Developing key competencies in the classroom is essential if children are to be equipped with the skills and capabilities which will help them do well in life. In this unit plan students are asked to make a herbarium of pressed leaves. This is an interdisciplinary classroom activity which uses science, English, art and design and technology. Its completion allows students to play an active role in the learning process and acquire interpersonal skills through doing; it also builds and draws on what they know about natural science through research and observation. In addition, it improves their linguistic skills in English. All this is achieved by engaging students in the authentic activity of creating a herbarium.

Learn how to recognise and use in English:

  • tree lexis
  • possessive adjectives
  • the imperative

Learn how to:

  • understand orders in a second language
  • recognise different species of trees
  • describe trees and their leaves
  • give a class presentation of a herbarium

Language Level: A1 + CEFR level

Time: 6 lessons + 15 days to dry leaves


In class put students into groups of 4 and explain that they will be taking part in an interdisciplinary project. Introduce the project and show them an example of a herbarium of pressed leaves and ask pupils to bring in the necessary materials from the list.

Before the field trip, the teacher focuses on the necessary tree lexis by using the IWB or the students’ textbook.

In class the teacher shows students pictures of trees on the IWB (or in their science textbook ) that are easily found in their town. Students are asked to take notes. The tree lexis (trunk, height, colour of bark, crown, leaves) is elicited or pre taught in English (worksheet 1) . In pairs, students are then given an easy activity to complete to check their understanding (worksheet 2) . The teacher checks answers. The teacher shows a picture of a leaf (worksheet 3) and elicits/pre teaches the different parts in English: the margin, the edge of the leaf. The bud, the difference between a simple leaf and a compound leaf. The stem and the arrangement of the leaves on the stem – opposite each other in pairs from a single nod or arranged alternately or spread out in a straight line along the stem with one leaf from each node. The stalk, the narrow stem that joins leaves to the main stem of a plant. The venation which characterises the palmate leaf which looks like a fan or the pinnate leaf which looks like a feather – the photo (worksheet 4) is used here to help students clearly distinguish between the two different types of leaves.

During the field trip, students in their groups pick leaves (3 or 4 leaves per tree). They should choose the best ones and note the different features of each tree in their notebooks (name, size of trunk, colour of bark, flowers, fruit, buds and leaves). For identification purposes, they should also note the location of the planted tree.

In class the subject teachers help students make a herbarium (worksheet 5) . Instructions are given in Italian. Students’ work and key competencies acquired are evaluated according to a specific grading rubric. Each group will give a presentation of their herbarium to the class and teachers.