A teacher’s most important task is to help their students learn successfully in the classroom. Educators and child development experts all agree that children learn best when they are having fun.
Keep the students engaged and having fun by using popcorn. It is a wonderful teaching tool as what child does not like popcorn? Next, popcorn kernels are inexpensive so making a lesson using popcorn is inexpensive. Also, it can also serve as a delicious and healthy reward for the class.
You can pop some for a class activity and pop extra for snacks as a reward for the students’ hard work. There are many creative ways to use popcorn to teach a wide variety of subjects. If the use of popcorn piques your interest and you want some ideas on using it in your lesson plans, read on for some creative examples.
Teach your young students what plants need to grow by germinating popcorn seeds.
You can use popcorn to teach your students what plants need to survive by growing your own popcorn. This lesson is about the ideal conditions needed to germinate a popcorn seed.
Introduce the topic by bringing in an ear of corn of the popcorn variety (mention that it is different from the corn on the cob that we eat), popcorn seeds (dried kernels), and some freshly popped corn.
Talk about how each kernel of the corn is a seed that can grow into another plant (it takes 90 to 120 days to mature). Then talk about how the popcorn is harvested.
You will have each student, or a pair of students, do an experiment in germinating popcorn seeds.
What you will need:
- Organic popcorn seeds
- Ziploc bags
- Paper towels
- Bowl of water
- Masking tape
For each student (or each pair), distribute six seeds, two Ziploc bags, and two sheets of paper towels. Instruct them to put three seeds into each bag.
Have them wet the paper towel in the bowl of water and fold the paper towel so it fits into one of the Ziploc bags. Have them close the bag tightly and label it “wet” with today’s date.
In the other bag with three seeds, they can fold up a dry paper towel, put it into the bag, and zip it closed. They will label it “dry” with today’s date.
Have the children use masking tape to tape their Ziploc bags onto the window. Have them observe their seeds over the next five to ten days and have them record what they see in a journal. (You can have them make this journal ahead of time by stapling half-sheets of paper together.)
Have them draw pictures of the seeds every day. They will see a big difference between the seeds in the “wet” bags and those in the “dry” bags.
If you have the time, space, and the right climate, you can have your class plant the seeds that they have germinated. Note: to have a successful lesson, make sure that you get fertile popcorn seeds. You might want to try germinating a few on your own first before presenting this as a lesson.
MUSIC, LITERATURE, AND ART
- Popcorn Sound Bottles
Gather a variety of seeds and beans, including popcorn kernels, and put them in painted bottles and jars that you cannot see through. Have the children shake the different bottles and guess which one contains the popcorn kernels. This can help the students fine-tune their listening skills. You can also give a bottle to each child to use as a maraca during their music lesson. Direct each child to shake their bottles during a certain measure of a song to make an interesting maraca ensemble.
To vary the sounds even more, put the popcorn seeds in different types of containers besides bottles. You can use a tissue tube that is taped on both ends, a small cardboard box with a sealed lid, empty seasoning bottles that you brought from home, etc.
- Popcorn Poem
Ask each student to create a poem about popcorn. You can have them think of as many words as they can that rhyme with “pop”.
- Popcorn Stories
Have each child come up with their own fictional story about why popcorn pops. It can be a fairy tale, science fiction, etc. This exercise helps them with their creative writing skills.
- Popcorn For the Senses
Encourage the kids to use all of their senses to describe popped popcorn. Bring in some freshly popped corn and distribute a quantity to each student. Then, have them look at it, smell it, feel it, and taste it. Have them write down their experiences describing what the popcorn looks like, smells like, feels like, and tastes like.
- Popcorn Mosaic
Your students can create lovely mosaic artwork with popcorn.
You will need:
- Unpopped kernels
- Popped kernels
- Non-toxic paint
Provide each student with a quantity of popped and unpopped kernels and a poster board. The students can sketch their design on the board with a pencil first and then glue the popped and unpopped kernels onto the poster board. The unpopped kernels can be also painted. This will allow the kids to extend their imagination and create amazing artwork.
- Popcorn Necklace
This is a miniature version of the popcorn garland you make for the Christmas tree. Pop a large quantity of popcorn and give each student a child-friendly plastic needle and a piece of string. Have the child tie one end of the string to the eye of the plastic needle. Then show them how to push the needle into a piece of popcorn, one after the other, to make a chain.
When the necklace is finished, they can tie the ends together and wear their necklaces. Be sure to make extra popcorn because the kids might snack along the way!
BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS
Creating A Popcorn Company
For older students, you can introduce the topic of business using popcorn by having them create a popcorn company. Divide your class into groups and have each group take on a role in a new popcorn company.
