Fall Lesson Plans
Fall lesson plans can combine science, history, and writing into an enticing combination.
By Lesley Roberts
In the United States, the first day of the autumn season is the day of the year when the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving southward (on or around September 22nd or 23rd). This day is known as the Autumnal Equinox. A common misconception is that the earth is further from the sun in winter than in summer. Actually, the Earth is closest to the sun in December, which is winter in the Northern Hemisphere. As the Earth travels around the Sun in its orbit, the north-south position of the Sun changes over the course of the year because of the changing orientation of the Earth's tilted axis. The dates of maximum tilt of the Earth's equator correspond to the Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, and the dates of zero tilt to the Vernal Equinox and Autumnal Equinox.
This is an excellent day to celebrate all things associated with the fall season. Most teachers know and discuss the big holidays like Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. However, there are many other lesser known holidays which can be introduced in the classroom during the fall which encourage cultural awareness. Cultural celebrations such as Rosh Hashanah and Mexican Independence Day are opportunities for teachers to increase awareness in the classroom. Civil celebrations such as Patriot's Day and Constitution Weekend are also great for bringing history lessons alive. This can be done in a variety of ways, including staging a mini re-enactment of an event from a story about patriotism.
Teachers can also choose to use this day as an introduction to a fall writing unit. The teacher can take students outside and direct them to choose an object to describe. Students must name the object in the title of their writing piece and then use their five senses to describe the object. The teacher should give no further instructions other than this, but should assist in choosing an object. After the descriptions are written, the teacher could direct the students to go back over their writing and circle all of the ordinary words, such as "pretty," "good," "big"," etc . . . Students will then brainstorm at least three to five synonyms that have great feeling or appeal. The words are known as sparkle words, and while kids know them, they are not in the habit of using them. Words like "beautiful," "gigantic," and "fabulous" show lots of feeling and help the reader to better picture what is being written about. This exercise can help students recognize the difference between writing that is ordinary and writing that "sparkles"!
This day is a great way to introduce and explore science in regards to the cycles of the earth, sun and moon. The fact that the celebration of the first day of autumn is actually due to the cycle of the Earth and Sun can mean a great lesson and/or display of this information. Teachers can begin tracking the orbit of the Earth by looking for websites that provide this information. The NASA website is a great resource. Teachers can also introduce a unit on the concept of photosynthesis in plants and collect leaves for students to display in the classroom. Students can sort and classify the leaves by their shape or color and then use the Internet to gather more information about them. Students can continue to gather more leaves as the weather gets cooler and the leaves change color. This display would be great to demonstrate the changing of the seasons. Please refer to the lesson plans below to assist in implementing these suggestions.
Fall Lesson Plans:
This is a stick up: In this lesson students create a sundial and track the movement of the sun throughout the day.
If Trees Could Speak, What Would They Say?: Students collect leaves on a tree walk and then write a paragraph in the third person about how a tree might feel during the change of seasons.
Autumn: In this lesson students examine what changes occur in the forests during the transition from summer to winter.
Seasons: Students investigate the reason for seasons on Earth during three activities.
Time For Kids/Changing of the Leaves: In this science lesson, students collect leaves and categorize them acccording to different colors.