The seasons is a great topic for the beginning of the year as it marks the start of a fresh cycle.

Jo Bertrand

Here we take a wider look at how the year is split up into distinct parts. With younger learners you may touch upon the ever-decreasing dividing line between the seasons and how around the world seasons differ. Primarily though stick to the classic four contrasting seasons that the children can relate to and help them to grasp the concept by referring to the change in weather.

The majority of the activities below are based on TBL (Task Based Learning) where you give your group a problem or situation and they work together to find a solution. This requires a certain level of language for it to be successful so most of the activities are aimed at older primary. Within each mini-subject there is at least one activity though that can be adapted for younger primary.

Many of these activities draw from other subjects across the curricular. It’s important that the children can see the link English has with their other subjects and that it’s an integral part of their learning.

Humans and seasons

  • On the subject of how we change what we wear according to the weather draw a model of a girl and boy wearing a vest and knickers. Make copies and distribute to the children. They can stick them on to card, draw round them and cut them out. Then using magazines they can find clothes to cut out and stick onto their models. They can choose two of the seasons – one for the girl and one for the boy which they then will display on a poster putting their figures into the correct category. Draw four large circles and label them spring, summer, autumn and winter. You can also discuss, or point and say for the weaker students, what everyone is wearing in class.
  • Make a class chart of average bed times in the different seasons and discus length of days, longer days and shorter nights / shorter days and longer nights. Talk about going to bed when it’s light and when it’s dark and staying up later in the summer. You can use this subject to practise telling the time with expressions such as ‘In the summer I go to bed at 10 o’clock.’ ‘In the winter I go to bed at 8 o’clock.’ They can mingle to find the data to put onto the chart. You could also get them to do mini-charts in groups or individually before accumulating the data and making a class chart.
  • Have a poster size calendar and fill it in together with important festivals that take place throughout the year. You may want to restrict it to festivals you are likely to teach in more detail during the year so that you can refer to the calendar each time. These might include; Christmas, New Year, Easter, Halloween, St Patrick’s day, Valentine's Day or May Day. Then compare with the major festivals in their country and see if there are any the same, or if they celebrate the same festivals in a different way.
  • Children play different games during the year depending on the seasons. In England they play hopscotch in spring and summer, conkers in autumn and throw snowballs in winter. Team sports have their own seasons as well such as hockey, rounders, cricket and netball. These are sports which are probably unfamiliar to your children so be ready to draw diagrams and explain rules simply to explain it. Then split the class into four and allocate a season to each group. They have to invent a team sport which corresponds to their season and be able to explain it clearly to the rest of the class using diagrams and actions.

Animals and seasons

  • Explain about hibernating and ask your pupils to make suggestions on how animals can stay warm in the winter. They could design a winter coat for one of the hibernating animals or a winter house. The idea is to use their imagination and be able to communicate their ideas afterwards. They will need expressions such as ‘We could’, What about’, ‘I agree’, ‘I think that’s a good idea’ and ‘I’m not sure’ for communication as a group. For the feedback they need to be able to say ‘We think’, ‘We decided’, ‘We chose’… You should mingle at the group stage and help out with missing vocabulary for them to be able to draw a picture of their house or coat and label it correctly to put up on the board.
  • Migration is another phenomenon that links both animals and the seasons. Show them pictures of birds in flight and integrate some geography into your lesson. On a map of the world you can demonstrate the enormity of what the birds have to undertake to migrate to warmer countries. Make this into a question practice activity where they have certain words and have to compile questions to find out more about the subject. This could include ‘Where do they go?’ ‘Where do they come from?’ ‘When do they fly away?’ ‘How many birds migrate?’ You could pre-write the words from the questions onto cards, cut them up and distribute sets to small groups. Together they can try to put the questions together. You will need to do your research properly though in order to provide the answers!
  • Many animals reproduce in the spring so you could take advantage of this time of year to teach them the names of baby animals such as lamb, calf and foal. You don’t need to restrict it to farm animals though as common words that they may find useful include kitten and puppy.

Nature and seasons

  • Have a sequencing activity where you begin by describing the life cycle of a tree. They listen and point to the picture which corresponds to the stage you’re talking about. Move on to them repeating after you some of the simple language of the life cycle. Make what you say repetitive to help them join in. Split them into groups of four and get them to draw their own tree life cycle, with each person having one part of the cycle to illustrate. Then you can display their cycles and label each section. Work as a class to compile the labels.
  • You can elicit from the children all the different things that fall from the sky such as rain, snow, and hailstones. Either have a scientific slant to your lesson whereby you look at where rain comes from and why snow tends to fall in winter and not other seasons. Otherwise you can limit this to an imagination activity stemming from the English saying ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’. You can explain that it’s means that there’s a lot of rain and then get them to either illustrate this expression or make up their own and illustrate it. So they would need to think of something very strange that could fall from the sky and start their expression with ‘It’s raining beds and wardrobes’. This is a good exercise to get them to match words together in word groups. So their expression should not be; ‘It’s raining sheep and houses.’ as there’s not a lexical link. Try and see how you get on when putting this restriction on them.
  • Write a Japanese haiku poem first as a class and then let the children make up their own. There is more often than not a link with nature in haiku poems and the length and lack of rhyme makes them accessible to primary learners. The pattern of the haiku is three lines with 5/7/5 syllables per line.
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