MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Leaf Investigation and Classification

Leaf Investigation and Classification

Jodi Erickson
Century Elementary
Park Rapids MN


In this activity, students will collect at least 4 different types (variety) of leaves from home.
At school, students will be put into small groups and instructed to take out the leaves and sort them in to groups based on criteria determined by the small group.
Students will them be responsible to tell the remaining students what criteria was used to sort the leaves.

Learning Goals

This activity will allow students to explore various types of leaves native to our area of the state.
Students will work cooperatively to sort leaves of agreed-upon characteristics.
Students will present orally how the leaves were categorized.
Students will be able to verbally support their reasonings.

Concepts relevant to this activity are visual characteristics; alike/different, smooth/round edges,straight/varied veins

Context for Use

This activity is developed for the kindergarten classroom. It could easily be adapted for younger or older students.
This activity would best be suited for 15 students or less.
This activity could take place in the classroom or out doors.
An approximate time allotment is 45 minutes, depending on the size of the groups and ability level.
Students should have prior knowledge of sorting/classifying and experience in giving criteria for sorting.
This activity generally takes place in September. The students will have previous exposure to literature (books, posters, booklets) which identify the various types of leaves.
This activity could be easily adapted for observation of other items in nature (find 5 items on the forest floor and sort them...)

Subject: Biology
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Primary (K-2)

Description and Teaching Materials

Prior to this activity, the students will have been exposed to various books, posters... depicting leaves common to our area.
The lesson will begin by reading Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf.
After reading the book we will discuss the leaves depicted in the book.
Students will bring to the group their sandwich bag with leaves collected from home. Using a numbering system the students will be divided into groups of 4, and instructed to take out their leaves and lay them on the floor in front of them.
As a small group the students will discuss their particular leaves and determine how the leaves should be sorted.
Adults will circulate throughout the sorting process to assist when necessary.
When all groups have completed the task, 1 representative will be instructed to tell the rest of the class how they choose to sort the leaves in their group.
Once all groups have reported, we will see if we can establish criteria to sort all of the leaves (depending on attention span)
The leaves will then be taped to a large piece of tag board, possibly laminated, and put up for display and further conversations.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Label bags that are sent home with students' name.
Attach directions to the bag for adult reference.
Stress the collection of 4-5 different species of leaves. Give examples such as, oak, maple, birch. Not red, green, yellow...
Provide ample room for sorting.
Depending on the groups, it may be necessary to limit the leaf collection to 2 leaves per student and sort them as a whole group.
In the past I didn't put a limit on the number of leaves collected.
In the past I didn't save the student/class work for future reference.
In the future I would add to this activity by taking the class on a walk to our local DNR site which has examples of the trees native to our area.


Indirect assessment will be done while the students are sorting leaves in their small groups. Adults will observe if a student is able to appropriately place a leaf into a group based on the criteria established.


Nature of Science
Inquiry: Ask questions about the natural world.
Life Science: Know simple ways that living things can be grouped.

References and Resources