This is a great activity for children ages four to ten. 
(These ages are approximate and are suggested guidelines only.)

What’s the benefit?

This activity can help a child to:

  • release pent up energy
  • engage sensorially with the world around them
  • learn through embodied experience
  • find calm through expressive play and release
  • explore and share their learning without words, which supports differentiated learning 
  • have fun!

What do you need to make it happen?

  • A leaf per child 
  • Background music – music suggestion below
  • Enough space to sit in a spaced circle together
  • A scarf or sheet (optional – used for movement extension activity)

How do you do it?

Each child is going to need a leaf for this activity. You have a few choices in how you get the leaves for the activity.

Ideally, your class would go on a walk or have time to explore the school playground where leaves have fallen. If you are facilitating this as part of this activity, you would let students know that each of them on their walk (or playground exploration) should search and select ONE leaf each.

Let them know that their leaf does not have to be pretty or beautiful in any way! They are simply choosing a unique leaf that stands out or looks interesting to them in some way. It is important to let them know this, otherwise students often tend to think you want them to pick a ‘pretty’ leaf and will not know they can select leaves that are crumpled, muddy or have holes. Let them know that their chosen leaf can …

  • be small and smooth
  • be brown and crumpled
  • have holes in it
  • be huge 
  • be bright and beautiful
  • be curled up
  • be any type of leaf!

If you do not have the time or resources to bring the children outside to select their own leaves, then another option would be for you to gather a bin of leaves and bring them into class to distribute amongst the students. (If you do this, be sure to bring in a variety of shapes, textures, colours etc.)

Tableau time – let’s become our leaves!

Let the children know that they are going to make a ‘frozen picture’ of their selected leaf. This frozen picture is called a tableau.

Provide an example to the students of what this might look like by selecting a leaf, describing some of the physical characteristics of the leaf out loud and demonstrating it for them. 

For example: The leaf I chose is small and one side is crumpled. Therefore, the way I am going to try and show this is by making my tableau small and crouched down and crumpling up one arm into my side.

Then physically demonstrate YOUR tableau for the class so that they can see you do it.

Let the class know that there is no right or wrong way to make their frozen picture tableau – it is completely up to them how they do it! Offer ideas for various ways to create their tableaux, such as:

  • you could do it standing up
  • you could do it lying down in ‘birds eye view’ (as if you are looking at the leaf when it is lying down flat)
  • you could use your legs to show something
  • you could use your face to show if your leaf is crumpled or smooth

Getting started

1)    Give each child their own separate spot to work in. (This could be outside or spread out in a gym or the classroom.)

2)    Ask each child to hold their leaf and look at it. Ask them some questions about their leaf, such as:

  • Is the leaf big? Small? Tiny?
  • Is it smooth? Rough? Bumpy? What texture is it?
  • Does it have holes? 
  • Is it curled?
  • Is it bright?

3)    The next part of the activity is helping the children transition from seeing what their leaf is … to becoming it. As the children are exploring the various ways to become their leaf, ask them prompt questions (see below) that will support their creative process. 

Some children will not need this and will already be well on their way to trying things out, whilst others may need these prompts as a structure to help them get started.

4)    Give each student about 5 minutes to get up and try out different ways of making their frozen pictures. This part of the process is important. If you just ask them to imagine their frozen picture and then have them share it, it is harder to be creative and discover the many ways they could become their leaf. By giving them the time and space to play with their ideas, not only is it more fun, but it makes room for more expression and discovery.

Prompts for while they are exploring:

  • How could you show that you are big?
  • How could you use your hands or face to show you are bright?
  • How could you show you have a hole in you?
  • How could you show …
  • Remember, there is no right or wrong way to be your leaf – this is up to you! Lie down, stand up, whatever – try it all!

Music suggestion:

Title: “Moving Worlds”

Artist: Secession Studios

Album: Epoch

Note: You will have to loop this music and play almost twice to cover the exploration time. (The length as it is, is perfect for the below movement extension activity.)

