Sneed B. Collard III
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Informative Text
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



The book, Beaks! by Sneed B. Collard III is a beautifully illustrated guide to birds with different beaks adapted to gather food in their habitats by pecking, tearing, spearing, crushing, scooping, and more. The watercolor and cut paper collages are paired with informative text about each type of bird and their beaks (their shape and what they are meant to do to gather food). 

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

3-LS4-3 Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence could include needs and characteristics of the organisms and habitats involved. The organisms and their habitat make up a system in which the parts depend on each other.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
After reading this book, students could research additional birds and use what they have learned from Beak! and their research to construct an argument about how the shape of a bird's beak allows it to survive in its habitat. The book can also be read by the teacher as an interactive read aloud with the focus question: How does the shape of a bird's beak allow it to survive in its habitat? After reading the book, students could share ideas about what would happen to a bird if the habitat changed and its food source was no longer available. This book also can be used in conjunction with the Adaptation video and the Bird Beaks lesson available in the NGSS@NSTA Hub lesson resources.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Ask students to choose a bird from Beaks! to draw in their science notebook, describing how the shape of the beak helps the bird gather food. Ask students to research other birds that have similar diets and then compare their beaks (recording their observations in their notebooks). How are the beaks similar/different? Then, ask students to compare their habitats. Is there any connection to habitats and the type of food the birds eat? How does the shape of the beak help a bird survive where it lives? To supplement this activity, students could watch videos of their birds from sources such as the Macaulay Library of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology ( or

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
After reading the book, students could observe birds in their area--focusing on their beaks. Ask students to draw and describe the beaks of 2-3 birds that they see. Are the beaks different? Why or why not? Use field guides to look up information about birds with similar beaks. Why are they similar? Does it have anything to do with what they eat and where they live? Why? After gathering information from the book, their observations and research about other birds, students (or the class as a group) can create a chart summarizing the type of food eaten, the shape of the beak, and the habitat for many different types of birds. Based on this evidence, students can make claims about the connections between the shapes of bird beaks and how they help them survive in their habitats.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Beaks! provides information about the shape of bird beaks and how the shape is ideal for gathering the food that the birds eat. If they are not already familiar with the crosscutting concept of structure and function, the teacher will need to explain it to students. After they have gathered information on the shape of beaks and their function, the teacher can ask students to give examples of how this crosscutting concept applies based on their evidence. A class structure and function chart (that includes evidence for various types of birds) can be created to illustrate this crosscutting concept.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Beaks! is strongly aligned with the core idea, the practice of obtaining information and the crosscutting concept of structure and function. It can also be easily adapted to support the practice of constructing explanations by asking students use the information they gather from the book and other sources to make claims about how the shape of a bird's beak helps it survive in its habitat.

  • Instructional Supports: The book presents big ideas in boldface (e.g, "Birds use beaks to get food. But not all beaks work the same."). This highlighted text will be helpful for all levels of readers. The teacher might want to create an interactive word wall to show beak type (long beak, hooked beaks, etc), the type of food the bird with that type of beak eats, and their habitat. This wall would include the words as well as pictures of the birds and their beaks.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The last pages of Beaks!, titled Test Your "Beak-Ability," shows pictures of birds and asks "What would I eat with this beak?" The teacher can extend this idea by creating additional photos of birds (perhaps put on index cards) and asking students: What do you think this bird eats? Why do you think that? Students could even create cards on their own in small groups and then swap cards with another group to make a Mystery Bird Beak game.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.