Love Leaves-Leaf Geometry-Shifty Shapes

Print Lesson


Students will analyze leaf shapes and use them to create a picture.

Big Idea

Why are leaves certain shapes?


5 minutes

I ring my chime to get the class’s attention and ask them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’.  Once seated, I announce that we are about to begin the third Science lesson in our unit about leaves.  As a teacher, I really want them to gain significant Science learning from the things we do. If it's familiar and fun at the same time, all the better!  

To 'hook' the students to this material, I start the lesson with some movement because it provides quick engagement and sets a positive tone.  I ask them to put their hands together with their pointer fingers and thumbs touching. “What shape is this?”  “A rhombus!”   “Now move your fingers to make them look like this…” as I demonstrate a more rounded shape.  “It’s a circle!”  “We’re going to examine the leaves we collected more closely to see if there are any shapes we can recognize.”  

Large Group Instruction

10 minutes

For this lesson, I re-introduce the book titled Look What I Did with a Leaf.  I choose this book both for its great use of leaves in the context of learning and how it makes the subject fun.  It has a few great pages on leaf shapes that provide me with guidance as I teach this lesson.  

I review the pages, highlighting the parts that refer to a leaf's shape.  “Remember in one of our last lessons, we learned features about a leaf that helped us compare them.”  I use my hand as a leaf model for a visual cue for the students, particularly the English Language Learners.   “What were some of the things about the shapes we noticed?”  “Some of them had points.”  “One was round and really big.”  “Today, we’re going to identify some shapes we observe on the leaves and see how to use these shapes to create some pictures.”

To make the shape:leaf connection more concrete, I begin a chart.  I use a different color for each shape to help the students to better organize that material.  “Botany’ is the study of plant life, so we’re going to call ourselves ‘botanists’.  Say ‘I am botanist.’”  “I am a botanist.”  Giving students a professional identify can give significance to the material they learn.  “Let me start by asking you botanists a question.  Based on our leaf hunt and what we learned from the books, what do we know about leaves?”  “They come from trees”  “Some are big.”  “So we learned that leaves can be found in different places and be different shapes.  Who would like to put these features to use and make a model to create pictures out of these different leaf shapes?”   “Me!  Of course!”  I ring the chime and excuse the students to the tables to briefly continue the lesson. 

Individual Instruction

10 minutes


• Leaf Collection- 4-5/student (different sizes, colors, and shapes work great!)

• Glue

It's always nice to let students inside your head so they can better understand the context and purpose of the lesson. I review pages of the book while I explain my thinking, "What I thought was interesting about these shapes is the way the they used them to create pictures. They are practicing what they learned about leaves to create something fun as a way to show what they learned.  We are going to use some of the shapes we talked about to create our own illustrations, taking the parts to make a whole!" 

Prior to this lesson, I collect an assortment of leaves. Along with using some of the leaves from our hunt a few days earlier, the students use these to create their masterpieces. The goal for the students is to both have fun and identify the shape of the leaf and the body part of the creations. All these things will support the targeted concepts of how a whole is created by parts.

I show them the leaf pictures from the book and explain the process: 

• First, collect several (start with 5-7) leaves of different shapes.

• Next, lay them on the paper.  Move them around until it picture starts to emerge!

• Then, once you have an arrangement that satisfies you, glue it on the paper.  

• Last, use colored pencils to add some details that create a unique environment.

Creating the leaf picture takes about ten minutes. As the activity winds down, I give them a one minute warning with a hand clap pattern. I ask the students to leave their papers on the table and return back to their carpet squares.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

Once we are gathered, I ask, “Can anyone share what they created from the leaf shapes?”  "I can!"  "Me, too!"  "I want you to share your picture with a partner, describe the image, and explain the shapes you used to create it."  “I used some half circles.”  “I used ovals for the arms.”  This step is short by design because the intent is to give the students an additional opportunity to process and share their results, thus making the material more concrete.  Once this step was complete, I again rang the chime and asked the students to stand up again, flutter like a leaf, put their pictures away in their bags, and return to their carpets..when they landed on the 'ground'.