • colored pens/pencils

Suggested Procedure:

Step 1

Begin with some dramatic play. Students choose their favorite animals to “act out.” Alternatively, the teacher can provide pictures of different birds and have the children identify them before imitating the birds (suggestions: goose, chicken, duck, pigeon, vulture). Include any birds native or common to the area. Finish with the turkey and the bald eagle.

Step 2

Read out a series of facts – if the students think it describes the turkey, they make a turkey noise and action, if they think it describes a bald eagle, they act like an eagle. This could be played cooperatively or as a competitive team game. Suggested facts:

  • This bird is on the U.S. Great Seal.
  • This bird says, “gobble gobble.”
  • Americans often eat this bird at Thanksgiving.
  • This is the national bird of the United States.
  • This bird is both wild and farmed.
  • This is a bird of prey.
  • This bird’s young are called “poults.” (answer: turkey)
  • This bird has a white head, a brown body, and a yellow beak.
  • This bird was sacred in Ancient Mexico; it was called Great Xolotl. (answer: turkey)
  • This bird mates for life. (answer: bald eagle)
  • The skin under this bird’s beak is called a “snood.” (answer: turkey)
  • This bird built the world’s largest nest. (answer: bald eagle)
  • You can tell whether this bird is male or female by the shape of its poop. (answer: turkey)
  • This is actually a sea bird that is often found living by lakes and rivers. (answer: bald eagle)

For a quieter variation of this activity, students can vote on the answers or strike a pose for each bird.

Step 3

Students brainstorm words to describe each bird. They can write their answers on the describing words for birds handout. Then go through the answers together, with students making their suggestions to the teacher.

Step 4

Ask students which bird better symbolizes the United States, and why.

Step 5

Read the article America’s Bird: Bald Eagle Vs. Turkey. Depending on students’ reading level, this can be done as a class, led by the teacher, or completed individually.

Step 6

Students may circle or point to words they don’t understand – make a list together and try to figure out the meanings from the context.

Step 7

Verbally ask comprehension questions about the article. Some suggestions:

  • What animal is on the U.S. great seal?
  • Who thought the bald eagle was a “lazy” and a “coward”?
  • Who did Benjamin Franklin write to?
  • What other bird did he suggest in his letter?
  • How did Benjamin Franklin describe the turkey?
  • Which bird steals fish to eat?
  • When was the Declaration of Independence signed?
  • Who was in charge of coming up with a picture for the Great Seal? What did they suggest?
  • What was Benjamin Franklin’s real suggestion? Did Congress approve it?
  • Who designed the U.S. great seal as we know it today?

Step 8

Students complete the fill in the gaps comprehension exercise handout to create a summary of the article.

Step 9

Show students the U.S. great seal and ask whether they think it is a good representation of the U.S. Informally brainstorm ideas of other U.S. symbols.

Step 10

Creative project: Students imagine the turkey was chosen to represent the U.S. instead of the bald eagle. They use the design a seal activity handout to draw a new U.S. seal depicting a turkey instead of an eagle and write three sentences describing what ideals the turkey could represent. They can also include other U.S. symbols in their design.

Extension 1:

Students imagine they are Franklin’s daughter and write a response to his letter. Alternatively, students imagine they are Thomas Jefferson, one of the other Founding Fathers in charge of designing the seal, and write a letter to Benjamin Franklin responding to his complaints.

Extension 2:

Class debate. For higher grades, split students into teams. Assign half the teams the position “The national bird should be changed to the turkey,” and the other half the argument that “The bald eagle should stay the national bird.” Give each team time to formulate their answers before holding a debate. In smaller classes, the student(s) can debate against the teacher.

Extension 3:

Research project. Students look online or in books to discover what other design ideas were put forward for the U.S. seal. They can create a list or write a few sentences about one proposal of their choice.

Download a PDF of this lesson plan and handouts.

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