Teacher’s Guide for
Bubblemania: The Chewy History of Bubble Gum
By Lee Wardlaw
Illustrated by Sandra Forrest


Share the title Bubblemania.  Discuss its meaning and the components of the compound word. Use a dictionary to determine its actual meaning. Discuss results.

Have students predict the content of the book.  Show the cover and allow students to add to or alter their predictions.Encourage the students to share their feelings after looking at the cover of the book.  Make predictions about the "tone" of the book.

Discuss the subtitle, The Chewy History of Bubble Gum.
What is usually associated with history?

Have the students write what they already know about bubble gum.

Use the bibliography to assemble books on bubblegum.  Have students search indices to gather poetry, magazine articles, jump rope rhymes, music, etc. Search online for new titles. Create a bubble gum center to display all the materials found.  Add bubble gum, and title it "Stuck on Reading."

Share the quotes at the beginning of each chapter to serve as an additional catalyst for student-selected reading.  Encourage discussion groups and writing response journals.

Chapter 1

"Once upon a chew..." Discuss the genre of literature that typifies this beginning.  Brainstorm the possible reasons the author has in choosing this for her beginning.

"Psychologists believe the urge to chew is innate." Encourage students to discuss the reasons why they chew.  Compare and contrast these with classmates.

Ask the students if they are bubblemaniacs, or if they are able to "do without it?"  Have the students assess their bubble gum habit by keeping a diary.  Record individual encounters, describing the moment, emotions, sensations, etc.  Interpret the entries and write a summary.  Post the summaries on bubbles on a bulletin board.  Add individual photographs.  Title it "Bubblemaniacs."

Make a poster demonstrating the process used in collecting sap.  How does this compare to present day?  Research other uses for sap.

Chapter 2

Becky Thatcher shared her nugget of Already-Been-Chewed gum with Tom Sawyer. Discuss the meaning of "already-been-chewed gum."  It is commonly called ABC gum.  Create other descriptors for gum.  Allow others to determine the meanings.

John Bacon Curtis used his mother's Franklin stove in 1848 to cook up his first batch of State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.   Research the Franklin stove.   Discuss how this process of production had to undergo revision as the market for gum increased.

"Give a man all you can for his money, while making a fair profit for yourself" became John Bacon Curtis' motto for success, and successful he was!  Ask students if they agree with John Bacon Curtis.  Why or why not? Research the term motto. Are there others who have guiding mottos?  Create a motto for the class.  Inscribe it on a banner and display in a prominent place.

Curtis and Company manufactured paraffin gum that became a sweetened novelty.  Some included: "Licorice Lulu"," Biggest & Best"," Four-in-Hand", "Sugar Cream", and "White Mountain." Predict which flavors were represented with each and write a description of the taste.  Brainstorm other "chaws" that Curtis & Company could have invented.  Make a poster, illustrating the "chaw".  Add a name.

Spruce gum of yesteryear is different from the chewing gum of today.  Review the characteristics of the gum.  Discuss probable reasons for its popularity.  Poll the class to determine if they would have chewed "spruce gum."

The name of a product can impact its marketing. Discuss the name of John Curtis Bacon's first gum, State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.  Was the name easy to remember?  Clever? Unusual? Descriptive?  What about his other gum? 

Over a period of time the makeup of the English language has not remained the same.  As long as people use the language, it continues to change.  Look for words found throughout the book which reflect the era of bubble gum. (i.e. chaws, gummer, huckster, etc.).  Discuss their familiarity.  Research and share meanings. Add illustrations and compile a class "pictionary."

Some changes of a language occur when words are added which refer to new ideas or objects. Does the class list reflect that? Think of other examples that represent new ideas or objects.

Chapter 3

Recreate a moment in history.  Compose a readers’ theatre script of the eventful meeting between Santa Anna and Thomas Adams.  Include background information and the eventual outcome from the meeting.  Dramatize.

"Mistakes that worked."  Originally Thomas Adams intended to invent a "chicle-based rubber" but instead turned chicle into a chewing gum empire.  What other inventions resulted from a mistake?  Record the results on a chart.

Have students predict the inventions of other foods.  Write compositions explaining their origin.  Share orally while allowing classmates to sample the individual foods.

"Determination" was important to the Adams family. Discuss its importance to other famous people.  Ask the students to explain how "determination" influences them.

Tutti-Frutti was the first gum ever to be advertised. Imagine the slogans Adams would have printed on signs.  Discuss and create.

