Before a long holiday, I try to wrap up any major units of study so I can plan something fun the day or two before the break.

Many teachers show a movie, but in all honesty, a movie just is not that engaging for students – and they don’t really learn anything.

It takes a little more prep time but if you plan a thematic unit, students get excited about doing something new.

Before Thanksgiving break, I like to plan a Popcorn-themed unit. There are many intersting things you can do with popcorn – and it is relatively inexpensive to purchase.

In this post, I’m giving upper elementary teachers different ideas for using popcorn throughout the core subjects. Select the ones that fit your curriculum and available time.

But be sure to buy some popcorn specifically for snacking!

Reading

No unit is complete without a reading component! There are a number of books that have a popcorn theme. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • A good picture book is The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola. This plot mixes a character making popcorn with another character discussing facts about popcorn.
  • For teachers looking for an easy chapter book, Cam Jansen: The Mystery of the Stolen Corn Popper by David A. Adler is a good option for second and third grades.
  • My favorite book is Popcorn! by Elaine Landau. It is a short nonfiction book about popcorn that includes questions that help draw students into the book.

Writing

I use an easy to prep writing activity that I call “Popcorn Narrative.”

The writing itself actually has nothing to do with popcorn, but I set up the activity in plastic popcorn boxes (the ones you can buy at the dollar store).

I use white and yellow paper to print character and setting choices, then crinkle them up to look like popcorn. Students randomly select one character and one setting, then use them in a creative writing piece.

The combinations can be really funny, and students can get very imaginative trying to work both of them in a story! Teachers could also use this activity to have students practice writing story starters or “hooks.”

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Math

Popcorn can be used for math in a bunch of ways. Kernels could be counted for groups to add, subtract, multiply, or divide.

If you have any math games, swap out the buttons for popcorn.

Teachers can also dye the popcorn kernels a few days ahead of time, then use the different colors to make fractions.

(The same kernels can then be used in the art activity below.)

Another fun math activity is Popcorn Volume. Students explore the volume of cylinders made from the same size rectangle as well as one made from a square. After assembling the cylinders, students work with a partner to fill them with kernels and count them.

The results are very surprising! This is a great activity for grades 4 – 6. Popcorn Volume is available for free!

Science

A popular science experiment is testing different brands of microwave popcorn. Students hypothesize which brand will have the most (or least) unpopped kernels in a bag, then count the unpopped kernels.

Teachers should lead the discussion as to why they feel a brand would have fewer unpopped kernels – is it because it is a brand name versus a store brand? Do buttered kernels pop better than plain?

Teachers should be sure to buy microwave popcorn bags of the same size. The popped kernels can double as a snack!

Art

Popcorn kernels make beautiful mosaics! I found these instructions on how to dye the kernels in vibrant colors at Fun-A-Day.

These kernels could first be used as math manipulatives, then recycled for an art project.

Teachers should plan on dying the kernels a few days before use. A simple project would be to use pieces of thin cardboard (like the front or back of a cereal box) as the background for the project. The kernels will be too heavy for construction paper.

First, have the students sketch their designs onto the cardboard. The design could be a pattern or a picture. They want to create their designs with enough space for the kernels, so they want to draw a something with large sections. For example, instead of a park scene, they may want to make a bird.

After students have sketched their designs and you have checked them, students should plan the colors of their design. It is important for students to have a well-formed plan, because if they use too much glue the cardboard may get soggy.

These projects will need time to dry, so teachers may want to schedule art a few days ahead of break or leave the mosaics dry over break.

I hope you were inspired by these ideas! What is your favorite way to use popcorn in the classroom?

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