Falling Leaves

Lesson Plan


Students will examine the artistic characteristics of Autumn Poplars, identify regions of the world where leaves turn different colors in autumn, examine the texture and appearance of different kinds of leaves, and imitate the motion of falling leaves.

Intended Age Group

Early childhood (ages 3-5)

Length of Lesson

One 40 minute lesson

Standards Area

Social Studies


Students will be able to:

  • examine the artistic characteristics of Autumn Poplars;
  • identify regions of the world where leaves turn different colors in autumn;
  • examine the texture and appearance of different kinds of leaves; and
  • imitate the motion of falling leaves.


  1. Display Autumn Poplars and invite the children to look carefully and share what they observe. Play a game of “I spy” with your students. Encourage students to say, “I spy with my little eye __________,” and complete the sentence with their observations. Model the game for students using objects, colors, etc.
  2. Ask the children if they have ever seen leaves change colors and fall to the ground. What time of year do leaves change colors and fall to the ground? What colors do the leaves become before they fall? What colors did Pissarro see on the trees outside his window? Did he mix in any colors you wouldn’t really see to create the effect of the light on the leaves? Ask students to look for surprising colors in the painting. Have them squint their eyes and discuss what happens.
  3. Use a world map to discuss which parts of the world experience autumn like in the painting. Have students share their own experiences (if applicable) in different areas where autumn is different than it is at home.
  4. If possible, bring out leaves for the children to handle. Try to find a combination of both colored and green leaves so that the children can explore the different textures. Let the children explore how the leaves feel and look. Allow the students to drop the leaves on the ground. Can they predict exactly where the leaves will land? Encourage the children to look at the painting and see how the leaves in Autumn Poplars are similarly scattered on the ground.
  5. Invite the students to pretend they are leaves and have them imitate the motion of the leaves as they flutter to the ground.
  6. Conclude the lesson by having the children gather into a “leaf pile” in the front of the classroom and read them a story with an autumn leaf theme, such as Mouse’s First Fall, by Lauren Thompson and Buket Erdogen; Arthur Jumps Into Fall, by Marc Brown; Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, by Julia Rawlinson and Tiphanie Beeke; or In the Leaves, by Huy Voun Lee.


  • Collection of leaves (preferably in a variety of colors, including green) for the children to handle
  • Book with an autumn leaf theme, such as Mouse’s First Fall, Arthur Jumps Into Fall, Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, or In the Leaves.
  • Map of the world, visible to all students in the classroom
  • About the Art section on Autumn Poplars
  • One color copy of the painting for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Social Studies
    • History
      • Recognize change and sequence over time
    • Geography
      • Develop spatial understanding, perspectives and connections to the world
  • Visual Arts
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Envision and Critique to Reflect
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening
    • Reading for All Purposes

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Autumn Poplars

Autumn, Poplars, Éragny (Automne, Peupliers, Éragny)


Camille Pissarro

Who Made It?

Camille Pissarro was born on the island of St. Thomas in the West Indies (Virgin Islands, when the island was still a territory of Denmark), where he spent most of his formative years. Pissarro was an artistic youth and spent much of his time drawing and painting. He moved to Paris in 1855, began his art studies, and joined a group of young painters who later became known as the Impressionists. Impressionist artists used bright colors, painted everyday scenes, and left their brushstrokes broken and visible—techniques that challenged the rules of academic painting at the time. Most Impressionists were not allowed to show their works at the Salon, the official French art exhibition, because of their unconventional approaches to painting. In response to their exclusion, Pissarro organized an exhibition of Impressionist paintings in 1874. A total of eight Impressionist exhibitions were organized after 1874 and Pissarro was the only artist in the group to show his work at all of them. He is considered by many to be the central figure of the Impressionists. In his time, Pissarro saw the Impressionist style move from being unconventional and rejected to favorable and admired.

What Inspired It?

Pissarro painted Autumn Poplars from the window of his country home in the village of Eragny, about an hour northwest of Paris. He loved painting outdoors and even invented an easel on wheels to help him accomplish this. Pissarro was an innovative artist, constantly searching for new means of expression; his style was always evolving. In this painting, Pissarro experimented with color, painting dots of pure, unmixed colors side by side. When viewed from a distance, the colors blend together, creating an image that is very different than what one would see close-up. He began experimenting with this technique after meeting French painter Georges Seurat [sur-AHT], who is known for this style of painting. Pissarro put his own twist on Seurat’s tight, tiny dot technique by using looser brushstrokes that appear more like dabs of paint.

Pissarro and the Impressionists had liberated themselves from the constraints of subject matter, composition, and style. Impressionists were breaking boundaries and exploring new ways to depict the world through painting. In light of their work, new possibilities opened up—among them what colors to use, what subjects to portray, and even how to paint them. Pissarro explored and experimented with these new possibilities throughout his career.


Subject Matter
Subject Matter

Pissarro, like most Impressionists, was interested in scenes from ordinary life and the effects of light. In this painting, there are no people, just several poplar trees in their rich autumn colors. Don’t miss the grazing cows in the background between the trees.

Color, Light, and Shadow
Color, Light, and Shadow

Many different colors can be seen in this painting: yellow, green, pink, red, black, and blue. Light shines from behind the trees, causing shadows to be cast, which were painted in a darker green, across the grass. Leaves that have fallen off the smaller tree in the foreground dot the green grass.


If you look closely at this painting, it’s easy to see thousands of small dots or dabs of paint. When viewed from a distance, the colors begin to blend into one another, creating a more recognizable image.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.