This group of students will come up with a design for marketing the popcorn. That can include the design of the logo, the packaging, advertisements, coming up with slogans or jingles, etc. They can also do some research on the web about real popcorn companies and look at their advertising to see how they market their product. Have them come up with various marketing plans for different outlets like TV, internet, print ads, etc.
To make it more interesting, see if the students can locate examples on the web of how popcorn is marketed in other countries and what their packaging looks like. To take it a step further and if time permits, the students can explore how popcorn is marketed in different states. See if they can find examples of local marketing. Are there different flavors of popcorn that are popular in certain states?
Another marketing project can be a survey of what flavors people prefer. Have the students create a survey and conduct it with their family and relatives. Then have them compile the results and present them.
This group will figure out how to make a sales presentation for their popcorn. That will include selling to businesses like movie theaters, grocery stores, etc.
They will need to determine the best price to sell it for. From the internet, they can do some research on their competition to see how they price their products. Have them look at the prices of popcorn in the supermarket and see how prices differ from brand to brand. Have them figure out a plan to attract customers.
You can introduce the history of popcorn to even the younger students.
Create a word scramble game with the names of places where popcorn was first found, places where popcorn is grown, the name of the inventor of the popcorn popper and where it was invented, and other words that you can think of relating to the history of popcorn. You can provide a sheet with the answers so that young students can match the scrambled letters. Then afterward, go over the answers as a group and talk about each one.
You can provide the students with a list of locations and have them identify these on a map.
For older students, you can go a step further and have them do research on how popcorn is used in various countries. Have them describe the similarities and differences. This will include how popcorn is grown, sold, and consumed in other countries in comparison to the U.S.
HEALTH and NUTRITION
Have your students conduct research on the nutritional value of popcorn. Since popcorn can come in many flavors and can be popped in different ways, have them report on the differences in preparation methods and how they affect the caloric and nutritional values. To take it a step further, have them evaluate the nutritional content of various types of popcorn sold on the market. The nutritional information should be right on the packages. They can make a table that includes the different types of popcorn products and the nutritional information that is included on the package.
There are also fitness reports that promote popcorn as a healthy snack. Have your students find evidence of those reports and present their findings.
You can use popcorn to teach math at many levels.
- Popcorn Estimate (younger grades)
Provide a quantity of popped popcorn and containers of various sizes. Put one piece of popcorn in a container and have each student in your class make an estimate as to how many pieces of popcorn it will take to fill up the container, based on how much room the one piece in the container took up. See who can come the closest.
Then do the same exercise again with another container. This exercise helps young students practice how to make good estimates using their spatial awareness.
- Popcorn Addition and Subtraction
This is a simple way to teach young students the basics of addition and subtraction. You can create many different exercises with it.
Give each student a large paper cup containing 20 pieces of popcorn. Have each student count them out on their desk to verify the count. Now that their cups are empty, have them count five pieces, putting each piece back into the cup as they count. After they put the fifth piece into the cup, have them count how many pieces are left on their desk. This is a lesson in subtraction.
Then have the students count out three pieces from the cup and place them back on the desk with the rest of them. Have them count how many pieces of popcorn they have on their desks after they have added three pieces. You have just taught them addition.
- Popcorn Fractions and Percentages
Popcorn can be used in various ways to teach fractions. One way is to pop a small number of kernels in class, then see how many kernels were left unpopped. Ask the students to express the result in a fraction.
Another lesson is popping a mixture of white popcorn and yellow popcorn and then have the students determine the percentage of popcorn that is yellow versus the percentage that is white.
- Popcorn Measurements
Instructions on popcorn jars usually include measuring out a number of kernels to yield a certain amount of popped popcorn. Provide a set of measuring cups and have the students scoop out a number of kernels using the smallest cup (for example, the 1/4 cup), then have them pour that into a larger cup to see how many times they need to do this until the larger cup is filled.
This helps students understand dry measurement using measuring cups.
- Popcorn Ratios and Proportions
You can design practice problems using the ratio of unpopped kernels to popped popcorn. For example, if one tablespoon of popcorn kernels produces three cups of popcorn, how many tablespoons of kernels will be needed to produce six cups of popcorn? You can change the numbers to make different practice problems.
It is important to note that all these activities are only appropriate for kids who are old enough to handle and eat popcorn. Children at the preschool age, or younger than five years old, might be too young to eat popcorn due to parts of the popped kernel that can be a choking hazard. However, for elementary school-aged and older students, popcorn can be a wonderful prop for teaching.
As you can see, popcorn can be used in a wide variety of ways in the classroom to make a lesson more interesting. The examples above range from simple lessons for young student to more sophisticated lessons for older students that require research.
These can be customized in countless ways to suit different grade levels. At the end of the lesson, do not forget to treat your class to a healthy snack. You will make your lesson unique and your students will remember your lesson because who can forget a teacher who taught them with popcorn!
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