The Ever Changing Seasons

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Students will be able to observe a native tree, describe what they see and accurately record their observations.

Big Idea

Observing a native tree helps students gather and communicate information which describes the qualitative changes through the seasons.


15 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.”

By saying “walking feet” I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I tell them I am going to have them watch a short video about today’s lesson topic. The musical video clip is the song Four Seasons in a Year sung by Harry Kindergarten.

Make sure you have loaded the video clip onto your SMARTBoard or other media source before the students come to the rug so you do not lose instructional time.


If you do not have a SMARTBoard or other related media source then I suggest using I Love it When It Snows, by Betsy Q. I have the students stand up and do washing machine arms to make sure they will not get in anyone else’s way. 

“This song allows you to make up your own actions but remember your body is in your control you tell it what to do, so I should see everyone keeping their actions in control.” Saying this reminds the students they should be focused on the lesson at hand.

Once the song is over I have the students take a seat back on their spots by singing the Spot on Your Dot song.


Once the video is over I ask the students “Raise your hand if you can tell me one sign of spring.”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand to respond to the request.

“Nice recall Ashley; flowers are often a sign that spring is here. How about in summer? What is a sign that it is summer?”

I select another student to respond to this request.

“Good observation Will; summer can get very hot. How about for fall?”

I select a different student.

“I agree Colin; the leaves change color in the fall. Last but least, winter.”

I select one more student.

“I think Adleigh is right; I see snow in the winter too.”

“Those were all good signs of different seasons. Today we are going to read a book about a tree. Observe closely to see how you can tell what season it is by what the tree looks like.” 


I use this video clip or song and brief discussion to engage my students’ attention. The video clip and/or song provides the students with some information which will be helpful to them during integrated work stations. These activities also help the students to begin thinking about what they already know about the four seasons.  


45 minutes

I show the students the cover of the book A Tree for All Seasons, by Robin Bernard. “As you look at the cover of this book, raise your hand if you can tell me what season it is and how you know.”

I select a student who has their hand raised following the correct classroom protocol.

“Nicely explained Adleigh; she said she thinks the season is fall because the leaves of the tree are red and orange and there are lots of leaves on the ground. Raise your hand if you agree with Adleigh.”

“Good hands down. I agree with Adleigh too. Tree’s that lose their leaves in the fall are called deciduous trees. What are trees called that lose their leaves?”

I have the students repeat back to me the word, “Deciduous.” I do this because repeating the word verbally helps the word gain more meaning to the students.

“Today we are going to read a book about one kind of deciduous tree and then we will go and observe a deciduous tree that grows in our school garden.”


Now I go ahead and read the book to the students. While reading I will stop and have discussions about words we do not know; such as bud, sap, tassels, etc. I also ask the students if they know the scientific term for what the animals are doing when the book shows a picture of a squirrel taking “a cozy nap” during the winter season. We briefly discuss hibernation, but I do not spend too much time on this as we will discuss it more detail when we do our forest unit at the end of October.

I give the students opportunities to predict what will come next and have them justify their answer based on the information we heard in the video clip or song and our discussion.

“Which season do you think will come next?”

“How do you know?”


When the book is over I explain to the students that over the course of the school year we are going to observe a native deciduous tree in our garden.  I tell the students “Today at one of your work stations we are going to take our science journals out with us to the garden because we are going to begin our own season observation of a native deciduous tree. Does anyone know what I mean when I say “native?”

If I have any students who raise their hand I select them to respond. If no students respond I simply go ahead and explain the definition of the word for them.

“When I use the word native to describe a tree or animal I am telling you it is a plant or animal that comes from this area. In other words it naturally started here in the local area. For example, oysters grow naturally in the Chesapeake Bay so they are native. The snakehead fish was brought here from a different river accidentally by some fishermen; this makes the snakehead fish a non-native. The snakehead is also invasive because it eats many native species of fish and crustaceans.” I chose these two examples because at our school the oyster is a big focus in the later grades and many of our students know at least one or two fishermen who tend to catch snakeheads.   

Now I go back to discussing our garden observation exercise. “Well in the kindergarten section of the garden we have a native Eastern Redbud tree growing. When I say native what do I mean?”

This time I should have one or two students who raise their hand to explain to me what native means.

“That’s right Colin; the Eastern Redbud naturally grows here.”

“Today we will go out into the garden to answer the question, “What season does our Eastern Redbud show?” You will have the opportunity to closely observe our Eastern Redbud tree and then record your observation in your science journal. You will draw and label exactly what you see. Based on what you see we will determine what season it is.”

