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When the Frost is on the Punkin

When the Frost is on the Punkin

  Author: James Whitcomb Riley
Illustrator: Glenna Lang
ISBN: 0879239123
Summary: Riley's poem is a celebration of fall captured by Lang's illustrations.

Literature Based Unit Study and Lapbook by Ami Brainerd

*Note:  I recommend that the teacher reads the book aloud a few times alone before introducing it to her students.  Some of the words are hard to pronounce at first glimpse!

Listen to this poem on-line!

Lapbook Templates

Where is Indiana? Shutterfold
Rhyme Scheme Simple Fold
Zechariah 8:12 Copywork KJV HWOT
Indiana State Symbols Tab Book
James Whitcomb Riley Notebook Page
Zechariah 8:12 Copywork KJV Primary Lines
Indiana Crops Fan Book
Report Pocket
Zechariah 8:12 Copywork NIV HWOT
Chromatography Experiment Tri-fold
My Fall Poem Stationary Pages
Zechariah 8:12 Copywork NIV Primary Lines
Decomposition Clipboards
My Fall Poem Pocket
Cheerfulness Lapbook
Dialect Shutter Book (folded) Pumpkin Lifecycle Cards Pocketbook** Fall Colors Page

**Print cards from Kizclub (younger students) or make your own cards with this Enchanted Learning Printable (older students)

Character Building:  Contentment
Does your student notice any "work" being done by the child in the illustrations?  She is feeding the animals.  The tone of this poem is upbeat, cheerful, and there is an overall enthusiasm for fall!   How does your child react when you ask her to do chores?  Is it possible to be content even while working?  (Even if we are doing work we don't really want to do?).  It is!   If you get a chance to read the last stanza of this poem with your child, you will notice even more chores noted by Riley that have to be completed in the fall.  Work is a way of life for those that live on the farm.  We need to instill in our students that work is not a bad thing and that we should be thankful we are able-bodied to complete the tasks that God has set in front of us.  

Bible Memory Verse
Look up Zechariah 8:12a and read it to your student.
Who makes the vine give her fruit?  God does!  He is the one that makes seeds prosperous; He is the master gardener.

Social Studies Geography:  Indiana
Riley was from Indiana and is known as "The Hoosier Poet."   Indiana was the 19th state to enter the union becoming a state on December 11, 1816.  The capital and biggest city is Indianapolis where the Indy 500 race is held each year.   Some of the major industry in Indiana includes agriculture (which is noted in Riley's poem) -- Indiana produces corn, soybeans, apples, tomatoes, and snap beans; Indiana is a great place to grow other crops as well (including plenty of pumpkins!). 

State Outline
State Flag

Printables from Kidzone
state flag
state map
state bird (Cardinal)
state flower (Peony)
state bird and state flower coloring page

Language Arts: Dialect
James Whitcomb Riley loved to use dialect in his poems.  He wrote in the way that people spoke (Midwestern dialect in the late 1800s).  This is obvious when you read this poem to your students.  Even the title hints at his use of dialect (using punkin instead of pumpkin).  Did you student notice the misspelling?  Explain that Riley does this in order to appeal to the people reading it.  His poetry is for the common man, for all of us.  What other words in this poem are misspelled?  If you re-wrote the poem, making sure it was correct English and using formal grammar, what would the poem lose?   Here is a portion translated -- "There is something hearty about the atmosphere when the summer heat is over and the cool fall is here."  Wow!  The poem loses flair, its county/relaxed loses its meter, too.  Poems don't have to follow the rules of conventional grammar (and many times they are best when they don't); however, the poet should know why he has chosen to stray from the rules and regulations.

Language Arts: Vocabulary (use with Dialect lesson if you want)
This isn't a list to memorize, rather a list of words to explain to your child before (or as) you read the book together.

Fodder-coarse food (especially for cattle and horses) composed of entire plants or the leaves and stalks of a cereal crop
Shock- a pile of sheaves of grain set on end in a field to dry
Hallylooyer= Hallelujah
Stock= Livestock (animals on the farm)
Airly= Early
Tossels= Tassels
Furries= Furrows (rows of crops, I think)
Medder= Meadow
Hosses= Horses

Language Arts: Poetry- Rhyme Scheme
Print out a copy of this
poem and label the rhyme scheme with your child.  Rhyme scheme is the sequence in which the rhyme occurs. The first end sound is represented as the letter "a", the second is "b", etc.  Continue using as many letters (c,d,e,f, etc.) as you need for different end sounds.

