Warm & Cool Swirling Leaves

I've been wanting to post about these for awhile, but Blogger kept rotating my photos. Finally, I figured out how to copy & paste them in from Picassa. Yay!

Warm & Cool Swirling Leaves

I made these beauties with first graders.


Here is what we used:
white drawing  paper (9" X 12"), tissue paper (cut in to small squares), Mod-Podge or other decoupage glue, foam brushes, scissors, pencil, black markers- thick, chalk pastels, variety of 9" X 12" construction paper in cool colors, black construction paper (12" X 15"), glue


Here is what we did:

We first studied warm & cool colors and played a sorting game (pictured below). I laminated several rectangles of construction paper & added a magnet to the back. Students take turns coming up and placing their colors in the correct area.

We then decoupaged tissue paper to the white drawing paper. I gave each table a tray of tissue paper squares. I did NOT separate the warm & cool colors- this was their job.

To decoupage the tissue papers on, use a foam brush to apply the Mod-Podge glue to the paper, add the tissue paper on top, and then cover the tissue with more glue.

 Continue adding glue until the paper is completely covered.

We used gloss Mod-Podge, which leaves a nice shiny coat.

Drawing the leaf. I had the students turn their papers over (when dry) and draw using pencil. (I have shown the steps in black so that they show up better). I will use the language that I used with the kids; sometimes it is silly, but it works.

1. Put your paper in front of you so that it is vertical. Draw a vertical line that almost touches the top & bottom.

2. Draw a "hat" over the line. Be sure to make it big.

3. Draw two diagonal lines that make a letter V and look like arms. 

 4. Draw a hat on each of the arms. Make them big!
5. Connect the hats with a smiling line.

 6. Draw another set of diagonal lines to make a letter V that look like arms.

7. Add hats to each of these arms. Remember to make them big!

8. Connect the hats with smiling lines.

9. Bring the bottoms of the hats toward the middle. They should almost touch the vertical line.

10. Draw the stem by making a line that goes around the vertical line. It almost looks like a french fry!

At this point, I actually walked around and outlined their leaves with thick black marker. I normally do not draw on student work and NEVER on the actual front of the art, but they really needed the dark line to follow while cutting. I did not trace the vertical lines or the V lines. Again, I want to stress that I only traced over their lines.

Cut out the leaves, following the black lines.

We then added the veins to the leaves. We looked at real leaves before drawing our veins.
First, we drew the midrib, as shown.

 Then, we drew the side veins, one for each lobe.

 Next, I had the students choose a cool colored piece of paper and glued them to the black paper background.

The srudents used cool colored chalk pastels to draw on their paper. Again, I didn't separate the colors, but made them make the color decisions.

They drew swirling lines to represent the wind. Some lines were to go right on to the black paper background.

I asked them to trace the chalk lines with their fingertip. I demonstrated this and showed them how the chalk smears if you rub it back and forth. Instead, they were to only follow the lines. 

Here are two examples of the swirling wind lines, one with many lines and one with only a few.

Here are some "action shots" of the kids working.

Finally, we glued our leaves to the backgrounds. We discussed how leaves fall in all directions and I encouraged them to think about placement. I asked them what would happen if they rubbed the leaf on the top and they caught on that the chalk would smear. Instead, I had them turn their papers over and "give them a back rub"and write their name & class code on the back.
Disclaimer: these are not my hands, but those of a lovely fifth grade student. My hands aren't nearly as pretty!

 Here are some of the finished works of art. Beautiful!


  1. A great take on the classic autumn leaves activity - they are really nice!

  2. So pretty! I love the swirling lines in the background! :) Making the kids pick the right warm and cool colors really assesses if they know the color families!

  3. wow, love this, will have to try it for next year!

  4. nice lesson, will use it next year!!

  5. great lesson, will try it next year!

  6. The background is a lovely contrast to the leaf. Great lesson!

  7. Hi, I tried this lesson with my 3/4 class but instead of doing Leaves we did The Winter Olympics Sochi. The results were fabulous! Thank you!

  8. Hi, I tried this lesson with my 3/4 class but instead of Leaves we did the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The results were fabulous! Thank you!

  9. I homeschool and came across your blog and I love this lesson. I love how you show step by step instruction along with pictures. And even what you say to students each step which helps me to teach my kids. I will definitely do this lesson. It is not fall but almost summer here in CA. Would you have any suggestions as to what shape to use instead of a leaf? It would have been great to do with a leaf too.

  10. What a great art lesson. I can't wait to try this next fall. I teach kindergarten but I think it would work great with them as well. Your blog posts inspire me. I am always looking for new ways to integrate the visual arts into my lessons.

  11. I found your blog here thru Pinterest! My littles elementary school doesn't do enuff art if u ask me & u make these pictures so easy to form into a lesson for my youngsters at home! I can't thank you enough for sharing these posts

  12. Ditto to everything above! Thank you for the clear step by step instructions and how you incorporated assessment into this, and how you explained this to the students!!!! Beautiful! I can hardly wait until this fall 😉

  13. Did this with my first graders they turned out fabulous. Lisa from Roseville CA

  14. I love this! I will try this with my first graders.

  15. Thank you for sharing each detail!!! I'm going to do this with my kinders next week....I love all of the different mediums...



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