Savor the season! Bring the colors of fall into the classroom with hands-on science and language activities that will teach important concepts and valuable study skills. Included: Ten activities to teach about the season!
Math and graphing -- charting fall temperatures. Choose a local newspaper, a local TV station, or a national weather Web site, such as the Weather Channel, to use as a resource for collecting local temperatures during September and October. Students can use Education World's Fall Temperatures teaching master as they collect data relating to each day's high temperature, low temperature, and average temperature. Students in grades 4 and above might figure the week's average high, low, and average temperatures.
Add a lesson in graphing to the exercise above: Students can create a bar graph or a line chart to show the average temperatures throughout the season.
Math -- estimating. Challenge students to estimate the number of leaves on a tree. To start, they might count the leaves on several "typical" branches, then figure the average number of leaves per branch. For complete details on this activity, including questions to ask, see How Many Leaves on a Tree?
Hands-on science -- learning about photosynthesis. Without enough sunlight, plants cannot use the process of photosynthesis to produce food. To prove that fact, students should select a tree leaf or the leaf of a houseplant. Cover part of that leaf (up to half of it) with a piece of cardboard or foil. Wait at least a few days, then remove the cardboard or foil. What happened? What does that prove? (For complete details and follow-up questions, check the Photosynthesis Activity from Newton's Apple. The activity includes a student activity page.)
Science -- understanding the seasons. Why are there seasons? What is the weather like during the different seasons? When you go to bed in the summer, is it light or dark outside? When you go to bed in the winter, is it light or dark outside? Gather a globe, a flashlight, and a few other common materials to set up an activity that will demonstrate that seasons exist because of the tilt of Earth and its impact on the intensity of the sunlight at a given location. For the details of this experiment, see the Seasons Lesson (original source: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign).
Solving word problems. Challenge students to solve math word problems based on the pictures and information on the Pumpkinfest Winners Web page. Here are some sample questions:
Language and science -- learning more about photosynthesis. Use this as a group activity. Print out a copy of the story Why Leaves Change Color (from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Web site) for each group. Students can take turns reading the story. Then they can work together to complete the true-false exercise on Education World's Photosynthesis teaching master. (Option: In a one-computer classroom, students might sign up for a half-hour of computer time to complete this activity.) Answer Key: 1. T, 2. T, 3. T, 4. T, 5. F, 6. F, 7. F, 8. T, 9. T, 10. T.
This activity is best for students in grades 4 through 8. If you are teaching younger students about photosynthesis, you might create a true-false quiz using Why Leaves Change Color from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. If you teach high-school science, a more complex explanation of photosynthesis can be found at The Chemistry of Autumn Colors, which is part of the Chemical of the Week feature on the Science Is Fun Web site from University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry professor Bassam Z. Shakhashiri.)
Language arts -- webbing fall. What activities, holidays, clothing, and other changes do your students associate with fall? Individual students or small groups can create webs to show their ideas.
Click here to see how your students' webs might begin to look.
Then it's time to brainstorm related words and details -- using lots of good nouns, adjectives, and verbs -- for each of those ideas. When the webs are complete, students can pool their ideas to create a class chart of fall words and ideas. They can use those ideas to write a story about their favorite things about fall.
Language arts -- writing poetry. Brainstorm nouns, verbs, and adjectives about fall. (You might already have a good starter list if you did activity #7 above.) Students can use those words to help them as they write fall poems. For inspiration, you might share some of the work posted by students to the An Apple a Day Web site. (For more apple related activities, be sure to see An Apple for the Teacher. That Education World story from last fall is full of great ideas!)
Handwriting. Choose an October poem as a class handwriting activity. Post the best student handwriting samples on a bulletin board for all to see.
Language arts -- editing. Use the You Be the Editor teaching master with this activity. Make copies of the teaching master for students, or post the activity at a language arts learning center. Challenge students to work on their own or in pairs to edit the paragraphs. There are ten errors of capitalization, punctuation, spelling, or grammar in the text, which is borrowed from the Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall? page of a Web site called Science Made Simple. You might check out the Web page; it offers several cool science experiments for students in the upper elementary grades and above.
Article by Gary Hopkins
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