Language Arts: Poetry- Basics of Meter
Count how many syllables are in each line (each line appears to be two lines in the book).  Is Riley consistent with the same amount of syllables per line throughout his poem?  You may want to clap the syllables out so your student can "hear" them. 

Language Arts:  Poet Study- James Whitcomb Riley
You may want to find a book of poems by James Whitcomb Riley and curl up together and read some (you may want to pre-read first).  His most famous poem is "Little Orphant Annie" (preview first as it mentions goblins and may scare very young students).    There is also a tape of Riley's poetry and a small book to accompany it.   Your older student may want to research more about Riley.

Language Arts:  Creative Writing-- Season Poem
What season does this poem depict?  (Fall).  It may be safe to assume (based on this poem) that autumn was Riley's favorite season.  Discuss your favorite season with your student.  What makes it special, fun, and enjoyable?  What is your student's favorite season?  Encourage your student to write a poem about his favorite season. 

Science:  Leaves Change Color
First, explain to your student that there are two types of trees.  The first type is evergreen; they have green needles all winter long.  The second type is deciduous which "change" their leaf colors in preparation for winter.   It appears that leaves are changing colors, but really they aren't!

Each leaf has milLions of tiny packages of chlorophyll, xanthophyll, and carotene.  Chlorophyll is green; xanthophyll is yellow; carotene is orange.  In the summer time, the green chlorophyll packages are busy catching sunlight and using energy, they change water from the ground and carbon dioxide (a gas in the air that they need to survive) into glucose (sugar).   This process is called photosynthesis and provides the tree with food (the glucose/sugar). 

During the summer, the green chlorophyll packages continue to produce food for the tree.  They are able to do this since they are able to get the water they need to do their job.  The water goes up the tree's roots, on up the trunk, and enters little tubes in the leaf's stem.   Because these green packages are able to get water and keep busy, the green color dominates the other colors. 

In the fall, the weather gets colder signaling to the tree that it is time to prepare for winter.  A thin layer (of cells) grows over the tubes in the leaves and closes them up for winter-- they are no longer able to get water-- and that means they stop producing the food for the tree.  The green chlorophyll starts to disappear and the true color of the leaf-- the yellow and orange, are able to be seen.

Red and purple leaves have a different explanation.  Some trees have sap.  The sap in the trees uses the same tubes to travel through the tree that water uses.  When the thin layer of cells grows over the water tubes, the sap is trapped.  When it gets trapped in a leaf, it may cause the sap to turn red or purple, so the leaf turns that color as well.   (A go-along book for this lesson -- Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert)

Experiment-- Using chromatography, your student will be able to see the colors always present in a leaf
Supplies Needed
Green Leaf (spinach, beet, or one from a deciduous tree)
Porcelain or Stoneware coffee mugs
Smooth, round rocks
Fingernail Polish Remover (acetone)
Coffee Filter
Clear Plastic Cup
Rubbing Alcohol

Chromatography is a process scientists use to separate materials that are different.

1. After the science lesson, ask your student if the color is on the outside of the leaf or on the inside (the inside). 
2. In order to see the color, ask your student to break up a leaf and use the stone to grind it into smaller pieces (use the mug for this). 
3. Add a spoonful of acetone (polish remover) to the mug.  Keep squishing the leaf until the liquid has gained some color from the leaf.
4. Let the mix sit for 1-2 minutes.  While you are waiting, cut a coffee filter into a rectangle (about 2" by 8").   Let your student use the q-tip to pick up a drop of the colored liquid from the leaf grinding and place one drop one inch from the end of the filter rectangle. 
5.  Let the drop dry.
6.  Then, use the q-tip again to add a few more (2-3) drops to the same spot.  Let each drop dry before adding the next drop.
7.  Put 1/4 cup of the alcohol in the clear plastic cup.
8.  Carefully put the end of the filter paper strip-- the end with the drops on it-- into the cup, but DO NOT let the colored drop touch the alcohol.
9.  Put paperclips on the filter to secure strips to the side of the cup.  The alcohol will travel up the filter paper, separating the different colors in the leaf (this takes about an hour or longer, so you will want to move on to another subject while waiting).
10.  When the color has stopped moving, remove the paper from the alcohol; let it dry; observe the color that was in the leaf.

