Last year I used them for this totally different kind of lesson (here).
This year kids will be using the leaves to experiment with mixing primary colors to make the colors they see in the real fall leaves. Part one of the lesson is to encourage students to keep some colors clear and strong as they paint, rather then ending up with a muddy mess. To do this they start with 4 blobs of yellow in each of 4 quadrants (good math vocabulary) of their newspaper. They have the other 2 primary colors (red and blue) to mix in with the yellow to create their fall colors.
I like using newspaper for this because a) it provides some texture to the leaf, b) it allows me to reinforce that we can recycle and use found papers at home rather than buying paper to use, and 3) it is really easy for little hands to cut.
On a separate sheet of newspaper kids can experiment with mixing any combination of the three colors, discovering that this is where brown comes from!! Once one discovers it, they all catch on and the muddier the better! Success for everyone.
While these color sheets are drying, each student gets a piece of card stock to experiment with watercolors. This can be done on the same day or a second day, depending on your time constraints. I actually like to do these on two different days, making a whole lesson on the differences between painting with tempera/or acrylics and watercolor. This is also a good time to let kids experiment with what happens when you blot watercolor with plastic wrap, sprinkle salt on it, or spray it with water drops.
When all the painted papers are dry, the composition begins. Kids can trace around the real leaves to make the leaves they will cut out. They can also paint the back of real leaves with various colors (I used white here) and make leaf prints.
When leaves are cut out, students can experiment with composition. I like to talk about size, direction of leaves, and overlapping, depending on the grade level. Sometimes I like to talk about setting one leaf apart (that is why there is only one white leaf in my sample) like Van Gogh had just one white iris in his painting of irises.
I am thinking about having kids cut out around the blue area and gluing the whole thing on another piece of board, like this:
. . . but I haven't quite decided about this step yet:) That is what auditions are for!!