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A Dozen Candy-Coated Classroom Activities!

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Do you have a sweet tooth? A mouth full of them? Your students, no doubt, share your passion for sweets, and so does the Internet. Whether you need a novel approach to teaching graphing skills or a unique way to motivate students to write, you will find food for thought on the Net. "Treat" yourself to a dozen activities -- activities that enlist all types of candy to grab and hold your students' attention!

Becky Settlemoir, a first-grade teacher at Fuller Elementary School in Little Rock, Arkansas, built a tremendous unit on chocolate for her classroom.

It began with two things: a book titled The Big Block of Chocolate, by Janet Slater Redhead, and an activity called M&M Math. She had a feeling that her students would go for the idea in a big way, and she wasn't disappointed. To add to her already growing list of sweet lessons, she sent out a call on an educational listserv and asked other teachers to recommend their favorite chocolate lessons. The result is a fabulous list of 35 Chocolate Activities from Becky Settlemoir and Friends!

"I was really excited about all of the responses and ideas that I received," Settlemoir told Education World. "Making words with chocolate and the names of candy bars was something I hadn't thought about. Using Cookie Crisp cereal as counters for addition and subtraction was fun. The kids loved to pudding finger-paint. They wrote about it a lot. In their writing, they told about how to make the pudding."

Chocolate-mania made learning fun, exciting, and delicious for all! The unit even included two of the most unique suggestions Settlemoir received from other educators -- chocolate songs created with new lyrics to familiar tunes. Her students ate them up!

"I had all successes with my chocolate unit," said Settlemoir. "I will most surely do it again. I did learn that using chocolate as a theme unit meant that I would have to have a lot of chocolate on hand. Chocolate on hand means eating it and gaining weight. But, oh, it was so good. I did make one thing for next year when I teach the unit again. I opened the individual M&M bags for the kids and saved them. I cut off the front and glued them to construction paper. I then laminated them. I plan to use them for work maps with M&M's to teach addition and subtraction. They look really nice."


Put one of these sweet ideas to the test in your classroom!


Note: Before bringing candy into the classroom, be sure you are aware of any students who might have allergies or conditions that would preclude them from eating those candies.

M&M math. The sight of students leaning over their desks, pushing around M&M's might have been strange at one time, but it is certainly no surprise now! Teaching math with candy-coated chocolate is becoming increasingly popular. Mighty Mouthwatering Math can show you how to get into the act using M&M's to graph, learn fractions, and calculate averages and percentages. M&M's are the handful of sugar that helps the math go down!

Fudge-making Fun. Here is a unique recipe for fun! Try Fudge in a Ziplock Bag.

The making of chocolate. Investigate the making of chocolate from its source in the rain forest. The Exploratorium takes you on a tour of The Sweet Science of Chocolate. The history of chocolate comes alive as you explore how it was first made and how it migrated to other parts of the world. Somewhere between a food and a drug, chocolate contains 300 chemicals. Scientists are in the process of determining how they react with the human body.

World of chocolate. When you think of chocolate, does the name Hershey come to mind? You can find out how Hershey's chocolate delicacies are made when you tour their factory online.


Not crazy for chocolate? How about hard candy? These classroom activities will have your students eating out of your hands!

Rock candy. Few experiments are as tasty as this! Dissolve sugar in water and boil. Next, put the mixture in a pan or jar with a string or skewer suspended in it. Be patient, and in one week you will have rock candy! The directions can be found on the Rock Candy page of the Exploratorium's Science of Cooking Web site.

Wrap it up. Introduce your students to the amazing world of advertising through an on-line glimpse of propaganda at work. From hard candies to chocolate bars, advertisers create original wrappers to promote companies and their products. For example, some advertisers create wrappers to send a sweet message on customized mini rolls of Life Savers. Have students design wrappers of the proper size to cover mini rolls or chocolate bars. The focus of their work may be a nonprofit environmental group, a political candidate, an imaginary company, or another organization of your choice.

Jumping jelly beans. Anyone who has tasted the "original gourmet jelly bean" called Jelly Belly knows just how scrumptious it is. There are several great ideas that come from a trip to the corporate Web site. Students can experience the making of jelly beans firsthand with a Jelly Belly Factory Tour and gain ideas for art projects using candy as media such as those included in the Jelly Belly Art Gallery.

To explore the many varieties and delectable combinations of Jelly Belly beans, have your students visit the site with Candi's Jelly Beans Teaching Master in hand. In this activity, students attempt to identify the flavors in a young girl's bag of jelly beans, graph the results, and solve additional questions.


Teaching Master answers: 1 Raspberry; 1 A & W Root Beer; 7 Sizzling Cinnamon; 2 Juicy Pear; 5 Peach; 2 Cappuccino; 3 Chocolate Pudding; 5 Coconut; 3 Buttered Popcorn; 4 Peanut Butter; 3 A&W Cream Soda; 6 Top Banana; 3 Margarita; 5 Tutti-Fruitti; 1 Toasted Marshmallow. Candi can make Cinnamon Popcorn Balls, Peaches 'n Cream, and Poached Pear in Raspberry Sauce.


Tasty tales. What could be more fun than writing stories with words taken from the wrappers of candy bars? Sweet Stories [archived copy] explains just how to do this activity. Using unopened candy is one option, but another is simply to use the wrappers of the sweets. If candy bars are too limiting for you, invite your students to collect the wrappers of any kind of candy. Before you schedule the activity, have the class collect wrappers for a few weeks so there are many from which to choose. You may gather them all in a box, or allow the students to hold on to their own materials. Make the activity more challenging by mixing up the wrappers and have each student draw a few. They then must use the words they selected to make a unique story.

Confection invention. Most candy lovers are familiar with the plastic heads with the secret treat to share called PEZ Candy. Inside the long stem are rectangular candy treats. The official Web site affords visitors the opportunity to view many PEZ dispensers at its store, including Looney Tunes and Star Wars characters. Bubble gum and candy machines are nothing new to children, but what if they could design a new candy dispenser? Would it be a simple candy dispenser like a PEZ dispenser or a large machine that would fill their hands with treats? It is up to you and your students. Have them draw their inventions or create prototypes.

Delicious jewelry. For artistic fun, make a Yummy Necklace with licorice whips, confectioner's sugar, Fruit Loops cereal, and other common ingredients. They are enjoyable to make, pretty to look at, and sweet to eat!

Candy counters. Incorporate math into your study of sweets with Candy Statistics. This Web site has records of candy consumption in the United States. You can use the records to have students add, subtract, and graph the billions of dollars Americans spend on candy and the billions of pounds of it they eat over the years through 2001. Students may also compare Americans' consumption of chocolate to that of other candy and compare the consumption during different years.




Chocolate Thematic Unit
Midge Frazel offers this unit, which includes links to literature lessons (for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , for example), M&M's experiments, and much more.

Candy Math
Check out this second-grade math lesson on graphing that incorporates Dem Bones candies or M&M's.

Wild World of Wonka
Kids will love this site that is full of fun and games with Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas!

M&M's Line Plots and Graphing
A math activity that students in grades 3 and 4 will love, this lesson teaches estimating, sorting, counting, graphing, plotting; working with fractions and percentages; and calculating mean, median, and mode. It even includes work sheets!

4th Grade Life Saver Spreadsheet Project [archived copy]
See how fourth graders measured the life of Life Savers and recorded it in Excel spreadsheets. Find out which flavor lasts the longest and how to implement this project in your school.


Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2010 Education World


Originally published 10/15/2002
Last updated 09/21/2010