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Books Used
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
Fun With Nature by Mel Boring (or another tree/leaf guide)

Library List
We're Going on a Leaf Hunt
When Autumn Comes
by Robert Maas
Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro
Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins
Look What I Did With A Leaf by Morteza E. Sohi


Leaf Diagram
Bring a few leaves in from outside.  Have your student draw a picture of the leaf (you may need to help add the details) attached to a stem. 

Label the leaf with the following terms:
petiole - a leaf stalk; it attaches the leaf to the plant
leaf apex - the outer end (tip) of a leaf; the end that is opposite the petiole.
midrib - the central rib of a leaf - it is usually in the center and continuous with the petiole.
vein - one of the many vascular structures on a leaf. Veins provide supports for the leaf and transport both water and food through the leaf.
lamina- the actual leaf (blade)
stem - (also called the axis) the main support of the plant.
stipule - the small, paired appendages (sometimes leaf-life) that are found at the base of the petiole of leaves of many flowering plants.

Prepared Labeled Diagram (does not include stem or stipule) 
Smaller Version-- unlabeled (to include in your lapbook)

Leaf Identification/Collection
Go outside with Fun With Nature in hand and see how many different trees you can identify (use their leaves to identify them).  You may want to keep your leaves and make a collection (include common names as well as scientific names).   If you don't want to store leaves, you can make a leaf rubbing of each leaf and then add the names for the leaf; another idea would be to take photos of your leaves and paste them into your book after you print your pictures. 

Learn the names of different types of leaves-- Play this Leaf Concentration Game

Leaf Margins
The shape of the edge or margin of a leaf is another way it can be identified.  Margin is the term used to describe the edge of the leaf; there are three basic kinds of leaf margins:
entire - having a smooth edge with neither teeth nor lobes.
lobed - divided into rounded or pointed sections and the incisions (cuts) go less than halfway to the midrib.
toothed - having small, pointy teeth that point toward the tip of the leaf.

Leaf Margin Tri-fold book for your lapbook

Your older student may wan to learn more about other margin sub-classifications.  Check out this website for more information
Note:  it seems that there are many different classifications for leaf margins.  Websites that I've used for this research are edu sites, but they aren't consistent with one another.  I think the important thing for your younger student to learn from this lesson is that leaves can be classified into margins (not that they memorize every type of margin there is); for your older student to use observation and classification skills.

Science:  Leaves Change Color
First, explain to your student that there are two types of trees.  The first type is evergreen; they have green needles all winter long.  The second type is deciduous which "change" their leaf colors in preparation for winter.   It appears that leaves are changing colors, but really they aren't!

Each leaf has milLions of tiny packages of chlorophyll, xanthophyll, and carotene.  Chlorophyll is green; xanthophyll is yellow; carotene is orange.  In the summer time, the green chlorophyll packages are busy catching sunlight and using energy, they change water from the ground and carbon dioxide (a gas in the air that they need to survive) into glucose (sugar).   This process is called photosynthesis and provides the tree with food (the glucose/sugar). 

During the summer, the green chlorophyll packages continue to produce food for the tree.  They are able to do this since they are able to get the water they need to do their job.  The water goes up the tree's roots, on up the trunk, and enters little tubes in the leaf's stem.   Because these green packages are able to get water and keep busy, the green color dominates the other colors. 

In the fall, the weather gets colder signaling to the tree that it is time to prepare for winter.  A thin layer (of cells) grows over the tubes in the leaves and closes them up for winter-- they are no longer able to get water-- and that means they stop producing the food for the tree.  The green chlorophyll starts to disappear and the true color of the leaf-- the yellow and orange, are able to be seen.

Red and purple leaves have a different explanation.  Some trees have sap.  The sap in the trees uses the same tubes to travel through the tree that water uses.  When the thin layer of cells grows over the water tubes, the sap is trapped.  When it gets trapped in a leaf, it may cause the sap to turn red or purple, so the leaf turns that color as well.   (A go-along book for this lesson -- Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert)

Experiment-- Using chromatography, your student will be able to see the colors always present in a leaf
Supplies Needed
Green Leaf (spinach, beet, or one from a deciduous tree)
Porcelain or Stoneware coffee mugs
Smooth, round rocks
Fingernail Polish Remover (acetone)
Coffee Filter
Clear Plastic Cup
Rubbing Alcohol

Chromatography is a process scientists use to separate materials that are different.

