The Popcorn Dragon by Jane Thayer: A Popcorn Theme and Lesson for PreK to K
Dexter the dragon is a bit of a show-off and cannot resist blowing his hot breath to all his friends. His animal friends try to blow smoke with no success. Dexter continues to show off and made his friends feel bad, so they leave.
Now, Dexter feels lonely and sad. All alone, Dexter falls asleep in a cornfield on a warm sunny day. He wakes up to a delicious smell and is surrounded by popcorn. He finally realized that, while he was sleeping, his hot breath popped the corn in the field.
All of his friends were watching. They are very envious. To lure his friends back, Dexter decides to share his treat with them. He learns a valuable lesson that the secret to having good friends is to share with them instead of just showing off what he could do.
Although this book is quite old –text copyright 1953—it’s remained a favorite among educators when teaching young children about friendship and sharing in a way that children can understand through a loving tale. And what child doesn’t like dinosaurs?
After reading this story, take the popcorn theme across the curriculum with the following activities.
Role Play the Story
Have each child take a turn to role-play the character of Dexter the Dragon. Have a student pretend to blow hot breaths. Make whishing sounds. Next, give the child an ear of corn in his/her hands. Blow hot breaths again. Set a dish of popped corn aside the child to pass along to friends (the class).
Popcorn and the Five Senses
Your preschool group will love trying these activities and learning how popcorn engages the five senses.
- Sound – Prepare to pop some popcorn in the classroom. Tell the kids to listen carefully. Do they hear the sizzle of the oil (if you use it)? How about the sound of the unpopped corn being poured into the pan? Then, pop, pop, pop goes the kernels.
- Smell – Popcorn has a unique aroma when it’s cooking. The sense of smell plays an important role in memory, so ask the children to share stories of the times they remember eating popcorn. Where they were? Did they like it? And so on.
- Touch – Show the preschoolers the corn kernels before cooking and the finished popcorn. Ask them to describe how each feels.
- Sight – Engage the children in a conversation about the different sizes and shapes of popcorn, along with the color. Does the popcorn look different when butter, spices and toppings are mixed in?
- Taste – Finally, have the kids eat this awesome treat and talk about how it tastes. If you have added flavors (such as cinnamon, caramel, herbs, or cheese) how does the popcorn differ in taste (sweet, savory, sour, etc.)? Vote on everyone’s favorite flavor.
Popcorn Bingo (Math and Game)
Make bingo cards for all the children. At the top, print the word BINGO. Inside each square, write numerals from 0-12. Make sure the numerals are random on each card – every card should be different. Make small squares of paper with all the numbers from 0-12 on each square. Make several sets and put an alphabet letter from the word Bingo on one side of the numeral playing squares. Set these aside until you’re ready to play.
Invite the kids to decorate their Bingo card and give each player a small cup of popped corn as markers.
Play the traditional game of Bingo and instruct the children to cover their matching square with a piece of popcorn. When a child covers five squares in a row (up, down, across, or diagonally, have the child shout “Popcorn Bingo.” Then, have the kids clear their cards by eating the popcorn and play the game again.
Another fun game is to conduct a relay race where the child carries a piece of popcorn on a spoon to the other side of the room. Who can carry it without it dropping off? Make the game simple for young children. This activity is great for eye/hand coordination and gross motor skills.
Tune: Pop Goes the Weasel
Pour the popcorn into a pan,
Hear it start to sizzle.
Jumping, and spinning, and twirling around.
Pop goes the popcorn
Turn the popcorn into a bowl,
Fluffy, and puffy, and airy.
Making popcorn is so much fun.
Pop goes the popcorn!
Reach right in and munch it down.
Yummy, and crispy, and crunchy.
Eating popcorn is so much fun.
Yummmmmmmm! That’s good popcorn!