After teaching students about the signs of the fall season and taking a fall walk to take pictures of signs of fall that we find (you can read about that here), I like to take them on a fall leaf walk a week or so later after the pretty autumn leaves have fallen to the ground. We were lucky enough this year to have unseasonably warm temperatures in the 70’s so we took full advantage of it and went out on a mission to collect leaves in all of the fall colors. We had a blast collecting leaves and even catching some in mid air as they were falling off the trees! We ended up with a nice collection!
We first have a discussion about how the leaves are alike and different. Then each student takes the leaves he/she collected and sorts them on simple construction paper sorting mats in a variety of ways. Sorting is a beginning math skill that not only helps students with number and quantity, but helps them understand that things can belong and be categorized in certain groups. Getting practice with sorting helps students with numerical concepts and grouping numbers and sets as they advance in math. It also helps them organize and make sense of the world around them.
Sort by Color
The first way students sort their collected leaves is by color. They place the leaves on the appropriate colored construction paper sorting mats. Here are some optional activities to try as well:
- You can have students write the color word on each mat.
- Have students count how many of each color they found and write the number on the mat by the color word.
- Answer questions such as “What do you observe about your leaves?”, “What color has the most leaves? How do you know?”, “What color has the least leaves?”
- Place the mats in order from most to least.
Sorting by Shape
Students also sort their leaves by shape using simple construction paper sorting mats. Some of the same optional activities as above can be used:
- Have students count how many of each shape they found and write the number on the mat.
- Answer questions such as “What do you observe about your leaves’ shapes?”,”What shape has the most leaves? How do you know?”, “What shape has the least leaves?”
- Place the mats in order from most to least.
Arranging Leaves from Largest to Smallest
Students arrange a group of leaves from largest to smallest.
Counting and Graphing Fall Leaves
I like to make a leaf graph on our bulletin board as a visual representation for students that is meaningful to them. Graphing is way to represent and communicate important mathematical concepts.
I like to ask an open ended question such as “What do you notice about our graph?” first so that students can draw their own conclusions and use higher level thinking and construct their own mathematical relationships. I follow up with questions such as “How do you know?” and “I wonder how many more red leaves there are than orange?”.
Look at Fall Leaves Through a Magnifying Glass
A favorite activity of students is to study their leaves with a magnifying glass or the free Mag Light app on an iphone or ipad which also allows them to snap a picture of the magnified image. I place magnifying glasses along with some leaves in our science center. Students use the mag light app during small group time. We discuss that leaves have 2 main parts – the blade and the petiole (leaf stalk). We also discuss and observe the veins (what is their job/purpose?, are they similar to the veins in our bodies?).
Fall Leaf Feely Bag Activity
This is a fun activity that students always enjoy. I choose several leaves that have distinct shapes and place them on the board.
Then I place a matching leaf of one of the shapes in a bag (use a fresh leaf for this activity, not a “crunchy” one). Students put their hand in the bag, feel the leaf, and guess which leaf shape they are feeling.
Why Do Leaves Change Colors Experiment
I found this experiment at 123Homeschool4Me and Beth’s pictures turned out much better than mine, so visit her blog post for the instructions for this science experiment that shows the different colors in leaves.
Draw Fall Leaves with Multiple Colors
Sometimes students find fall leaves that have multiple colors. I have this printable page from the teacher resource book Seasonal Science that I bought years ago. You could simply have students trace and draw their leaf and write or show the different colors that it has.
Identify Fall Leaves with Free Garden Answers App
This was a new activity that we tried this year. We used the free app Garden Answers to take pictures of some of our leaves and identify the type of tree from which they came. It is simple to use. You take a picture of a leaf using the app and then you choose the closest match from a variety of pictures that the app has chosen. I liked it because students got practice in matching and comparing. Once you choose a match, it shows your picture side by side with the chosen picture and asks “Do these two match?” and you choose yes or no. When you choose yes, it identifies the tree and displays information about it. If you choose no, it takes you back to the previous screen where you can choose another picture. There is also an option to ask for expert help if you can’t find a match but we didn’t have any problems finding matches for our leaves so we didn’t need to use it.
Leaf Letter Recognition
Hide some letter cards in a leaf pile (making sure there are plenty of letter L cards). Have the children jump into the leaf pile and hunt for a letter L card. You can make this activity a relay race by having a child from each team run to the leaf pile, find a letter L card, and run back.
Leaf Jumping (Directions & Directional Words)
Practice following directions and directional words by raking leaves into piles and directing the children to jump in them, jump over them, run through them, etc.
Books About Leaves
Here are some of my favorite books about leaves that we read throughout the week and are also placed in our classroom library.
Talks about all the things kids can do with fall leaves.
Story of 3 friends who collect leaves of all kinds and colors. The story that goes along with the fun song.
A simple story about a lone leaf that doesn’t want to let go of the branch.
Beautiful pictures of fall leaves and trees!
This book explains the reasons why leaves change color using simple terms that young children can understand.
Students LOVE the pictures in this book!
Talks about all the exciting things in autumn.
This series of books is always a favorite! Now she is swallowing fall items!
Adorable book about a confused little bear experiencing autumn for the first time.
Inside are fun facts about trees and leaves, a leaves ID chart, sp4ecial write-in notebook pages, and lots of stickers!
Read about the different creatures that live in trees. Learn about how the trees change with the seasons from the perspective of a leaf.