Target Grade Level / Age Range:



75 minutes


Students will learn more about corn while honing language arts skills like determining main idea and vocabulary comprehension.


  • My Family’s Corn Farm by Katie Olthoff (digital or printed version)
  • Corn Vocabulary Cards (print double sided, and cut into fourths)
  • TIP Method Worksheet – one per student
  • Simple props, such as books, boxes, construction paper, etc.  (optional)

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)

  • Corn by Gail Gibbons
  • Corn Belt Harvest by Raymond Bial
  • Corn Life Cycles by Julie Murray
  • Corn in the Story of Agriculture by Susan Anderson & JoAnne Buggey
  • Corn is Maize by Aliki
  • Corn Up Close by Katie Franks
  • The Life & Times of Corn by Charles Micucci

Vocabulary (with definitions)

  • Acre: a unit of measuring land; about the size of a football field (pg. 15)
  • Bushel: a unit of measuring grain; about the size of a laundry basket (pg. 15)
  • Combine: a machine that harvests crops (pg. 15 & 16)
  • Crops: plants raised for food (pg. 3)
  • Efficient: Preventing the wasteful use of a particular resource (pg. 7, 8 & 9)
  • Ethanol: fuel that can be made from corn and used like gasoline
  • Farmer: someone who grows food or raises livestock (pg. 3 & 4)
  • Feed: food for livestock (pg. 4 & 18)
  • Fuel: a material that produces heat or power (pg. 4)
  • Harvest: gathering crops (pg. 9)
  • Kernel: small, yellow pieces of corn that grow on the cob; people eat kernels; kernels are the seeds of the corn plant (pg. 12, 13, 15 & 16)
  • Livestock: farm animals, including cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, poultry and others (pg. 3)
  • Nutrients: something that plants, animals and people need to live and grow (pg. 10 & 11)
  • Pollinate: pollen has to be spread from one plant to another by wind in order for the plants to make seeds (pg. 12 & 13)

Background – Agricultural Connections (what would a teacher need to know to be able to teach this content)

Iowa is the country’s largest corn producer, and it plays an important role in Iowa’s economy.  Most of the corn grown in Iowa is dent corn, also called field corn.  It is planted in the spring and harvested in the fall.  Field corn is fed to animals, made into ethanol, and used to make foods like corn chips, cereal, corn bread, and candy. 

Interest Approach or Motivator

Show the students the cover of My Family’s Corn Farm and ask them what they think the book is going to be about based on the cover.  Continue the conversation by asking:

  • Do you know any farmers who grow corn?
  • What do you know about corn and farming?
  • What would you like to know about corn and farming?  


Activity 1:  Topics–Main Ideas–Details  (45 minutes)
  1. Ask students to read My Family’s Corn Farm independently using printed copies or the digital version.
  2. After reading ask, “What was the book about?”
    1. Students may say corn or Presley’s corn farm. 
    2. Corn is the overall topic of the book, but there are many subtopics and key ideas within it.
  3. Next, ask them for more specific things they learned while reading the book?  Develop a list on the board.  
  4. Work with the class to determine subtopics within the book. 
    1. Encourage them to look for themes or categories in the list of what they learned, and also flip through the book to help identify topics or themes.  Examples of subtopics may include how corn grows, uses of corn, farm equipment, etc.  
  5. Review the differences between topics, main ideas, and details.
    1. A main idea is more than a topic.  To understand the main idea, you’ll first need to know what the text is about (topic), and then be able to explain the “so what?” or what about it.  The “So what?” explains why it is important. Details are specific facts found in the book that support the main ideas.     
  6. Distribute the Topics-Key Ideas-Details sheet and show an example of how they can use it determine the main ideas.  
  • Topic (What?): Uses of Corn
  • Main Ideas (So what?): Corn is important because it can be used for many things.
  • Details (Facts):
    • Corn is fed to pigs, cattle, chickens, and turkeys.
    • Corn is used to make ethanol.
    • Corn is used to make food and other things we use every day.
    • There are more than 4,000 uses for corn. 

Ask students to use the Topics-Main Ideas-Details sheet to help determine two or three main ideas within the story. This can be done independently or in pairs.  

Activity 2:   TIP Method  (10 minutes)
  1. Place a corn vocabulary card on each student’s desk, definition side down.  You can make multiple copies of the set or have students work in pairs.  
    1. Ask them not to look at the back of the card. 
  2. Give each student a TIP Method worksheet, or write the letters T.I.P down the side of notebook or science journal page. 
  3. Ask them to think about what the word means and how it was used in the book My Family’s Corn Farm.   
    1. Some of the words, like combine or feed, have more than one meaning.  Encourage them to think about how the word was used in the book and how it relates to corn. 
    2. If students are unsure of their word’s meaning, have them reference the book and use context clues from the text and pictures to help.  The vocabulary section of this lesson includes the page or pages that will be most helpful in determine the meaning of each word.  Tell them not to look at the definition in the book’s glossary.     
  4. To help them remember the meaning of the word, ask them to complete the TIP method worksheet by writing the word (Term), writing down as much information as they know about the word (Information), and drawing a picture that represents the word (Picture). 
Activity 3:  Corny Charades (20 minutes)
  1. Divide the class into groups of two or three.  
  2. Give each group a corn vocabulary card that they will need to act out. 
  3. Allow groups a few minutes to plan how they will act out the word. 
  4. Choose a group to act out their word in front of the class.  Remind them that they can’t use any words, the can only act.
    1. Other groups may try to guess the word that is being acted out.
    2. The first group to guess the correct word sores a point.
  5. To make the game more challenging, deduct a point for an incorrect guess.  This will discourage groups from shouting random words from the book.    

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Iowa is the top corn producing state.
  • 99% of the corn grown in Iowa is field corn.
  • In 2015, Iowa corn growers grew an average of 192 bushels per acre. Nationally, the average is 168 bushels per acre.

Extension Activities

Read additional books about corn and compare and contrast them with My Family’s Corn Farm.  Consider the main ideas and how the author’s perspectives differ.  Any of the books in the Additional Resources section of this lesson can be used, but Corn Belt Harvest by Raymond Bail, Corn in the story of Agriculture by Susan Anderson and JoAnne Buggey, and Corn by Gail Gibbons work best for this activity.     


  • The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo


Cindy Hall

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Agriculture and the Environment:
    • T1.3-5.b:  Explain how the interaction of the sun, soil, water, and weather in plant and animal growth impacts agricultural production
    • T1.3-5.e:  Recognize the natural resources used in agricultural practices to produce food, feed, clothing, landscaping plants, and fuel (e.g., soil, water, air, plants, animals, and minerals)
  • Plants and Animals for Food Fiber and Energy:
    • T2.3-5.3:  Understand the concept of stewardship and identify ways farmers/ranchers care for soil, water, plants, and animals
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Outcomes:  
    • T4.3-5.a:  Compare simple tools to complex modern machines used in agricultural systems to improve efficiency and reduce labor
    • T4.3-5.b:  Describe how technology helps farmers/ranchers increase their outputs (crop and livestock yields) with fewer inputs (less water, fertilizer, and land) while using the same amount of space
    • T4.3-5.d:  Provide examples of science being applied in farming for food, clothing, and shelter products

Education Content Standards

  • Science:
    • 3-LS1-1:  Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse live cycles but all have a common birth, growth, reproduction, and death. Common Core Connections
  • English Language Arts:
    • RI.3.2:  Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
    • RI.3.4:  Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
    • RI.3.5:  Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
    • RI.3.7:  Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
    • RI.3.9:  Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.
    • RF: 3.4:  Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.