Science:  Fall (Nature Study)
This may be a given, but I think this book encourages us to get outside and enjoy nature!  Make sure you complete nature studies this week no matter what season you are in-- go out with your magnifying glass, notebook, and pencil-- and find something to journal about (words and pictures).   Can you students think of even more reasons (than the ones listed in Riley's poem) that fall is a wonderful time of year?

Science: Pumpkins (Life Cycle)
Can your student guess how pumpkins start?  There are six stages in the life of a pumpkin.
1.  A Seed
2.  Vine
3.  Flower
4.  Green (unripe) Pumpkin
5.  Orange (ripe) Pumpkin
6.  Soft and Mush (decomposing) *see next science lesson
--once the pumpkin decomposes, the seeds are able to plant and start the cycle over again!

Make sequence cards (let your student help!).  Shuffle them up and see if your student can lay them out in the correct order.

Pumpkin Life Cycle Print-out 

Pumpkin Shape Book

You may want to plant some pumpkin seeds indoors in a clear plastic cup to watch the roots and sprout take off.  Or, if it's the right time of year, plant some pumpkins outside!

Science: Pumpkins-- Decomposition 
Discuss decomposition with your student (to break down into component parts or basic elements; or to rot. Decomposition is an organic process necessary for the continuation of life since it creates essential nutrients that plants and animals need and use).   If you are brave, get a large plastic jar with a lid (and seal the lid with duct tape).  Cut up a pumpkin and put it inside the jar.  Your student will be able to watch the pumpkin decompose (you may want to take a picture once a week).  This process may take a month or so (maybe 2 months), so make sure there is no way for anyone to get that jar open!   When it is decomposed it will be the consistency of pureed soup. 

Go-along book about decomposition-- A Log's Life by Wendy Pfeffer

Applied Math: Estimation
A maple tree loses almost 600,000 leaves each fall.  Find a deciduous (see science lesson on leaves) tree in your neighborhood.  Estimate how many leaves are on a low branch and then count the leaves on a low branch.  How did the actual count compare to your estimation? 
If you want to take this lesson further, count the number of branches on the tree.  When you return home, estimate how many leaves are on the entire tree by multiplying the branches times the number of leaves on the branch you counted. 

If you have the opportunity, visit this tree every few days and pay special attention to the branch you counted.  How many leaves have fallen off?  If xxx number of leaves fell off in two days, estimate how many leaves the tree will have when you return in two days.  (You could do this daily as well).   Count the actual number of leaves left on the branch each time you visit and compare with your estimation.  You may want to make a special log sheet for this activity.

You could extend the idea of estimation even further with pumpkins.  You could buy a variety and let your student estimate the weight of each.  Weigh them on your bathroom scale and determine the difference (subtraction) between the estimated weight and the actual weight.   If you don't want to buy a bunch of pumpkins, maybe your local orchard or grocery would allow you to complete this lesson with their pumpkins and scales (and you can just head home with one pumpkin!)

Language Arts/Art: Copy Work and Illustrating a Poem
*If you choose to use this lesson, I recommend it for the end of the week when your student has had a chance to become very familiar with the poem and with the illustrations
This book illustrated by Lang omits the last stanza of Riley's poem.  You may want to discuss with your student possible reasons why Lang stopped after three stanzas.  Your student may be up to the challenge of "finishing" the book.  Your student would need to decide how to divide the stanza up.  How did Lang do this? (she usually used 2 lines per illustration or 2 page spread).   Your student will need blank white paper or cardstock, the medium of his choice, and pen.  Let him copy the words (as he decided) on to a page, then complete the illustration that matches the lines on another page.  

"Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin' 's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! ...
I don't know how to tell it--but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me--
I'd want to 'commodate 'em--all the whole-indurin' flock--
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

Art: Warm Color Palette
God chose a warm color palette for fall and Glenna Lang illustrates this in her pictures.  Riley alludes to God's great creation in the lines, "Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock/When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock."
Look through the book and make notation of all the reds, yellows, and oranges.  The artist does include some cool colors (discuss where the purples, blues, and greens are found), but the overall beauty in the illustrations, is the unity of the red, yellow, and orange (and browns).  

