Back to School: Building Classroom Community
Updated: Apr 8
Alrighty friends! Are you ready to make your first week back to school plans the easiest ones yet? Your students will love this engaging activity and demonstration that focuses on persistence, perseverance, and patience in the classroom.
This demo is LITERALLY as easy as popping a bag of popcorn! I designed this lesson to be used with a hotplate and “campfire popcorn” that pops to create a silver-dome spectacle, however this lesson could be completed with microwavable popcorn, or a personal popcorn maker… whatever supplies you have easy access to! You can grab the popcorn and hot plate I used here (affiliate links).
To make the most of this activity, make sure to read all instructions on your popcorn packaging to ensure you get the results you desire. Some major tip for using campfire popcorn are to...
PREHEAT THE HOT PLATE
Wait until you hear a sizzle before you start swirling
I lucked out and my popcorn started popping within a minute of the "sizzling sound". I had so much fun practicing at home (and my own kiddos had a blast!)
So how do we tie POPCORN to building classroom community?
This activity is a perfect way to introduce that all learners learn at different speeds. Have you ever had students who shoot their hand up in the air and wave it wildly because they reeeeeeaaally want to answer the question you just posed? Do you have students who shut down as soon as they see other students have already figured something out and they are still struggling with it? I forget where I heard this analogy in my years of teaching (I really wish I remembered to give credit to the genius that thought of it), but it has stuck with me and my students never forget it.
Just like kernels of popcorn, we all POP at our own pace.
To start the conversation, describe how the students in your class are like all the individual popcorn kernels in your popcorn package. The heat and energy are the lessons and activities they are provided with to learn. And you, the teacher, are the one doing all the shaking : )
Talk about how some students might connect to a concept we are learning quickly (the first kernels to pop), and others will take a little more “energy” (heat, in the case of the popcorn) but eventually, every learner will POP with enough determination… every student CAN learn. It's not about being the first person to learn the material, the goal is that everyone can have access to what they need to learn and that everyone has the opportunity to pop and achieve their full potential.
Another piece you could add to the discussion is how you also value those students that do “pop” early on, and that as the teacher, it is your goal to make sure students won’t “burn out” on a topic. Too much heat once the kernel has popped, is not necessarily a good thing. Our goal as teachers is to provide everyone what they need to feel challenged and excited to learn more.
As a way to reflect on their learning, have students write about the analogy of people being just like popcorn. You can use this activity to create a bright and memorable display for your first classroom bulletin board of the year.
This pack comes with two versions of the writing task and printable letters for the bulletin board kit and a bonus door display quote if you are short on space. I've included the image of the popcorn box so you can use a projector or document camera to enlarge the box for your bulletin board, but you can also just use red and white butcher paper to create your desired design. A quick Pinterest search provides a TON of inspiration! I also recommend the addition of buttery yellow and white tissue paper for a 3D effect.
And if your school allows, grab a few extra packs of popcorn for your students to enjoy. You could build on this activity and dive into sensory writing, a personal narrative of the experience, physical vs. chemical change... the options are endless.
I truly hope you have a blast this back to school season and find a fun way to build your classroom community. Check out some of the other awesome resources I like to use at the beginning of the school year.
Wishing you a class-full of curious minds, always.