PSED: Trees for life!

Claire Hewson, teacher and author, Cambridgeshire
Wednesday, November 11, 2020

National Tree Week, which runs from 28 November to 6 December, is a great opportunity to discuss the importance of trees. Support children to identify different varieties, express their own ideas and listen sensitively to others.

Claire Hewson

Tree by Patricia Hegarty and Brittan Teckentrup is the perfect starting point. It's the story of a tree changing with the seasons. As each season merges into the next the tree becomes home to different wildlife, providing essential food and shelter for all.

This gentle, tactile story is told in rhyming couplets with vivid illustrations.

Every page sparks discussion about how precious trees are for wildlife and people, and how every living thing is affected by the seasons. By engaging in conversation about the book and working together with others on the linked activities here, children have the opportunity to develop PSED skills, gaining confidence to share their own ideas and at the same time taking into account what others say.

Playing and exploring

  • Children explore the natural world using their senses
  • They identify trees and find out about seasonal changes
  • They have a go at naming animals

Leaves grow

Take children on a walk to identify trees and collect leaves (print leaf identification sheets from the Woodland Trust website). Back at the setting children create artwork from the leaves. Set out a table with paper, crayons, paints, glue, pens and scissors along with pictures of leafy artwork (type ‘leaf art early years’ into a search engine) to inspire children's ideas. Encourage them to explore the shapes, colours and textures of the leaves.

Games and puzzles

Themed board games extend children's knowledge and understanding of trees and seasons and at the same time develop their PSED skills. Create a bingo game in which children match six leaf pictures to the correct trees – templates can be found online. Make or buy a woodland animal snap game and woodland animal happy families for children to play. You could also provide jigsaws depicting the changing seasons or woodland animals that children can complete together.

Seasons come and go

Watch the BBC's How the changing seasons affects apple trees. Make a whole setting collage showing how an apple tree changes with the seasons. One group can paint or collage a large apple tree in winter, another group can make the apple tree in autumn and so on. Label each picture ‘winter’, ‘autumn’, ‘spring’, ‘summer’.

Squirrels scamper

Watch Millennium Oak Mini-Epic from BBC's Autumnwatch. Afterwards ask children to name the animals that need trees for food and shelter. Together create a small world woodland area from natural materials such as bark, moss, leaves, twigs, conkers, pine cones and stones.

If you have a collection of small world animals children could select woodland creatures from these, or puppets can be made by laminating pictures and mounting them on craft sticks.

Apples fall

Can children name any trees that give us fruit? Show pictures of British fruit trees from the internet and ask them to identify the fruits they see. Taste fruit grown on British trees and ask children what they prefer. They could then choose fruit to make their own fruit salad (chopped fruit mixed with a little fruit juice).

Active learning

  • Children notice details in the text and illustrations of Tree
  • They learn together and from each other through shared discussions
  • They make choices and decisions about their apple tree collage

When listening to Tree encourage children to pay attention to details in the book by noticing how the seasons change and what animals live in and around the tree. Ask, ‘How do you know it is winter/spring/summer/autumn? How is spring different from winter? What colours are the autumn leaves? Why do you think it is quiet in the forest in winter?’

Provide opportunities for children to learn together and from each other as they join in shared discussion about the story and as they engage in practical activities.

When creating an apple tree collage children could brainstorm words to accompany their picture (for example: winter – cold, snow, bare branches, animals sleeping…).

Encourage children to build upon each other's ideas. For example if somebody has said ‘cold’ can another child think of a different word that means the same thing? When children are identifying trees from their leaves encourage them to work together to pinpoint leaves on the leaf spotter sheet and to sound out tree names.

Observe how children make choices by selecting from a range of materials in order to create art. The ‘Leaves grow’ activity is a chance for children to experiment with different artistic techniques such as leaf rubbing or leaf printing if they wish and an adult may need to demonstrate by joining in with them.

Creating and thinking critically

  • Children link Tree to their own experiences
  • They make predictions about what might happen next in the book
  • They develop ideas about sequencing as they explore the changing seasons

As you read Tree encourage children to link the story to their own experiences of the seasons. Ask, ‘Have you ever felt cold in winter just like the animals in the story? How do the animals keep warm? How do you keep warm? How do the animals in the story feel as summer approaches and how do you know? How do you feel in summertime? What do you like to do in the summertime?’

Encourage children to draw upon what they know about the seasons to make predictions about what will happen next in the book.

As the snow melts and shoots appear can children say what season comes next? What do they think they will see on the next page of the book? Learning about the changing seasons helps children to develop ideas about sequencing. As they create the apple tree collage ask them to name the season before and after the season they are working on.

Plan linked experiences that follow the ideas children are thinking about. Following the ‘Apple tree’ activity children could plant their own apple trees from pips. Watch How to grow an apple tree from seed for your own information. Planting an apple tree from seed is an opportunity for children to further develop sequencing skills and to link cause and effect as they learn that caring for a seed by providing the right amount of water and light affects its growth.

EYFS Early Learning Goals

By participating in discussions sparked by Tree and their experiences of the changing seasons children have the opportunity to meet the Communication and Language outcome, Listens and responds to ideas expressed by others in conversation or discussion’. They answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about their experiences and in response to stories or events'.

When identifying trees from a leaf spotter sheet some children may attempt to read tree names meeting the Literacy outcome, Begins to read words. As they talk about how trees, animals and environments change with the seasons they meet the Understanding the world outcome, Looks closely at similarities, differences, patterns and change.

By demonstrating knowledge of the order of the seasons children meet the Maths outcome, Orders and sequences familiar events.

All the practical activities enable children to meet the Physical development outcome, Handles tools, objects, construction and malleable materials safely and with increasing control and the Expressive arts and design outcome, Constructs with a purpose in mind, using a variety of resources.

Useful resources

Key learning points

  • Children work as part of a group to make discoveries and create artwork
  • They select resources they need for their activities.
  • They are confident to share their knowledge and ideas in a familiar group
  • When engaged in discussion they take into account what others say

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