Grade Levels: 3-5

In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-5, students watch the BrainPOP movie Autumn Leaves and explore the other features in this topic to understand how and why leaves change color in the fall. Students then conduct an experiment to learn first hand how sunlight affects leaf color.

NOTE: For the experiment to be effective, conduct this lesson prior to leave changing color.


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Brainstorm what they know about why leaves change color in the fall.
  2. Watch a BrainPOP movie and explore resources about leaves.
  3. Conduct an experiment to observe firsthand the effect of sunlight on leaves.


  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Access to a tree with leaves that turn red and/or purple in the fall (e.g., maple, dogwood, or sweet gum)
  • Aluminum paper or heavy construction paper
  • Masking tape


Lesson Procedure:

  1. Project the BrainPOP topic  Autumn Leaves on the whiteboard. Read aloud, or have a volunteer read the summary that appears below the movie player.   
  2. Have students brainstorm what they know about how and why leaves change color.
  3. Show the movie Autumn Leaves to the whole class on the whiteboard. Turn on the closed caption option to aid in comprehension. Use the Discussion Prompts and Pause Point to discuss the movie before, during, and after watching.
  4. Next, have students open their Make-a-Map assignment or just have them open Make-a-Map within the Autumn Leaves topic. Have them construct a cause and effect map identifying how sunlight, or lack of sunlight affects the color and brightness of leaves.
  5. Now take the class outside to a tree with leaves that will change to bright red or purple in the fall. Bring the aluminum paper or construction paper and tape with you.
  6. Have students find some leaves that are in the direct sunlight. Have them cover some of those leaves with the foil or paper.
  7. Return to the tree once the tree’s leaves have changed color. Have students remove the foil or paper and make observations about the colors underneath. Ask how the covered leaves look different than the others; what caused the colors to be different; what role sunlight plays in leaf color.