FALL LEAVES – Colour, Contrast, Movement

Students create overlapping stencil prints of fall leaves using water and warm or cool coloured washable markers.

Required Time

40 Minutes

Grade Level

Kindergarten to Grade 6


Language Arts
Visual Arts


composition contrast cool colours movement stencil print warm colours


Crayola Washable Markers Crayola Painting Paper - 22.9 cm x 30.5 cm (9" x 12") Small Sponges - about 10 cm x 13 cm (4" x 5") Water Containers Paper Towels Laminated Leaves Masking Tape

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FALL LEAVES – Colour, Contrast, Movement - Step One

Step One

  1. Laminate a variety of leaves.
  2. Trim the edges.
  3. Leave a small border around the edge so the laminate won't separate.
FALL LEAVES – Colour, Contrast, Movement - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Roll a small piece of masking tape into a loop with the sticky side facing out.
  2. Stick the tape loop to the back of a leaf.
  3. Stick the leaf to the paper.
FALL LEAVES – Colour, Contrast, Movement - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Draw some marker ink on the leaf.
    - Make sure the colour is on the leaf, NOT the paper.
FALL LEAVES – Colour, Contrast, Movement - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Dip a small sponge into the water to get it wet.
  2. Squeeze out some of the water.
  3. Drag the damp sponge over the inked shape and onto the paper.
  4. Notice how the water makes the marker ink flow onto your paper.
  5. Gently remove the leaf.
  6. Repeat this process with a different leaf.
  7. Explore what happens when you use different colours and different amounts of water.
FALL LEAVES – Colour, Contrast, Movement - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Look at your prints.
  2. Notice how the amount of water you used changes the way the ink looks.
    - What happens when you use lots of water?
    - What happens when you use less water?
    - How much water do you need to use to get the perfect print?
    - What happens to the colours when they overlap?
    - What happens to the shapes when they overlap?
FALL LEAVES – Colour, Contrast, Movement - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Use what you have learned to create a leaf design that includes:
    - at least 3 different kinds of leaves;
    - different warm or cool colours;
    - overlapping shapes;
    - a composition that moves the viewer's eye through the picture plane.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create overlapping stencil prints of fall leaves;
  • identify warm and cool colours;
  • create a composition that moves the viewer's eye through the picture plane;
  • demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity;
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the works.


Have students:


  1. Download and display the Colour, Contrast and Movement posters  available on this website.
  2. Gather and make available books about fall and Canadian trees, for example, Trees in Fall, by Jenna Lee Gleisner; Autumn is here!, by Heidi Pross Gray; Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, by Kenard Pak; We're Going on a Leaf Hunt, by Steve Metzger, and Miki Sakamoto; Look What I Did with a Leaf!, by Morteza E. Sohi; Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert; Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, by Julia Rawlinson, and Tiphanie Beeke; The First Red Maple Leaf, by Ludmila Zeman; and Maple Trees, by Rebecca Stromstad Glaser.
  3. Prior to this lesson introduce or review the meaning of warm and cool colours. Have students:
    - explore colour mixing using primary colours to create a variety of new colours
     decide if their colours are warm or cool
    keep adding colours to a group chart paper in a random pattern
    think up 'fancy names' for each new colour they create
  4. Use paint chip names as an example.
  5. Print the names on or near the colours and mark them warm or cool. 
  6. Gather, dry and laminate a variety of leaves. (To dry the leaves, place them between parchment paper and put some books on top of them. Allow them to dry like that for one day.)
  7. Cut sponges into small pieces about 3 cm x 4 cm enough for each student to have one.


  1. Demonstrate on a chart paper how to make a stencil print using one of the laminated leaves and a marker.
    - point out how to roll the tape to make a sticky loop
    - emphasize that you put the marker on the leaf NOT the paper
    - draw attention to what happens if you drag several layers of colour over the same spot
  2. Discuss what makes a good print.
    - crisp edges
    - enough contrast to make the shape stand out
    - paper in good condition
  3. Demonstrate how to overlap shapes so they create new shapes that help to move the viewer's eye through the picture plane.
  4. Have a student or students select several warm coloured markers and draw some shapes on the chart paper with them. Label them WARM.
  5. Repeat for cool colours.
  6. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create overlapping stencil prints of fall leaves.
  2. Use at least 3 different kinds of leaves.
  3. Use several warm or cool colours.
  4. Create a composition that moves the viewer's eye through the picture plane.
  5. Demonstrate technical accomplishment and creativity.
  6. Support your ideas with evidence found in the artworks.

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when my print has:
    ​- at lease 3 different kinds of leaves
    - several warm or cool colours
    - overlapping shapes
    - a composition that moves the viewer's eye through the picture plane
    - crisp edges

    - paper in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work.
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Once all the prints are complete ask students to share them in partners or small groups. 
    Ask them to:
    Look closely at the prints and how they are made.
    - Share thoughts about the work.
    - Talk about how overlapping shapes create new shapes that move the viewer's eye through the composition.  
    - Compare warm and cool prints - how they are the same and how they are different.

    - Talk about what was difficult about making the composition and why.
    - Tell what was satisfying about making the composition and why.
  2. Ask some students to share their ideas with the whole class.
  3. Display the prints so students can view them as a body of work throughout the next few weeks.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their artworks – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, holds print to the side, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads - FallLeaves_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - FallLeaves_self-assessment.pdf)