1. After the science lesson, ask your student if the color is on the outside of the leaf or on the inside (the inside). 
2. In order to see the color, ask your student to break up a leaf and use the stone to grind it into smaller pieces (use the mug for this). 
3. Add a spoonful of acetone (polish remover) to the mug.  Keep squishing the leaf until the liquid has gained some color from the leaf.
4. Let the mix sit for 1-2 minutes.  While you are waiting, cut a coffee filter into a rectangle (about 2" by 8").   Let your student use the q-tip to pick up a drop of the colored liquid from the leaf grinding and place one drop one inch from the end of the filter rectangle. 
5.  Let the drop dry.
6.  Then, use the q-tip again to add a few more (2-3) drops to the same spot.  Let each drop dry before adding the next drop.
7.  Put 1/4 cup of the alcohol in the clear plastic cup.
8.  Carefully put the end of the filter paper strip-- the end with the drops on it-- into the cup, but DO NOT let the colored drop touch the alcohol.
9.  Put paperclips on the filter to secure strips to the side of the cup.  The alcohol will travel up the filter paper, separating the different colors in the leaf (this takes about an hour or longer, so you will want to move on to another subject while waiting).
10.  When the color has stopped moving, remove the paper from the alcohol; let it dry; observe the color that was in the leaf.

Lifecycle of a Maple Tree (this goes with Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf)
Go on a nature walk (note: take a measuring tape along with you).  Try to find a maple seed, a maple seedling, a maple sapling, a pole, and a mature tree.  If your student is young, take a camera and photograph each stage that you can find.  When you develop the pictures, make a minit book on the lifecycle of the maple tree.  If your student is old enough to draw in a nature journal (and you don't want to do the photography option), allow him to draw pictures of the maple tree in each stage. 

As you measure trees together, explain to your student what diameter and circumference are. The diameter is the distance across the center of a circle. The circumference is the distance around the circle.

Seedling: the above-ground part of the embryo that sprouts from the seed
Sapling: After the seedling reaches 3 feet (1 m), and until it reaches 3 inches (7 cm) in stem diameter
Pole: Trees from 3-12 inches in diameter (730 cm)
Mature tree: over 1 foot in diameter  (over 30 cm), reproductive years begin

Leaf and Tree Vocabulary
After you read Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, read through the information provided by Ehlert on the final four pages.  As you read, you may want to make a list of new words with your student.  Take time to write definitions, too.  Review these frequently throughout this unit. 
Prepared Vocabulary Pocket (with blank cards)

Suggested Word List:

What other words have you encountered this week that are new words?  Add them to your list as well.

Plant a Tree! (this goes with Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf)
Field trip time!  Visit a nursery.  Observe the different trees.  Let your student choose a tree to buy, take home, and plant.  (Lois Ehlert gives good information about planting trees, but be sure and ask the workers at the nursery lots of questions, too!).   You may want to let your student measure it each year and record it's growth in the same spot.

Social Studies

Cardinal Directions
(this goes with Leaf Man only)
The wind blows the leaf man in every direction - north, south, east, and west. These directions are called cardinal points. Have your child look for the compass rose on a map and locate the cardinal points. An easy way to remember the points is to look at the letters going clockwise and remember this ditty: Never Eat Shredded Wheat.

Draw a simple compass rose (N, S, E, W) in the middle of a poster board or large piece of paper.  Then add the details from the story.  If your student isn't writing yet on his own, you could write the words for him.

next to east
                    write -- "past the chickens"
                    draw-- chickens
next to south
                    write-- "following butterflies"
                    draw-- butterflies

next to north
                    write-- "above leaves that look like him"
                    draw-- leaves

next to west
                    write-- "above the orchards"
                    draw-- fruit trees


Mock Illustrations
Go on a leaf hunt.  Make color copies of your leaves with a photo copier or scanner/printer.  Cut them out and use them to make animals and leaf men like Lois Ehlert did in her story.   What other unusual media can your student use to make a picture?  Sometimes artists use things other than traditional paint, crayon, colored pencils, etc.   Let your student use unusual media to create a picture (fabric, buttons, yarn, wallpaper, foil, twine, or ?)

Four Seasons Sugar Maple Tree (Science Connection) (this goes with Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf)
You need four pieces of paper for this project; you could also use a piece of poster board if you want to display it in your classroom.

Look at the pages in the book where the speaker tells you about his tree through the seasons.  Discuss.  Tell your student that she is going to draw a tree and illustrate what it would look like in each season.   Note:  I tried to give some suggestions for each tree, but don't let me stifle your (or your student's) creativity!  If you think of something you want to do instead, feel free!