Chapter 4

Wrigley studied the gum market and learned that "people preferred chicle to spruce or paraffin gum and that women chewed more gum than men."  Compose a questionnaire listing information Wrigley might have asked.  Test his hypothesize.  Select one of his statements and use the scientific method to learn if it is still true today.  Share results.

Advertising was a priority with Wrigley.  Review examples he used for promotion.  Compare these to examples of promotions used today.

Wrigley had a variety of nursery rhymes rewritten to feature his gum.  Share examples orally from the book.  Encourage students to revise and rewrite their own nursery rhymes.  Illustrate and share with another class.  Celebrate with Wrigley chewing gum.

Compile a list of quotes made by William Wrigley, Jr.  How quotable are they?  Various authors are renowned for their phrases and quotes; so much that the quotes often become household words.  Research the quotes Wrigley made and determine their originality.

We all quote.  Have members of the class select a famous quotation weekly.  Post and include in school newsletter.

Long live the king! Review William Wrigley, Jr. and his accomplishments.  Have the students pretend to interview Wrigley for their school newsletter.  What: questions would they ask?  Compile and go online to search for answers.

Today, the Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Company is the most famous gum company in the world.  Visit their website and tour the company.  http://www.wrigley.com

Chapter 5

Frank H. Fleer set out to make "a gum that was both healthful and fun . . . a gum that could be blown into large bubbles."  Invent a gum that is healthful. What combinations could be included?  Could it be a reality?  Research and report.

Many businessmen in the 19th century decided the "gum craze" was more than just a fad; that it was here to stay.  Write a newspaper article on the "gum craze."   Remember to include who? what? where? when? and how?

Discuss current "crazes" or fads.  How do they compare to the gum craze?  Discuss why some products are fads and disappear quickly from the market while others are popular for years.

Give a demonstration speech comparing and contrasting chewing gum and bubble gum.

Chemists" worked to perfect "a gum that could be blown into large bubbles."  What are the basic steps and procedures used in the world of chemistry?  Using those steps, develop an experiment involving chewing gum.  Share.

Walter Diemer said that he did not know any chemistry, but instead, used "trial and error" to create his secret recipe.  Discuss the role, of "trial and error" in chemistry.

Walter Diemer failed to get a patent for his bubble gum invention. He could have become a billionaire if only he had gotten a patent for his recipe. Research the steps involved to obtain a patent.  Invite a patent lawyer to speak on the "patentability" of inventions.  How do the procedures compare to those of Walter Diemer?

In reality Diemer avoided getting a patent for his invention because he feared it would expose his "secret" recipe.  What other inventions involve recipes?  Name some formulas that have never been patented.

A "product name" often refers to a special feature of the invention, or it may serve as a descriptor. Other names may be catchy.  Another common method is to use the components or ingredients of the invention in the naming process.  The Fleer Corporation unveiled the first bubble gum ever in 1906.  Fleer named it "Blibber-Blubber." What processes were used in the naming of his invention?  What descriptors are visualized with "Blibber-Blubber"?  What special feature does the name suggest?  Did the name predict its eventual outcome? Brainstorm other inventions and their names.  Refer to the naming process and discuss if their names are easy to remember, catchy, descriptive, or clever?

Early in history gum was sold in drugstores. Research and discuss the reasoning why.

"... pink still seems to be everyone's favorite." Poll class-mates to determine their favorite color of bubble gum.  Chart results.

What images come to mind when you hear "bubble gum?"  Illustrate and decorate room with images.

Chapter 6

Before the 1930's chewing gum sold as a seasonal product, between late spring and fall.  Determine which "season" was represented.

The American Chicle Co. used "sampling girls" to increase sales of their products.  Explain how this would increase sales.

J. Warren Bowman was the first to include picture cards with his gum. This idea developed into a problem for him in Japan.  Brainstorm pictures Bowman could have used instead.  Design and display.

Bubble gum gets a bad rap.  "Parents and teachers despised the gooey stuff.  But kids loved it.  They chewed it everywhere –and spit it out everywhere, too. Officials condemned this practice, claiming it was both a nuisance and a menace to public health." What do you think?  Debate this issue. Include alternatives.

Chapter 7

By 1941 children were the primary consumers of the bubble gum boom.  Determine who the major consumers are today. Use the scientific method to test and explain.

Review the economic forces that influenced the chewing gum industry during the war. Allow students to determine how they would have dealt with the problem.

