Autumn: Writing Exercise

Writing about a change in season is a great way of getting students to focus on evocative details. As the weather turns and the light changes, sensations seem especially intense; walking through crisp leaves and smelling bonfires when just a month ago you could sit on dry grass in the sun makes everything seem new, but it also reminds you of autumns in your past. Autumn might remind you of Diwali when you were 9, or your first toffee-apple. Combine writing about the change in season with writing about a memory to encourage students to add concrete details to their piece.

Icebreaker: A-Z

Have students write the letters A-Z down one side of a page. Then give them ten minutes to write a word associated with autumn beginning with each letter.

Exercise: Remember, Remember.

Ask your students to close their eyes and imagine the changing seasons. Ask them to remember how those changes feel – the first cold days, the feel of wind or drizzle on their skin. What are the smells? The changes in the appearance of things? The trees turning, the afternoons darkening. What are the sounds and tastes they associate with this time?

If you want you can take in props to use, to pass round – e.g. conkers, autumn leaves to crunch, earthy russet apples to smell.

Ask them to think about the before and the after. The heat and the cool (or vice versa). They might want to think about any change in seasons, not just the arrival of autumn – perhaps the coming of spring, or the start of the monsoon season. Encourage them to remember changing seasons past, to find one clear memory of a season changing, to think about the place they were, and everything they could sense – again, encourage them to use all five senses – and to write about it, being as concrete and specific as they can in the details.

Then ask students to look over what they’ve written and underline phrases or words they particularly like.


Ask students to volunteer to read some of the parts they have underlined. What stands out as particularly effective? Do the students have shared experiences? Discuss how their descriptions of the seasons differ. Where very similar phrases occur, ask students to revise their wording to make it more original. Give students ten minutes to edit their writing.

Finish by asking if anyone would like to read their whole piece aloud.


Below is an example piece by a First Story young writer:

The Oak Tree by Shahrbano Iqbal

She stands under the oak tree.
Leaves fall; flashes of gold, red and orange
That sleep on beds of halcyon greens,
An illustration of beauty painted
By the brush of autumn.

She stands under the oak tree.
Watching all, but seeing none,
For her mind sings in the distance;
A song of sempiternal sadness
That leaves a final, haunting note.

She stands under the oak tree.
Taking in the pungent scent of bonfires;
A spark seeking a flame,
Yet crushed by doubts
That cling like damp moss.

She stands under the oak tree.
Watching birds soar above
In a feat of freedom
And wishing;
Wishing that her broken wings would allow her to do the same.

She stands under the oak tree.
Tormented by ghosts,
Who weave silken webs to entrap
The maelstrom of colours
That once brought her happiness.

She stands under the oak tree.

Iqbal, Shahrbano, ‘The Oak Tree’ in Life Between the Pages, ed. Emily Diamand (Belle Vue Girls’ Academy, 2017)