Helpful tips:

Playing music during the 5-minute exploration time can help children
more readily fall into their creativity as it sets a mood and backdrop
for the experience. It can also support the children in feeling less
self-conscious as it diffuses the mood and can hold the space, especially
if doing this activity indoors. Additionally, it creates a clear start and
end time for the activity. 

Let the students know that when they no longer hear the music,
it means that exploration time is over and that they should come to the
center to form a circle. (This prompt may help them transition but
they will need reminders!)

Sharing time – let’s go for a walk in ‘the forest’

After the class has had about 5 minutes of time to try out different ways of making their tableaux, turn off the music. Ask them to bring their leaf with them and come to the center to form a sitting circle.

Split the class in half. (Groups A and B) Group A will share first, followed by Group B. 

Let them know that you are going to take time as a class (you included!) to look at all the different ways people have come up with to show us their leaves!

Step 1

Group B backs away from the circle. 

Step 2

Group A stays in a large circle and each puts their leaf down in front of them.

Step 3

Put the same music on that you played while the groups were exploring.

Step 4

Ask Group A to make their individual tableaux, all at the same time. Their tableaux can face any direction.

Step 5

Group B then goes for a walk ‘in the forest’. (Join them in the walk.) What this means is that Group B slowly walks around the circle and looks at all the leaves – the real ones and the human-made ones!

Following this, the groups switch and Group B becomes their leaves while Group A walks around them.

Note: Doing it all together tends to help children feel less self-conscious. And playing the same music may help with their sense memory to naturally cue them to what they explored earlier. Music can also help to keep chatter down!

Additionally, it is normal for the tableaux to be simple and not that expressive at first. As children develop comfort with using their body to communicate, their tableaux typically become more and more expressive. So have fun creating tableaux (on any topic) and watch them develop over time!

Extension activity – let’s move!

(No leaves are needed for this activity.)

  • Have the children spread out, find their own space, and curl up into a ball on the floor with their eyes closed. (As able – alternate possibilities can be suggested for the class if there are varied physical needs.)
  • Let the students know that they are each going to be a fall leaf on the ground. When the music starts, you (the teacher) will be the wind. As you come near a student with your scarf, they will blow up from the ground and can start moving as if the wind is blowing them around. Let them know that you will move around the room until all the ‘leaves’ are up and moving.
  • Once up, they can blow around the room, sometimes landing for a bit and then swirling around once again, being careful not to bump into any other leaves. 
  • When the music starts, you (the wind) start moving through the space and ‘waking up’ the leaves. Some students may need verbal cues alongside the visual cue of the scarf to remember to get up and start moving.
  • After 2 – 3 minutes, stop moving as the wind and come to the side of the space. Slowly lower the volume of music and ask them to use their bodies to copy the volume – so as the music gets softer and softer, they slowly get lower and lower to the ground until eventually they are lying down as if they are a leaf that floated down to the ground. They should keep moving, even if it’s just the tiniest bit (even just a finger!) until the music is completely gone. Talking them through this as you lower the music may help them to mirror the volume as it gets softer and softer.

Note: The more playful and expressive you are as the wind, the more comfortable your class will likely be as your comfort will set the tone. Use your large scarf or sheet to vary the intensity of the wind by making it big and fast, like a hurricane to slow and gentle, like a breeze. By changing it up – the class is more likely to stay engaged as well as try different ways to move through the space.

You can use the same music for this activity as from above.

Helpful Tips
Dimming the lights can help create a warmer and more comfortable
atmosphere for any expressive activity, regardless of the age group.
Hannah Signature

Looking for additional resources to explore movement with your class?

Check your school library for my I Can Dance the Outdoors book. This book supports children with fun and playful ways to explore the outdoors through inclusive movement. It comes with my voice-over facilitation to guide the children through the concepts – or has music tracks so that educators/parents can facilitate it themselves.

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