Students standing by the native Eastern Redbud tree.

Students closely observing the Eastern Redbud tree. 

A student observing how when he adds a finger he can make a face.

Students observing the Eastern Redbud tree 1.

Students observing the Eastern Redbud tree 2.

Students working on their observational recording.

Student sample of recording work.

Student sharing his science journal entry.

“Does anyone have any questions?”


Now I send the students over to the integrated work stations one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go get ready to have some observation fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Allow the students 15-18 minutes to work on this activity. After 15-18 minutes are up, the timer goes off and the students clean up ready to switch stations. I set the visual timer and remind the students to look at it so they can use their time wisely. 

While I have a group of students out in the garden with me I also take a timer so we can rotate on schedule with the rest of the work stations. 


In this activity the students are exploring how to observe a tree closely to make accurate recordings in their science journal which will become a record of how a native deciduous tree changes over the course of the seasons. 



At another work station the students are writing about their favorite season. I have the students complete the writing prompt which has a word bank with the four seasonal words (ELA).

Favorite Season Writing Prompt

Students recording their favorite season.


At another work station the students are sorting seasonal items into the season they think that item belongs in. Once they have completed sorting I have them take their lunch stick and place it by their work. I then photograph the student’s work and keep it as a record of their sorting abilities. If there is an item which is questionable, say a scarf in the season of fall section, I will ask the student why that particular item is there. As long as the student can offer a rationale explanation then I will make an anecdotal record of the student response and count it as correct (ELA/science).

Season Sorting Mats

Student working on sorting seasonal images.

Student sample of sorting work.


At another work station the students are working on creating a tree. The students are given a paper bag, two scoops of pebbles to pour into the bag and a pile of brown pipe cleaners. Once the pebbles have been poured into the paper bag, the student then twists the paper bag into a “trunk.” After the “trunk” has been created the student is able to use the brown pipe cleaners to create “branches” for the “tree.”

When the student is satisfied with the way his/her tree looks he/she can stick the correct type of leaves, blossoms, or snow on the “tree” to match his/her favorite season (engineering).

Students building the trees.  


These activities provide the students with the opportunity to apply and expand their understanding of the concepts within new contexts and situations thus elaborating on the information they have been presented with. 


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look, listen” technique mentioned above.

“When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair and take a spot on your dot. Walking feet, go.”


Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me which season they are most likely to use the item I hold up and show them.

“Today I am going to hold up an item for you to see. Your job will be to tell me the season you are most likely to use the item in. For example, if I held up a sled, which season am I most likely to use a sled in?”

I allow the students to call out the season, “Winter!”

“That’s right; I am most likely going to use my sled in the winter. Raise your hand if you can tell me why?”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand.

“Nice one Mason; I do need snow to use my sled and snow does fall in the winter in lots of places.”

I do not go into a discussion about how some areas do not get snow at this point because this is just a quick exit ticket process. We will discuss the different climate zones at another time.

“When you have told me the season which matches the item and explained why, you may use the hand sanitizer and get your snack.”

I use the fair sticks to determine the order of the students.

If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on a season together.

Seasonal exit ticket


I use this exit ticket process as a way for the students to analyze what they know about seasonal items and explain why that particular item matches the season. During integrated work station time they experienced different activities which involved the seasons in one format or another. This quick assessment process allows me to see if the student is able to take information learned in one format and be able to transfer it to another format.   


In order to assess if my students have successfully understood and retained the information presented in the lesson I evaluate each student by providing them with a task the next day for morning work. For this assessment I place a copy of the “The Four Seasons” worksheet at each student’s seat. As the students come in that morning I tell them to write a seasonal word in each one of the four boxes. The student can either write the words themselves or use the word bank as a resource.

Four Season Assessment 

Next the student must decorate the tree to match the seasonal word written in the box. I tell the students they may use the books and posters around the classroom as a resource if they need to.  

Once the student has finished recalling the seasons, I use the checklist to check to see if the student has met the objectives set for the assignment. I attach the checklist to the student’s work and place the whole packet in the student’s working portfolio.

The checklist helps me because the work sample provides me with evidence of students learning as to whether the student met the objectives or not. It also helps convey information to the student’s family as to how well he/she is doing in class, and finally it helps the student by letting him/her know how he/she did and if there are areas where he/she could improve. 

Student assessment sample 1

Student assessment sample 2