Winter:  Bare branches.  Paint the branches with a water-glue mixture (to create an icy look).  If you want to add some "snow"  try white glitter (sprinkle on before the glue/water paint dries.  Let your student add other things as desired (maybe treats for the birds or some birds or ?). 

Spring:  Make tiny leaf buds on the branches.  You can use pinched green tissue paper or dip a q-tip into green tempera (or green ink) and let your student make the buds with the q-tip.  Add some maple tree flowers, too (see the illustration in the book); you may want to let your student cut yellow fun foam or yellow construction paper to make these. 

Summer: Add lots of broad, green leaves to make a full crown; you can tear green tissue paper (or construction paper) to illustrate the leaves or you could stamp them on if you have a leaf stamp and green ink (you could also use a piece of sponge and sponge them on).    Cut maple seeds from construction paper and add to the tree. 

Fall: Add red and yellow leaves to your tree (see suggestions for summer); if you can find a very small maple leaf, you may want to make rubbings and cut them out to use for your tree's leaves. 

Here is a variation of this idea:

Photo submitted by Candace Crabtree

Craft Ideas

Leaf Prints
Make leaf prints by painting leaves and pressing them on paper.

Press and dry various leaves, and then make a pretty fall placemat by mounting the leaves between two sheets of clear contact paper.


Discuss symmetry.  Draw half of a leaf.  Fold it and place it against a window so you can see the lines through the blank side.  Then trace the lines and open it to reveal a complete leaf.  Find lines of symmetry in other things in your house.

Counting and Classifying Leaves
Go outside and gather some leaves.  Bring them in and count how many you gathered.  Then, sort the leaves into different groups (by color or by size).  Then, make a graph and graph how many leaves of each color you found.  Your older student can find the ratio (how many red leaves are there for every yellow leaf?). 

Leaf Math for your younger student from
My Leaf Counting Book from bry-back manor

Language Arts

Singular/Plural (leaf, leaves)
Does your student know the difference between singular and plural? Some words in the English language are easy to figure out: 

bear bears
doll dolls
rock rocks
apple apples

The word leaf, on the other hand, is a little bit tricky.  It's what we call irregular.  Some nouns that end in -f or -fe are changed to -ves in the plural.  The plural of leaf is leaves.  Here are some other irregular plurals (that end in f or fe and are changed to ves):

calf calves
half halves
hoof hooves
knife knives
life lives
self selves
shelf shelves
thief thieves
wife wives
wolf wolves
loaf loaves

Language Arts: Creative Writing
Let your student write a story similar to one of the books you've been reading. 
If you choose Leaf Man, let your student write about a leaf man.  You may want to use Lois Ehlert's refrain-- "no one knows where a leaf man blows..."
If you choose Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf,
let your student narrate or write a story he creates about one of the trees where you live.

Seasons Poem: Autumn
There are many different ways to tackle this creative writing assignment.  You know your student best, choose the option you think she would enjoy!

Metaphor Poem
If you've introduced the poetic elements of metaphor and simile to your student through various other unit studies you've used, then encourage your student to try to write a metaphor poem.  Have your student choose an object in nature (something found in fall-- acorn, squirrel, tree, leaf, pumpkin, etc.) and compare it to something else (usually a person or pet is the easiest).   Then, help him to find the connections between the two and extend the metaphor into an actual poem. 

Concrete Poem
Another option would be to try some concrete poetry.  You get to play with the lines and make the poem take shape.  If your student writes about leaves or trees, encourage him to stagger  
                                                words     to resemble falling leaves. 
Or, he could even make his poem in the shape of a tree.  It's up to him!  He's the poet!

Acrostic Poem
Choose a fall word (leaf, tree, autumn, etc.) and use the first letter in each word to start that line of the poem.

This type of poetry is usually nature centered.  If your student has written a haiku before, encourage her to write a fall-themed haiku poem (or maybe even two!). Haiku usually combine three different phrases (in English we usually write a haiku in three lines); the first line is five syllables, the second is seven syllables, and the final line is five syllables.

If your student really enjoys writing poetry, you may suggest writing one of each type of poem and making a Fall Poem minit book for your notebook or lapbook.

Just for Fun

Lois Ehlert gives instructions for how to make a bird treat.  Make some together and hang them on your trees. 

String of Leaves Craft/Decoration

My Leaf Color Book (for your younger student)

Leaf Shape Book (excellent!)

Blank Leaf Pattern (make your own shape book; pattern from


Fall Foliage Links (view fall trees from all over the United States)