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Make Learning Fun and Delicious with Jelly Beans!

It’s no secret to most people that many teachers spend quite a bit of their own money on their students throughout the year, every year, and don’t ask to be reimbursed. When I was a little girl just a few years ago (we won’t get into exact numbers here), I was lucky enough to have a teacher who recognized the power that Twizzlers and Tootsie Pops held over our 6-year-old minds, and she would purchase both regularly to share with us. Once each week when our lesson was to go around the classroom and practice reading aloud, she would open her desk drawer and grab a bag of Tootsie Pops or Twizzlers while we all eagerly smiled. Each child would get one piece of licorice or a Tootsie Pop to start with, just to ensure everyone got something sweet regardless of their reading ability. Then, we would all open to the same page in our books, and starting with the first student in the first row, we would read aloud one by one until we made a mistake. We had to read at a normal pace, and when we made that first inevitable mistake, the next child would pick up at the beginning of the sentence that slipped us up. This continued around the room until we were finished with the story. And the lucky kid that read the most lines without making a mistake? That kid got 3 extra Twizzlers or 2 extra Tootsie Pops. Yeah, that kid was very often yours truly!

This post isn’t simply me bragging about my 6-year-old reading prowess, which was something I was naturally good at with or without candy (though the candy didn’t hurt). It’s the realization that many years later I still remember the sound of that bag coming out of the desk drawer like it was yesterday. And I also see things now that I didn’t see then. At the time, I felt sorry for the kids that couldn’t read as well as some of us. I felt sad that they had to struggle and stumble in front of all of us. But looking back, I remember them getting better as time went on. And I remember that everyone was so focused on scoring some candy for themselves that they didn’t notice the other kids fumbling as much as they otherwise might have noticed. In short – my teacher wasn’t only generous, she was also very smart!

I’m sitting at my desk right now eating licorice, which is probably what sparked this memory. But it’s the bowl of jelly beans on the desk that really has my attention. Jelly beans – quite possibly the most affordable candy ever conceived, in addition to being a near universal hit. Who doesn’t love jelly beans? Nobody I know doesn’t! And certainly no kid I know doesn’t.  This got my brain working on some fun and educational jelly bean ideas for teachers to use in the classroom. I’d love to hear if any teachers out there have used jelly beans or any other candy in the classroom as a tasty learning tool!

Jelly Bean Bingo – Bingo is a game that we never grow tired of, whether we’re 5 or 105. To help young children learn their numbers, teachers could print out paper bingo cards, and hand out little cups of jelly beans to use as markers. Once bingo is over, each kid could eat their markers! And the big prize for the winners? Perhaps one of these adorable Jelly Belly LolliBeans Lollipops?

Counting on Candy – Math can be much more fun when the numbers being added, subtracted and multiplied are jelly beans.  The best way to make this activity work for you would depend on your class size. For a smaller class, you could set a pile of jelly beans on a piece of plastic wrap to keep it clean, as well as wearing plastic gloves. Call students to your desk and create math problems for them to solve using the candy. For example, set out 12 jelly beans and ask them how many you’ll have if you take away 5. Push 5 to the side and the first student to answer correctly gets the 5 that were taken away! Continue the lesson adding, subtracting and multiplying until the jelly beans are gone.

Creative Thinking with Candy – This game will not only get your students thinking creatively, but also help you to learn a little more about them. Give each student a small pile of jelly beans, and ask them to write down different things that each color of jelly bean reminds them of. Perhaps the yellow jelly beans remind them of the sun, while the black jelly beans remind them of being afraid of the dark, or their black Labrador puppy. You’ll never know until you ask! And once you know what they like and don’t like, it will be easier to talk with them and relate to their lives, encouraging them to see you as a teacher and a friend. Plus, they get to eat the jelly beans when they’re done. Sounds like a good lesson plan to me. :)

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