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Corn Production in Iowa vs. Mexico

Lesson Plan Item

General Information
Grade 1st Grade Class Social Studies Length of Lesson 40-45 Minutes
Lesson Title Corn Production in Iowa vs. Mexico
Unit Title Work Long Ago and Today
Unit Compelling Question Why do people work?
Historical Context:

Farming has changed in many ways over thousands of years.  The first farmers were probably women who sowed and cultivated crops while men hunted and made tools.  For generations subsistence farming provided just enough food for the family growing it.   Over time crops began to be used to feed the animals, and men became more involved with farming.  Crops and other products of the farmer became commodities that could be traded for other goods and services.


Early farming was accomplished by individuals or with the help of strong animals such as ox or horses.  As farm land was cultivated in different geographic areas, a variety of crops were planted that grew best in a given soil, climate, or with a given amount of annual rainfall. 


In the Midwest, the development of the tractor, and subsequent growth of agricultural equipment factories such as John Deere, have both facilitated the growth of the agricultural industry and provided employment for thousands of individuals in their plants.


Today, crops are grown for many purposes - to feed animals, provide food, and to make products.  Agriculture is now an industry that uses machinery to assist with planting and harvesting crops, allowing farmers to plant and care for much larger farms than one individual could previously plant and harvest by hand. 


~ Allyson Simpson, Simpson College


2018.054.001  A husking hook  and/or finger protector allowed the person picking to more easily grasp the ear.  Those who were skilled had one ear hitting the bang board and one in the air as they were taking another ear off the stalk. If the wife helped with the picking, smaller children would sit in the wagon box as the parents picked.  Country school often let out so older children could help or children might pick a row before they went to school and again after returning from school.  No after school sports for country kids.  The goal was to get the corn picked before Thanksgiving.  Most early farms had 80 acres divided into 4 fields.  Two of these might be corn.  There were no soybeans.


Creating the husking hook in 1892, William F. Lillie designed a husking glove that would allow a farmer to quickly husk his crops, making the process more efficient. The glove would be attached onto the hand with leather straps and had an bent metal piece on the palm that would be used to rip open the husk and remove the corn. The glove also had a thick leather pad to protect the farmer's hand. An additional leather pad, as pictured, could be worn for more protection.


~ Lauren Adams, Teaching Iowa History Team
Lesson Supporting Question How do people in the Midwest (and the world) rely on agriculture for their jobs as well as their food?
Lesson Overview

Comparing the production and harvesting of corn in Iowa and the production and harvesting of corn in Mexico. Student will build on a previous lesson based on farming long ago in Iowa and compare farming today with farming long ago. Students will also compare the farming practices and equipment in Iowa and China. The will do the comparing by using a Venn Diagram.

Primary Sources Used
Resources Needed
Lesson Target
  • Remember previous lesson detailing Iowa’s farming past through recalling and writing 3 facts learned in the previous lesson.
  • Identify three components of corn production in Iowa today.
  • Identify three components of corn production in China today.
  • Students will use a Venn Diagram to compare corn production in Iowa with corn production in China.
Lesson Themes No themes are assigned for this lesson.
Lesson Procedure
Step Procedure Time Differentiation plan / Additional Information
Bell Ringer

Show students picture of “husking hook” from previous lesson 

Refresh their memory on how farming from long ago looks very different from farming today 

On sticky notes have the students write down three things they remember from farming long ago that are different from the farming techniques they see around them today

they make work together, but they must all have their own sticky note 
3 Min  

“As we learned yesterday, farming in our state of Iowa used to look a lot different than it does now. The husking hook that we looked at was used over 100 years ago to harvest corn.”
In their table groups have students brainstorm what corn harvesting looks like in Iowa today. 
After students have spent a couple of minutes brain storming, show them the video of corn harvest in Iowa.
After students have viewed the view ask them to compare what they brainstormed farming would look like, compared to what they saw. Have them list three things they noticed.

Give each table an image of a typical combine seen in Iowa for a concrete reference
8 Min  

Think-Pair-Share with table groups about what farming techniques they saw in the video of the Iowa corn harvest 
After collaborating with groups, have each group share 1 thing they noticed from the video 

Record all observations on the board

8 Min  

“But is Iowa the only place in the world that produces corn? What are some places around the world that you think might produce corn?”

Have students think of their answer and then move around the room and partner or group up with others who are thinking the same thing.

Have students find a place to sit with their groups
5 Min  

Once students have found a place to sit with their groups, have each group share what place they chose. 
Ask students “Why do you think corn is produced there?” 

Direct students to discuss quietly with their groups why they think corn might produced in that particular location
5 Min  

Focus student’s attention back to the front of the classroom, get them quieted down with “Hocus Pocus, everyone focus.”
“Yes, there are many places around the world where corn can be produced. Our world uses lots of corn, so we need to make a lot of it each year. But, today we are going to focus on one country, China. (point to China on a map, show how far it is between Iowa and China)
“China is a place across the ocean that make a lot of corn! In fact, they make the 2nd largest amount of corn in the world. Do you think that China’s corn harvesting looks different than the video we watched of Iowa’s corn harvesting?”
Direct students to keep their thoughts to themselves while watching the video. 

Show students Chinese corn harvesting video. 
8 Min  

Again, have students do a quick write about what they saw in the Chinese video. Give them 2 minutes to write about what they saw in the video.
Have each group share 1 thing they noticed 

(They should still be in the groups from the transition in order to get different groups of students working together). 
5 Min  
Teacher  Explain “Even though it is the same crop (corn), it can be produced and harvested in many different ways. The farmers who harvest in Iowa have a different way of doing things that the farmers in China do. But, there are some similarities between them. For example, they both use machines to harvest corn.” 5 Min  
Closure  “Now, at your table groups I would like you to fill out this Venn Diagram comparing Chinese corn production to Iowa corn production. On one side you will put three things you know about Iowa corn production. On the other side you will put three things you know about Chinese corn production. And, in the middle you will put three things that are similar or the same between China and Iowa. After you have completed your worksheet, place it in the complete box and free read if you have time before we go to lunch.” 10 Min  
Formative Assessment
(How will you use the formative assessments to monitor and inform instruction?)
  • Students will be complete a Venn Diagram comparing corn production in Iowa to what they know of corn production in Mexico. Within the Venn Diagram students will be asked to list 3 statements about corn production and harvesting in Iowa compared to what they saw of corn production and harvesting in China.
Summative Assessment
(How does the lesson connect to planned summative assessment(s)?)
  • After students have completed the Venn Diagram, students will create a poster at their tables depicting farming in Iowa and farming in China. They will be asked to represent the various tools and procedures we found in both places. After students have made their posters, each group will present their posters to the entire class.
Author Information
Author Megan Oliver Reviewer Dr. Chad Timm, Simpson College Created 08/16/2019 Last Edited 09/06/2019
Lesson Plan Development Notes: Social Studies Methods, Simpson College, Spring 2019

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