Trees: Linguistic and cultural aspects

Introductory information

Author Christoph SUTER
Institute Pädagogische Hochschule Zürich, Switzerland
Target group 12-16
  • English,
  • Geography,
  • Biology
  1. to label common parts of trees on different types of trees in English
  2. to learn about connotations and collocations of the word tree and of a specific tree in English
  3. to research connotations and collocations of trees in learners‘ L1 and compare and present findings in class
  4. to learn about the specific distribution of nutrients in tropical rainforests and in central European forests
  5. to understand the multiple functions of a tree in an ecologic system through the example of the baobab tree

Key competences

Communication in language(s) COMMUNICATION IN L1
  • Learners communicate with three members of their family about additional meanings of trees in general, certain trees or parts of trees.
  • L1 is considered and appreciated for work in school.
  • Learners acquire topic vocabulary and interact with peers in FL
  • The matematical term root is mentioned in materials. Activities provide starting points for further work on the functions of the parts of a tree as well as their structures.
Learning to learn Learners research the information regarding their L1 in their social network. In this way they learn to see their surrounding as a resource for learning.
Digital competences
Social and civic competences
  • Learners work in pairs, groups, and in class in order to develop interactive skills.
  • Learners identify and contact speakers of their L1 who they think might be able to answer their questions. They document the answers and present them to classmates.
  • Learners develop an understanding of differing connotations of similar items in different cultures.
Timing of the overall activities 160’
Resources and materials needed Worksheets 1, 2, 3, 4


Labelling parts of a tree; figurative senses of parts of a tree

Notes for the teacher
  1. Learners label different trees with these terms: roots, trunk, crown, branches, leaves.
  2. Learners find different uses of these terms with the aid of a monolingual dictionary.
  3. Learners say what parts of a tree are called in their L1 and what other uses of these terms exist.

According to your class‘ needs, either start with projecting a picture of a tree and talking about it, using the terms roots, trunk, crown, branches, leaves, or ask learners to tackle Worksheet 1 in pairs straight away

Timing 40’
Material required Worksheets 1&2
Grouping / /
Focus on content Parts of a tree: roots, trunk, crown, branches, leaves
Figurative meanings
Focus on language botanical terms
other uses of these terms in English (e.g. crown)
parts of a tree in learners‘ L1 and their figurative uses
Learner worksheets
Worksheet 1
Material for Teachers
Material for Students
Worksheet 2
Material for Teachers
Material for Students

Connotations of trees in English and in learners‘ L1

Notes for the teacher

Learners examine the connotations the word tree is carrying in English and explore connotations of the word tree or of specific trees in their first language.

Option Learners bring a picture they like of a tree to the classroom and explain what they like about the picture.
Timing 50’
Material required Worksheet 3, poster sheets, pens
Grouping /
Focus on content Cultural connotations of trees
Focus on language Figurative use of language
Worksheet 3
Material for Teachers
Material for Students

The forestal nutrient cycle in different climates

Notes for the teacher

Learners compare forestal systems in differing climates.

Option Learners present their findings to the class in the form of a role play, e.g. one learner is playing a person saying I am a little girl living nearby and the baobab is good for me because I like to hide in the baobab tree.
If you would like to extend the topic of benefits of trees, see also
Timing 30’
Material required Worksheet 4
Grouping / /
Focus on content Forestal nutrient cycles
Risks of cutting down tropical forests
Focus on language Percentage
Worksheet 4
Material for Teachers
Material for Students

The Baobab tree: Exploring the multiple functions of a tree in an ecologic system

Notes for the teacher

Learners research the manifold benefits of the baobab tree for humans and animals. They collect and sort the different aspects involved and create a poster displaying their findings.

Timing 40’
Material required Internet access, poster sheets, pens
Grouping (individual) or (pairs) or (small group) or (whole class)
Focus on content A tree as a resource for life around it.
Different benefits of the baobab tree.
Focus on language Processing authentic text
Writing short descriptions.
Worksheet 5
Material for Teachers
Material for Students

References/ References/ Referencias

Illustrations Activity 1: Wikipedia, see worksheet for url.
Illustration Activity 2:, see worksheet for url.
Connotations Activity 2:
Collocations Activity 2: Corpus research with the Cobuild Corpus.
Illustrations Activity 3: Lehrmittelverlag des Kantons Zürich: Die Erde (copyright?)


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