From Mary’s Teaching Toolbox
My favorite book about pumpkins is Pumpkin Circle: The Story of a Garden by George Levenson, photographs by Shmuel Thaler. (available on Amazon) The beautiful photographs and engaging text follows the life cycle of pumpkin from seed to pumpkin and back to seeds.
Choose two or three words to develop as you read the book. I’ve included activities you can use to more fully develop the meaning. (See my post Teaching New Words)
- variety(ies): Bring in a variety of a familiar kind of item such as cereals, dogs, or balls. Try to use the word to describe activities in the classroom such a “You used a variety of colors,” or “You used a variety of blocks.”
- prickly: Let the children touch prickly items such as a wire brush, a pineapple, or a holly leaf. Compare them to things that are not prickly. Have the children brainstorm other items that are prickly.
- spring(s): This word can have several different meanings, and a coil of wire is probably one they are not familiar with. Springs can be purchased cheaply at a hardware store and can be found in some pens or toys. You can also bring in a Slinky. Take time to talk about how a word can have more than one meaning. Spring can mean a coil of wire, a season, or a quick jump just to name a few..
- pluck: Let the children pluck grapes from their stems, petals from a flower or the strings on a guitar. Make an instrument using rubber bands that the children can pluck to make music.
- plant parts- seeds, vine, leaves, roots, flower buds, petals, fruit: Bring in a small live plant and observe the parts including the roots. Observe plants on the school grounds and identify the parts. Sort pictures of seeds, flowers, leaves, and fruit. Make and label drawings of plants.
This is a great book to introduce figurative language. The seeds are “slippery jewels” in “their orange cave”. The flower buds appear “silently as angels” with “pointy collars” and “gleaming silver hair” The large and detailed photographs provide an effective tool for understanding the meaning. To further develop the concept, the pictures can be used as a basis for the children creating their own figurative language.
Discussion Questions (Bloom’s Taxonomy Level)
- Name some parts of a pumpkin plant. (knowledge)
- Describe how a pumpkin plant grows. (comprehension)
- What did the gardener do to take care of the pumpkin plants? (synthesis)
- Would you like to grow pumpkins? (evaluation)
Additional Follow-up Activities
Movement: Act out a growing pumpkin vine using some of the language from the book. Some movements that you could incorporate include:Be a pumpkin seed planted in the ground.
- Two fat leaves peeking out.
- Reaching down with silky roots.
- Reaching up to the sky to dance.
- A butterfly, spider, grasshopper, snail or bee exploring the pumpkin vines
- A pumpkin rotting back into the earth.
Phonemic Awareness: Identify the number of syllables in “pumpkin”, “vine” and other words from the book. Identifying the number of syllables in an important prereading skill. For more information about teaching about syllables, read “Fun with Syllables” from Language Leads Learning. For additional practice, have the children sort pictures of fruit based on the number of syllables.
Blocks and Dramatic Play: Provide pumpkins to be used as loose parts. For more ideas read my post Preschool Pumpkins: Loose Parts.
Math: Using pumpkins in a variety of sizes, sequence them from smallest to largest. Choose carefully how many to use based on the ability of your students. Younger students may only compare two while older children may be able to put five or more in order. For more math ideas check out Preschool Pumpkins: Counting and Estimating Pumpkin Seeds.