Fall Colors Page
Give your student a crayon box and have him match the colors to the illustrations.  Color each leaf a different fall color.


Recipe: Pumpkin Bread
3 cups white sugar
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil (or olive oil for baking)
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 1 pound size coffee cans, or three 9x5 inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, combine sugar, pumpkin, oil, water, and eggs. Beat until smooth. Blend in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Fold in chocolate chips. Fill cans 1/2 to 3/4 full. Bake for 1 hour, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool on wire racks before removing from cans or pans.
Recipe: Pumpkin Dip
1 (16 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
In a large bowl, mix together pudding mix, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Fold in the thawed frozen whipped topping. Chill in the refrigerator until serving. Serve with graham crackers, vanilla wafers, etc.
Recipe: Pumpkin-Apple Muffins
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
2 cups peeled, cored and chopped apple

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 18 muffin cups or use paper liners. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set this aside, it is the topping.

In a large bowl, sift together 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, pumpkin and oil. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; stirring just to moisten. Fold in apples. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle topping evenly over muffin batter. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Recipe: Pumpkin Roll
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir in pumpkin puree, eggs, and lemon juice. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Spread the mixture evenly. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15 minutes. Lay a damp linen towel on the counter, sprinkle it with confectioner's sugar, and turn the cake onto the towel. Carefully roll the towel up (lengthwise) with the cake in it. Place the cake-in-towel on a cooling rack and let it cool for 20 minutes.

Make the icing: In a medium bowl, blend cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and sugar with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. When the cake has cooled 20 minutes, unroll it spread icing onto it. Immediately re-roll (not in the towel this time), and wrap it with plastic wrap. Keep the cake refrigerated or freeze it for up to 2 weeks in aluminum foil. Cut the cake in slices just before serving.

Recipe: Frost-on-the-Pumpkin Pie  (contributed by Heidi Jasper)

        1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs (24 squares)
        3 T sugar
        1/4 t. ground nutmeg
        1/8 t. ground cloves
        1/3 c. melted butter or margarine
        1 can (16oz) vanilla frosting
        1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin
        1 c. (8oz) sour cream
        1 to 1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
        1/2 to 1 t. ground ginger
        1/4 to 1/2 t. ground cloves
        1 c. whipped topping
        In a small bowl, combine the crust ingredients.  Set aside 1 T for a topping.  Press the remaining crumb
        mixture in an ungreased 9 in. pie pan.  Bake at 350 for 7-9 min. until it starts to brown.  cool on a wire rack.
        In a mixing bowl, combine frosting, pumpkin, sour cream, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.  Fold in whipped
        topping.  Spoon into  crust.  Sprinkle with reserved crump mixture.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours before

Just for Fun:
If you live in Indiana (or close by), you may want to consider visiting the Riley House in Greenfield.  You will get a wonderful tour of the house and see many furnishings made by Riley's father and used by the Riley family.  Your tour will also include an explanation of why Riley wrote "Little Orphant Annie" -- certain spots in the house come to life during a recitation of this poem.    I really enjoyed the tour and there is a super nice park close by (with a brook, bridge, and lots of ducks!). 

Pumpkin Pie Play-doh
*your younger students may sit through lessons better if they can play with this while older siblings do the regular lessons

5 1/2 cups flour

2 cups salt

8 teaspoons cream of tarter

3/4 cup oil

Pumpkin pie spice (you can add as little or as much as you like)

Orange food coloring (2 drops yellow to 1 drop red)

4 cups water


Mix  the ingredients together.  Cook and stir over medium heat until all lumps disappear.  Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth.  Store in an airtight container.

Rabbit Trails to Explore
Farm Animals
Make and can Apple Butter (mentioned in last stanza of poem)
Read more poetry together!
Bible Study on Angels (mentioned in last stanza of poem)


Web Links

Pumpkin Seed Experiment
Forms to go with the pumpkin seed experiment
Lots of pumpkin fun here!
Watch this video to explain why leaves change color
Leaf Coloring Book/Early Reader

Library List
Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell
Apple Picking Time by Michele Benoit Slawson
Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schnur
Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins
How Do You Know It's Fall? by Allan Fowler
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
When Autumn Comesby Robert Mass
Why Do Leaves Change Colors? by Betsy Maestro