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Fall is coming, and with it sweaters, pumpkin spice, and soup. In China, the start of autumn also means Mid-Autumn Festival, lanterns, and a week-long break for National Day!

As a foreigner in China, you have the opportunity to partake in local customs and learn more about Chinese culture at this time of year. When you’re not busy eating as many mooncakes as you can, though, you can also share some American culture with your students!

This article will outline a few different ideas for bringing the fall spirit into your ESL classroom. With these tips, your autumn will be a romp in the park!

Turn a New Leaf

Leaves’ changing colors are a classic hallmark of the coming of autumn, and they’re also an underrated learning tool. You can use them to talk about color, number, shape, and texture, and you can also do art and science with them. Leaves also are a great way to get outside and talk about nature. You can do a leaf-themed day or even week in your ESL classroom!

If your school will let you, start your leaf unit with a leaf hunt outside. Encourage students to pick the leaves that they think are the most beautiful and then bring them back to the classroom. They can discuss different attributes of the leaves, and then they can do leaf rubbings or try to sketch their leaves.

Depending on the age of your students, you can then segue into either an exercise where you make patterns (i.e. yellow leaf, red leaf, yellow leaf, red leaf) or a PowerPoint where you talk about trees, leaves, and root systems.

Autumn Poetry

Fall is a time of change, and with change comes introspection. Have your students do a poetry unit about the beautiful changing scenery outside! If the students are younger, they can draw a picture about the fall and write a few words about the colors, sounds, or feelings they observe. If they’re older, they can write a haiku or short story on a fall theme. Get your kids inspired by reading some books about fall with them, and then set their imaginations free!

Carve Pumpkins

I’d actually strongly advise against giving a classroom of children knives, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate the fun spirit of pumpkin carving into your classroom. If you have a small class and have the budget to buy supplies, you can have your children paint miniature pumpkins or gourds, or decorate them with Sharpies.

If you aren’t able to provide your students with real pumpkins, have no fear. You can give your students felt, construction paper, googly eyes, and any other materials you have on hand to make their very own pumpkins in groups or independently.

For a special class treat, you could even serve your kids homemade cider while they work, and afterward show clips from a topical movie like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Your kids will have a great time while getting a taste of autumn traditions and learningseasonal vocabulary.

Embrace the Cornucopia of Possibilities

The sky’s really the limit with fall activities, so get creative and share whatever it is that makes you excited about the season with your students! Crisp weather, scarves, weird-looking gourds: whatever it is that strikes your fancy, there’s a lesson in there. So let your colors shine as bright as the changing leaves, and have a great autumn with your students!

Oh, and be sure to eat some mooncakes while you’re at it.

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SDE International - Shenzhen

New teaching jobs in China interviewing now, apply today!
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About the Author:

Molly Oberstein-Allen
Molly Oberstein-Allen graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a philosophy degree and currently teaches English in Shenzhen, China. She enjoys travelling and meeting new friends.
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