by Judie Haynes
This "Pumpkin Science" lesson gives English language learners a background in how plants grow. It also provides them with practice in estimating and in predicting outcomes.
A pumpkin theme unit can be related to either Fall harvest or Halloween. These lessons are written to follow the TESOL Pre-K-12 ESL Standards: Standard 2, Goal 2.
How plants grow; experiments with pumpkins
Beginning, advanced beginning ESL students grades 2-6
Content Concepts and SkillsPlant growth vocabulary; how pumpkin seeds grow into mature plants; floating and sinking; predicting and estimating.
Vocabulary neededSoil, seeds, cover, water, sunlight, roots, shoots, ground,sprout, vines, leaves, buds, flowers, green, yellow, orange, pick, seeds, pulp, estimate
Materials or ResourcesIt's Pumpkin Time by Zoe Hall;
The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll
- Read several books on growing pumpkins which are suitable for your students' age and English language ability.
- When reading a pumpkin book, highlight the vocabulary you want your students to know. Download our Pumpkin Vocabulary to teach students the words they need to know. These vocabulary words and definitions are ready to cut out and glue to flashcards. Place all of the cards in a pile with the definition facing up. Have students pick a card from the top and give the vocabulary word. Provide a word bank when students are first learning the new vocabulary.
- Students can sequence how pumpkins grow by putting pictures or sentence strips in order depending on their grade and ability level. Each student should orally retell the sequence. Correct use of plant vocabulary should be stressed.
- Students are given labels for parts of the pumpkin plant and asked to place them correctly on a large drawing of a pumpkin plant. They can also make a book by drawing pictures to match sentences about each stage of pumpkin development. Download PDF "How to Grow a Pumpkin."
- Download Pumpkin Records. If you have not already done so, have students complete the experiment with sinking and floating from Will the Pumpkin Sink or Float?
- Students can measure the circumference of their pumpkins. Have them use a piece of yarn to measure around the pumpkin. Lay the yarn on a yardstick to find out the circumference. Do the same thing with the pumpkin height. Have students record their responses on the Pumpkin Activity Sheet.
- Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the pulp. Have students feel the pulp and describe what it feels like. Encourage the use of words like "squishy, slimy, mushy." Use the vocabulary for the parts of the pumpkin: stem, skin, meat, pulp, seeds, ribs. Download Parts of the Pumpkin.
- Have students estimate the number of seeds in the pumpkin. Write down their guesses. Make a rough count by dividing the seeds into piles of 25.
- Have students complete the downloaded Pumpkin Activity Sheet.
- Older students can brainstorm the relationship between the number of seeds a pumpkin has and the color. Pumpkins which are a darker color orange are more mature and have more seeds.
Descriptors and Progress IndicatorsDuring this unit students worked on the following skills:
- listening to, speaking, reading, and writing about subject matter information
- retelling information
- hypothesizing and predicting
- representing information visually and interpreting information
- selecting, connecting, and explaining information
- formulating and asking questions
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