Observing the Pumpkin Cycle
- Grades: PreK–K
- Unit Plan:
About this book
- 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
- Chart paper for recording student observations during the read-aloud
- Pots, soil,
- Pumpkin seeds
- Piece of a pumpkin
- Student Observation Journals (PDF)
- Five Little Pumpkins by Iris Van Rynback
- Pocket Chart for Shared Reading
- Sentence Strips
Set Up and Prepare
- Create student journals for their observations.
- Cut up a pumpkin.
- Make sentence strips with the text from Five Little Pumpkins and mount in the pocket chart for the shared reading.
Part I: Nonfiction Reading
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. This lesson is just one of many great books that I like to use to teach the life cycle and plant growth. I follow up this reading with many other books to grow students’ understanding.
Step 1: Before reading, ask students questions about where pumpkins (and other foods) come from. Then introduce the book and let the students know that it’s going to help us learn about where pumpkins come from and how they grow.
Step 2: Read Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden. Stop to discuss what they notice and learn about pumpkin growth. Chart the sequence of the pumpkins as students recount the story.
Step 3: Review with the students what they’ve learned about growing pumpkins and tell them they’ll get to grow a pumpkin plant in class. Give each student a pot, some potting soil, and several seeds to plant. Show the students how to dig a hole in the soil and plant their seeds.
Guide the students when watering their seeds.
You’ll need to water and put the pots in the sun daily.
You may want to start this part after the seeds are just about to sprout.
Step 4: Review with students what they learned about what happens to pumpkins when they get old. Discuss with them what they do with old fruits and vegetables at their house. Ask them: Have they ever seen fruit that is starting to decay, or get old and yucky? What do they think happens to that fruit? What did they learn in Pumpkin Circle about pumpkins that get old and mushy? (Introduce the words decay and decompose.)
Step 5: Tell the students that we are going to be watching the beginning and end of the pumpkin cycle. Talk with them about how we’re going to be able to watch a pumpkin grow. Then cut a piece of a pumpkin and show them that we’re going to keep it in a jar (so it won’t smell) and watch the pumpkin grow old.
Step 6: Pass out the life cycle journals. Tell students they are going to record (with pictures or words) what they see as they take care of their seeds and watch the 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
The story Five Little Pumpkins is a great book to use as a shared reading with this unit. Shared readings are a non-threatening environment for early readers to practice tracking, fluency, phrasing, and sight words. As the students become familiar with the text, I use it for skill-based mini-lessons.
Step 7: Read the poem from the sentence strips you had already prepared. While reading, point to the words with a long pointer. 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 we read it together.
Cover the 2nd rhyming word of each two line rhyming pair. 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.
Five Little Pumpkins, sitting on a gate
The first one said, "Oh my it's getting (the word late is covered)
Ask students if they can think of other words that rhyme with the words "gate, air, care, light."
Record their responses on a chart and keep the chart up and 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 create pumpkin puppets and paint pumpkins. They 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?