Popcorn Pickles, Popcorn Stew

Popcorn Pickles, Popcorn Stew

by Judie Haynes

How does popcorn pop? Why does it make a noise when it pops? Share a popcorn treat with your students as you read about popcorn. Teach a cross-curricular theme by including popcorn experiments in the unit.

Lesson Topic


Proficiency/Grade Level:

Grades 1-4 ; Beginning to High Intermediate students.

Content Concepts/Skills

Science concepts: How is corn grown? What can you make with corn? How does popcorn pop?


Grades 1-2: Maize, oil, steam, husks, seed coat, hull embryo, kernel, old maid

Grades 3-4: Kernel, sprout. stalk, nodes, husks, seed coat, hull, embryo


Corn is Maize The Gift of the Indians by Aliki ; Corn by Marvin Buckley; The Popcorn Book by Tomie di Paola; The Popcorn Shop by Alice Low; Popcorn by Teacher Created Materials.

Unit Overview

This topic was taught over a wide range of ability levels in three different ESL groups. I read The Popcorn Shop to my Grade 1-2 students. They also listened to a a reworded description of why corn pops from Tomie di Paola’s The Popcorn Book.

Students in grades 3-6 read Corn is Maize and Corn. Their thematic unit began with corn and moved to popcorn. Beginners illustrated a chart showing what uses corn has. More advanced students made a list of vocabulary and found the main idea in paragraphs and took notes from the book. They found information on the internet to write a short factual report on popcorn.

Instructional Sequence

(Grades 1-2)

1. To introduce the unit, I asked students to tell me what they know about popcorn. We brainstormed a list and I wrote down their ideas. We then talked about what they wanted to learn about popcorn.

2. Next, I read The Popcorn Shop by Alice Low to my students in grades 1-3. This is a fictional story about Popcorn Nell who makes popcorn in a pot and has a thriving business. She then decides to buy a popcorn machine that breaks down and won’t stop popping. I worked on predictions by asking students what would happen next in the story. I stopped at intervals so that students could write down their predictions. I explained to my students that good readers make predictions as they read and change them when they get new information.

3. I also had students sequence the action in the story. I wrote sentences on large pieces of construction paper shaped like popcorn kernels. Students put string through the kernels to show the order in which events took place.

4. We then brainstormed what kind of shop they would have if they could have just one item in their store. First grade students made a model of their store and created a name for it. They picked items such as pizza, cookies, rice, and doughnuts. They drew a picture of their products in the window and wrote the refrain from the book using their product “Perfect ______, come and try it. Plenty of it, come and buy it.” Second grade students drew a picture of their store and wrote why they thought their product would be a good seller. We talked about how companies advertise and students wrote advertising jingles for their product using a writing frame. They practiced selling their wares in front of their ESL class.

5. The official popcorn web site contains reading and math activities for students in grades 1-6.

6. Jolly Time popcorn also has a site with activities for young children including Kids Club with games, crafts and recipes.

(Grades 3-6)

1. Students in grades 3-6 looked at fact books on growing corn and products made from corn. Marvin Buckley’s book “Corn” tells what can be made from corn. This is a good activity for grades 3-4. They also visited web sites about corn to investigate why popcorn pops.

2. Using Marvin Buckley’s book Corn as a source, beginning Grade 3-4 ESL students illustrated a poster showing what uses corn has. Each student illustrated and wrote about a different use.

3. Students in Grades 5-6 wrote a short report on why popcorn pops. They included a diagram of a popcorn kernel. We also compared how many “old maids” were popped when using a hot air popcorn popper and microwave popcorn.

4. The Jolly Time popcorn site has information on the history and uses of popcorn.

5. The official popcorn site also contains information about the history of popcorn, nuitrition and reciptes.

6. There are many science experiments available using popcorn. A few are in the “Popcorn” Thematic Unit by Teacher Created Materials. These are an excellent resources for students in grades 3-6.

Related Links

Resource Picks

Wyandot Popcorn Museum
This website features video tours of the world's largest collection of popcorn poppers including two that are more than 100 years old. It also gives information about the Marion, Ohio Popcorn Festival which takes place in September of every year.

Popcorn History
Read about the history of popcorn which includes a myriad of popcorn trivia as well as the original 1908 cylinder recording of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Jolly Time popcorn
The Jolly Time popcorn site is a commercial site which sells popcorn products. However, it also features a "Kid's Club" section with games, activities, crafts, jokes and recipes as well a factual information for older children.

The Popcorn Shop
This "Hello Reader" book from Scholastic is a fun book for parents to read to their children or for beginning readers to read aloud. The story encourages imagination and fosters skills such as predicting and sequencing.