The Leaves Are Falling Down

We don't get an early New England Autumn where I live in Central California, but we still enjoy the changing of the seasons and the leaves drifting to the ground in multi-hued shades of gold, ruby, and orange.

In November, we learn about trees and leaves and the changing of the seasons.  This page features some of the ways we celebrate shorter days, cooler nights, and the onset of Autumn.  You'll find songs and poems, science and art activities, and suggested books and follow-up activities, plus links to other websites.

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I introduce my The Leaves Are Falling Down unit with the poem at the top of this page, handwritten on a Song & Poetry card that goes into my Song & Poetry cards Literacy Center.  These cards are made from a half sheet of colored posterboard, with the words written in marker, usually alternating colors from line to line in an ABAB pattern.  We sing the poem to the tune of "Farmer in the Dell," and the kids really enjoy having my name in the song.

After we sing the song a few times, I put the poem into one of our many pocket charts.  We use up to 12 pocket charts at a time in my room -- they're my favorite tool for emergent readers because of their versatility.

For the pocket chart, I make 2 sets of identical laminated strips, with alternating lines written in brown and orange.  I put a blank line where the name goes in the 3rd line of the song, which shows the children that they need to insert someone's name in that spot.  I cut the second set of sentence strips into individual words for matching the text, and put them in a large ziplock Baggie, which is stapled to one of the plastic strips on the chart itself.

Next I add an additional set of sentence strips: one card for each child's name.  The names are all written in the same color as the line they will be inserted in, which helps us remember where they belong if one falls on the floor.  This is important, as I may have 3 or 4 interactive charts going at one time, all using student names, and the names are a different color for each chart.  I don't laminate the name cards, because I don't need to use them from year-to-year.

We add any extra names my kids want to use right now ... Mr. Buckner (our Principal), Nacho (our custodian, who's name is very popular!), Joy Cowley, Dr. Seuss, President Clinton, Santa Claus (it's never too early to think about Christmas!), and any others they can think of.  After several children have taken turns inserting a name into the blank, then tracking the print with a pointer while the other kids sing along, I pass out the matching print one word at a time and we match it as a whole group activity.  Finally, we put the matching text back in the Baggie, and the names back in the bottom pockets of the chart, and the kids are ready to use the pocket chart independently during Literacy Center time.

Our Favorite Stories

Autumn Leaves
A beautiful photographic exploration of many different types of Autumn leaves.  Highly recommended.

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf
A child's eye view of the growth of a maple tree, with simple and appealing text and Ehlert's signature collage illustrations.

Autumn Leaves
Another book with great photos and lots of kid appeal.  Especially good for students (like mine) who live in areas that don't have a real Fall season.

When Autumn Comes
A beautiful pictorial exploration of a New England Autumn.  Very appealing.  Under $6.

Why Do Leaves Change Color?
An easy to understand explanation of why leaves change color and fall from the trees.  Includes leaf activities for home or school.  Under $4.


How Do You Know It's Fall?
A Rookie Read About Science Book that presents a photographic essay of Autumn.  Under $4.

The Apple Pie Tree
Two sisters describe the changes that occur in their backyard apple tree throughout the year, culminating with an Autumn apple pie.

The Seasons of Arnold's
Apple Tree
A great story about Arnold enjoying his apple tree all year long.  This is a natural tie-in with teaching about seasons.  Under $5

An Apple Tree
Through the Year
Another story recounting the annual cycle of the apple tree.  We read this book during our apple unit, and revisit it during our study of Autumn leaves.
I Am a Leaf
A Hello Reader
from Scholastic Books
Easy enough for emergent readers, this story is illustrated with wonderful paper cutouts.  Under $4.

Look What I Did
With a Leaf!
An art resource book showing how to make animal shaped leaf collages.  Great for the classroom!  Under $5.
It Could Still Be a Leaf
Discusses different kinds of leaves, the forms and colors they may have, and their function. A Rookie Read About Science Book.
Under $4.

Leaf Collections

We take a Listening Walk at school, or a walking field trip to a nearby park, to collect many kinds of fallen leaves.  Each child fills a brown paper lunch sack with the leaves, twigs, and seed pods that they find.  Other items to collect include pine needles and pine cones, dried weeds and grasses, acorns, seeds and nuts.  My students usually get very excited about the large classroom collection we are building, and bring in additional items from home or weekend walks -- they've brought bird's nests, feathers, dried beans, Indian corn, gourds, and many other items.  All of these are wonderful objects for doing Autumn activities.

Before we take our walk, I read  "The Listening Walk," which reminds them of all the things we can find with our ears as well as our eyes.  This is a terrific story for teaching your students a meaningful reason to walk quietly, and how to observe things around them that they usually miss.


The Listening Walk
By Paul Showers
Illustrated by Aliki
An exceptionally good read aloud that your students will
want to revisit throughout the year.  Under $5.

We use the leaves and other objects for many activities, including making leaf rubbings, sorting by color, size, shape and texture, graphing our leaves by type, color, and size, and making seasonal collages, wreaths, and other art projects.

Taking A Walk 
  by Mary Jackson Ellis

Taking a walk is so much fun!
We don't hurry,
We don't run.
We watch for birds,
We watch for bees,
We watch for all the falling leaves.

Leaf Rubbings

One of our favorite Fall art activities is making leaf rubbings.  Each child selects three or four different leaves, and places them one at a time beneath a plain piece of white photocopy paper or computer paper, with the vein side of the leaf facing up.  I demonstrate how to use the flat edge of a broken crayon to gently rub across the leaf in order to show all the veins and the stem, as well as the unique shape of each leaf.  Sometimes we practice on plain brown newsprint paper until the kids get the technique down.

Once they know how to do it, they love to make leaf rubbing pictures, overlapping the edges of leaves and using different colors for a very lovely and realistic Autumn effect.  We make a leaf rubbing for the artwork on our November Homework Calendar, and we also make leaf rubbings to illustrate one of our books about Autumn leaves.

Because the kids get so excited about this process, I find that they quickly begin experimenting with other materials and textures in both the Art Center and the Writing Center, and many children enjoy making books about the various objects they make rubbings of.  This is also a great way to introduce textured backgrounds as an illustrating technique for our Writer's Workshop.


There is truly no limit to the type and variety of wreaths your students can make using leaves, twigs, seed pods, and other Autumn objects found on their Listening Walk.

Because we live in an area where grapes are grown, we sometimes make our own grapevine wreaths.  We also have access to cotton bolls, direct from the cotton fields, to decorate our wreaths with.  Other good bases for wreaths are paper plates, tagboard or posterboard circles or other shapes, and all those extra cd's from cd-rom software you'll never use.  Items can be attached with glue, or with a glue gun if you have parent helpers.  I usually pour white glue into margarine cups and show the kids how to dip the end or edge of their object into the glue, then place it on the wreath form.

Hats and Headbands

We also enjoy decorating hats (made from bulletin board paper fitted to the head, then rolled up around the sides till it forms a hat) and headbands