Observing the Life Cycle of Pumpkins
Teach your students about the life cycle of pumpkins through nonfiction books, as well as observation activities.
- Grades: PreK–K
- Unit Plan:
This unit is a great opportunity to bring nonfiction literature to the read-aloud time and introduce your students to facts about the world around them. Students will learn about the life cycle of pumpkins from nonfiction books and will practice early reading skills in a shared reading related to the unit.
- Learn about the life cycle of a pumpkin.
- Observe growth and decay.
- Learn where food comes from.
- Practice early reading skills through a shared reading.
- Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson, and other books that you've used to teach life cycles
- Chart paper for recording student observations during the read-aloud
- Pots, soil
- Pumpkin seeds
- One large piece of a pumpkin
- Student Observation Journals (PDF)
- Five Little Pumpkins by Iris Van Rynbach
- Pocket chart for shared reading
- Sentence strips
Set Up and Prepare
- Print student journals, one per student.
- Make sentence strips with the text from Five Little Pumpkins and mount it in the pocket chart for the shared reading (as shown in the photo above).
Part I: Nonfiction Reading
Step 1: Ask students questions about where pumpkins (and other foods) come from. Then tell students you will read Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden to help us learn about where pumpkins come from and how they grow.
Step 2: Read Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden aloud to the class. Stop to discuss what students notice and learn about pumpkin growth. As students recount the story, chart the sequence of the pumpkins' growth.
Step 3: To grow your students' understanding, follow up this reading with other books that teach life cycles and plant growth.
Part II: Planting Pumpkins
Step 4: Review with students what they learned about a pumpkin's growth and tell them they’ll get to grow a pumpkin plant in class. Then give each student a pot, some potting soil, and several seeds to plant.
Step 5: Show the students how to dig a hole in the soil and plant their seeds. Guide them when watering their seeds. You’ll need to water the pots and put them in the sun daily.
Part III: Observing Growth and Decay
Note: You may want to start this part when the seeds are just starting to sprout.
Step 6: Discuss with students what they do at home with old fruits and vegetables. What did they learn in Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden about pumpkins that get old and mushy? (Introduce the words "decay" and "decompose.") Ask them: Have they ever seen fruit that is starting to decay, or get old and yucky?
Step 7: Tell students that you will watch a pumpkin grow, from the beginning to the end of the pumpkin life cycle. Tell them they will watch their potted pumpkins sprout and grow, then show students the piece of fully-grown pumpkin and tell them that we’re going to keep it in a jar (so it won’t smell) and watch the pumpkin grow old and decay.
Step 8: Pass out the Student Observation Journals (PDF). Tell students to record (with pictures or words) what they see as they take care of their seeds and watch the piece of pumpkin decompose. Look for ways to connect the students’ observations to books you are reading and things they are learning. Students will take their plants home after they have grown to a predetermined height.
Part IV: Shared Reading
Step 9: Shared readings are a non-threatening environment for early readers to practice tracking, fluency, phrasing, and sight words. The story Five Little Pumpkins by Iris Van Rynbach is a great book to use as a shared reading with this unit. (As the students become familiar with the text, I use it for skill-based mini-lessons — see below for an example.) Take out the pocket chart with sentence strips that you prepared for the Five Little Pumpkins.
Step 10: Read the Five Little Pumpkins poem from the sentence strips. While reading, point to the words with a long pointer.
Step 11: Once the students are comfortable with the poem, let volunteers lead the reading with the pointer. Optional: Have the students make pumpkin puppets and act out the poem as you read it together.
Step 1: Using the same sentence strips, cover the 2nd rhyming word of each two-line rhyming pair.
Step 2: Ask students if they know the word that is covered. Ask if they can think of another word that will rhyme with the uncovered word. For example:
Five Little Pumpkins, sitting on a gate
The first one said, "Oh my it's getting (cover the word "late")
Step 3: Ask students if they can think of other words that rhyme with the words "gate, air, care, light."
Step 4: Record their responses on a chart and keep the chart up. They can add to the list as throughout the week.
Supporting All Learners
Encourage students who don’t normally raise their hand during discussions. Give them the opportunity to read the poem to you or the class -- as long as they feel comfortable doing so. Allow sufficient wait time for students to gather their thoughts and formulate their answers. Some students will be encouraged to read the pocket charts when the pointers are a different shape, size, or perhaps something fun like a large hand.
Take students to see a real pumpkin patch with a field trip.
Have parents talk with their children about the food they buy at the grocery store. Where does that food come from? How does it grow? Perhaps they can find smaller and larger pumpkins at the store.
Students will participate in a shared reading of a poem, and discuss the stages of a pumpkin’s growth.
- Are the students incorporating things learned from the read-aloud into their thinking?
- Were they interested in the topic?
- Did they go to the pocket charts on their own time and read them?
- Do you see the reading skills practiced during shared reading when students are reading independently?
- Did students participate in discussions?
- Do students participate in the shared reading?