All About Leaves - Getting Started November 02 2009

[caption id="attachment_3235" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Photo by Er.We"]Photo by Er.We[/caption]I love this time of year, and it wasn't too long into my teaching career that I created a unit to help celebrate it. I'm also a fan of thematic units, so I decided to bridge those few weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving with a study of Leaves across the curriculum.

In the days to come, there will be lessons that involve leaves in the subject areas of reading, math, science and art. Hopefully they will bring inspiration and fun into your classroom as they do in mine!

But first, we need to set the stage for our exploration of All About Leaves! Here are a few tips to help you get started.


Prepare an easy to identify place for your students to keep their special "All About Leaves" pages and lessons. I like to use 11x17 brown construction paper, folded in half horizontally (or, "hamburger style"). If you want the folders to have pockets, a vertical half of an additional 11x17 sheet stapled across the bottom should do it! They can decorate them for fun, and later you can use them for student portfolios or special work to send home. And in the classroom, when you want your kids to get out their All About Leaves materials, they just need to grab their brown folders.


I chose these vocabulary words based on the activities coming up, especially those involved in the scientific explorations of leaves and how they operate. Feel free to add or take away from this list as needed! Also, if you'd like some ideas for vocabulary activities, check out this Pumpkin Patrol post!

tree, dark, night, cool, cold, windy, chilly, air, turn, light, leaves, fall, Autumn, colorful, green, yellow, red, brown, carotenoids, chlorophyll, pigments, anthocyanins, temperature, nutrients, oak, hickory, birch, poplar, maple, evergreen, separation layer, glucose, water, carbon dioxide


Avoid feeling the pressure to decorate your classroom in a special way for this unit. First, your kids will do it for you through the variety of projects over the next couple of weeks. And second, use books about leaves from your school or local library; set them all around the room for kids to access during special times of the  day, or to read aloud to them during your study of leaves.

Here's a list of fall or leaf books I've put together:

Fall Leaves by Don L. Curry
How Do You Know it's Fall? by Allan Fowler
It's Fall! by Linda Glaser
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro
Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins
Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber
We're Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steven Metzger
Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall

Collect and Chart

We can't skip over the K-W-L chart, especially the questions that kids have about leaves, mainly "Why do they change color?" and "Why do they fall?" These are great questions with which to start the unit, and they will be answered by the time you finish the K-W-L chart in a couple of weeks!

For your activities in the coming days, you're going to need help from your students with leaf collecting. Give each student a gallon sized storage or freezer bag in which to bring back a variety of leaves. An important detail - LEAVES MUST BE DRY! Otherwise, they'll smoosh together and start decomposing, which will not help your lessons. The other rule I give them is that they must include at least five different leaves; I often run a contest with a small prize for the person who collects 1) the most leaves and 2) the biggest variety of leaves.

To chart just exactly how many types of leaves are represented in your class, hang a long piece of butcher paper across the front of the room. Glue one leaf of each kind you discover from your students across the top or bottom, then take a count of how many of each type you have in the classroom. When you're done, you'll have a visual display of the variety of leaves collected as well as a graph to help you start your unit!

You and your students are sure to have some fun exploring All About Leaves!