Fourth Grade Performance {Olivia's Birds} |

Fourth Grade Performance {Olivia's Birds}

This past week, my fourth graders performed a program based on the book, "Olivia's Birds" by Olivia Bouler. 

The book is a really inspiring true story about an 11-year-old named Olivia who helped Audubon by donating her art to people who contributed to the Gulf Clean-Up Campaign. All of the art and text throughout the book is created by Olivia!

Today, I'm blogging with a summary of songs and dances I used for the program, as well as scenery ideas and an idea for donating to Audubon!

I did this program with fourth grade, but it could easily be adapted for third or fifth. Here are the details; keep in mind that I jumped around a bit in the book, since the book isn't exactly chronological.

I split the text up between 28 narrators, but I didn't use all of the text, and I added a little text to suit my needs (I'll include the text I changed.) Most of the book is about different types of birds, so you could exchange some of the songs I suggest for different bird songs.I had three narrators come up and read the text in the book from "Birds are fascinating..." to "even on your roof."

After those three narrators, I had students sing "Shoheen Sho"; I believe it has the same melody as  "Suo Gan" and "Gently Sleep." Here is the notation:

I had students sing the song, then a select group play the song on recorder, then all students sing the song again. For the select group, I had students audition and chose students who played with good sound, correct rhythm, and correct notes. I had a few students from every class, but you might choose an even smaller group, or have everyone play!

I had one narrator read "You may not notice..." but then I created this line to fit my needs: 
"For example, the pigeon, one of the most intelligent birds, often perches on the ledges of apartment buildings."
Then students sang "Magic Feathers," a Chippewa folk song, shown below (for more materials for this song, check out this set.) I had one class perform on instruments, with some students playing ti-ti repeatedly on drums and other students playing the rhythm on rattle-type instruments.

Then I had a group of five narrators come up and read from "Did you know that birds learn" to "Birds are flying elegance."

Then I had two classes perform this dance, called "Wandering Bird":

I simplified the dance a little bit: for the B section, I had students do: step, step, left right toe, left right toe, left right toe, left right toe, step step. Then repeat. I searched everywhere for a recording of this and couldn't find one, so I made a mp3 from the YouTube video with this site. There is a little background noise, but it was the best I could do! Another option would be to use another bird dance, such as "Bluebird" from this Sanna Longden resource.

I had one student read "Some birds can be elegant when they walk too!"

Then I created this text for two narrators to read: "The tinikling birds of the Philippines are known to be very graceful as they walk in between grass stems." Then, "The tinikling dance you will see imitates the graceful motions of the tinikling birds."

My colleague Jenna prepared a class for the tinikling dance, and I loved watching it! For more about how to teach tinikling, see this comprehensive blog post by my friend Tanya. The kids really loved it (and as an aside, one of my only memories from my one year of general music in sixth grade is performing tinikling at a music program!)

Then, I had two narrators read from "Most birds live in trees" to "far away from civilization." Then I had students sing "My Owlet," which can be viewed here, and had one class perform an Orff accompaniment. I used the Orff accompaniment found in this set.

Then, I had one narrator read "Some birds do the most unusual, interesting things," and another narrator read a line I created: "Some birds make very curious calls." (pause) "One of these is a kookaburra, whose call sounds like a laugh." During the pause, I had a short track of a kookaburra laugh play. Then, after "sounds like a laugh," we sang "Kookaburra" with this accompaniment track. We sang four verses, and on the third verse, the students did a 4-part round.

Then I had one narrator come up and read from "Whether the unique calls" to "don't seem like birds at all." Then, we performed this Chinese chant:

Peacock feathers on an old plum tree, (ti-ti tika-tika ti-ti ta)
You can try, but you can't catch me! (ti-ti ti-tika ti-ti ta)

After chanting it twice, I had one group say the ostinato: "Can't catch me" (ti-ti ta) four times. Then we added another group saying the ostinato: "Peacock feathers on a tree" (ti-ti tika-tika ta rest) twice. Then the rest of the students said the chant twice, layering on top of the ostinati.

Then I had two narrators come up and read from "What do you think of..." to "proudly with our flag." Then the students sang four verses of "Old Bald Eagle," which can be found here. I accompanied the song on dulcimer.

Then, I had seven students come up and narrate from "The bad news is..." to "even a child can make a difference."

Then, I had students perform "Einstein," a song about making a difference, by my friend Lessia Bonn (a song my students LOVED!) I just collaborated with Lessia to create a set with materials to teach the song; you can view it by clicking below:

This is a great song to bridge the gap between folk music and more contemporary music. I've shied away from using pop music, partly because I believe folk music is so important to a child's music education, and partly because so many pop songs have inappropriate lyrics, but this song sounds contemporary yet has a great message (and WILL get stuck in your head)!

Then, I had one more narrator read from "Olivia's message" to "protect them."

The students and audience really seemed to enjoy the musical, and I was also able to get them thinking about a cause greater than themselves! My art teacher had all the 4th graders create birds out of cardboard, and then he affixed magnets to the back of the birds. We then put tape on the back of the magnets and affixed them to trees from Carson Dellosa, like shown below:

Then, after the performance, I told all the parents that they were welcome to take their child's magnet, but that we had a suggested donation of $1 that we would send to Audubon (and that they were welcome to leave less or more). I am happy to say that we collected around $150 to send to Audubon! Since our school's theme this year is giving, this tied in nicely and was a wonderful way to end the program!

The fourth graders really enjoyed this performance, and I was very pleased with what they did musically, from singing, to dancing, to playing instruments! Hopefully I've explained everything so that you could recreate it or adapt it for your own students.

If you're looking for more programs that are accessible and easy to use with your students, check these out:



You can also read about another fifth grade performance, based on "On the Day You Were Born," here, and a fifth grade performance, based on "Wangari's Trees of Peace," here.

Which programs have worked for you? Let me know, and feel free to send me any questions. Good luck, and have fun!


  1. Love this and the tie in with giving! Aimee @

    1. Thanks so much, Aimee! Love your blog! :)

  2. This is such a beautiful idea Aileen! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. With some changes, I'm using this with my fourth graders in a few weeks. Thanks so much for the help!!