Complete the following statement:  Rationing is necessary during wartime because...

If you could time-trek back in time, what one thing would you share to make life better?

Invite a speaker who lived during the time of WWII to share experiences -- how it affected family, job, health, shortages of commodities, etc.  Make comparisons to life today.

Write an editorial on how effective war is at solving problems.

During the war some children devised ways to keep a piece of bubble gum "fresh."  Experiment with other possibilities.  Share results.

"Bubble gum isn't just for bubbling."  History has shown where bubble gum has "saved the day" for many a soldier.  Think of other possible uses for bubble gum.

Explain the meaning of a "social taboo."  Share examples.  What influence does the snapping and popping of bubble gum have towards the acceptance of chewing it in public?  Research the professions that do not welcome "the gum chewing habit." Discuss the alternatives to gum chewing.

To celebrate the ending of the war Longview, Texas held a city wide bubble-blowing contest. Prizes were awarded for the "loudest pop, the most glamorous shape, the most geometric," etc. Brainstorm more "super" bubble possibilities. Use to create awards to be distributed at a contest.

Pose the question:  "Is gum a food?"  Why do you suppose the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigated bubble gum in the summer of 1947? What relationships were found between the epidemic of 1947 and the side effects of chewing gum?  Write a letter to the editor pointing out the problem and suggest a solution to the problem.

Chapter 8

Make a chart showing the different translations of chewing gum from around the world. Select an appropriate title.  Display.

William White inadvertently insulted the king of England by ignoring "proper protocol" when he visited the royal court.  Determine what is proper. Roleplay to avoid bad manners.

Superstitions exist not only in China, but everywhere. Discuss examples.  Most superstitions are based on fears.  All people have fears, regardless of age. Make a list of individual fears.  Add possible solutions to resolve them.

The fear of the unknown gum?  Challenge students to "introduce" bubble gum to a "foreign-exchange student."  What strategies would they use? 

Research chewing gum factories from around the world.  Locate them on a map.

Chapter 9

Willy Wonkas unite!  Divide into teams and create a new bubble gum.  Decide on its flavor, shape, color.  Give the bubble gum a name.  Design a wrapper.  Add a slogan.  Advertise it.  Present at school-wide "trade show."  Survey visitors for their honest opinions.

Chapter 10

Pop the Question!  Chewing in the name of science!  Distribute an assortment of bubble gum and create a test measurement to determine which is the tastiest, has the longest lasting flavor, and the best texture for "bubble-ability." Survey other classes.  Discuss conclusions.

Collect data from several schools by conducting additional surveys on the Internet.  Compare and contrast those within the school.  Use the data collected to build a database of responses.

Have a mystery taste-test experience.  Set up a flavor- learning center using a variety of flavorings, extracts, and spices.  Write a description of the taste.  Make combinations.  Discuss possible new gum flavors.  Compare those to bubble gum flavors that already exist.

Lab technicians periodically test for bacteria in gum by placing the gum in incubators to see if bacteria will grow.  However, bacteria are usually not a problem. Discuss why this is true.  

Grow your own bacteria.  Distribute pieces of gum into cups.  Label cups and set the conditions, i.e. warm/light, warm/dark, cool/light, cool/dark.  Add water to each and place in appropriate areas. Check daily for bacterial growth, and keep a record of observations.  Prepare slides and observe under microscope.  Based on the observations, what assumption can be made about the production of gum?

Chapter 11

Read the "Recipe for Bubble Gum" aloud.  Distribute bubble gum.  Write individual recipes for gum.

Create a class mural depicting how bubble gumballs are made. Invite another class to read the five steps to success. Make and serve bubblegum balls.

Collect gumballs from an assortment of companies. Determine the quality of the companies by checking for uniformity in texture and shape.  Publicize the results.

Determine the average color of gumballs.  Survey students for their favorites.  Compare the results.

Chapter 12

Pretend you are experiencing a "bubblemaniac attack." Write a description of the symptoms and cure.

Chewing gum is everywhere!  The Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Company says there is probably "no other product available to the consumer in so many different locations as chewing gum."  Do you agree?  Make a list of places that have been overlooked.  Be innovative and create a model.  Share and explain its impact on gum sales.

Surf the Web and preview the new products showcased at the candy exposition for the American Wholesale Marketer Association.  Survey the class for interest. www.awmanet.org/

"Gum that looks so fun..." Create individual wacky packaging.  Use construction paper to make a 3-D blueprint and build a prototype. 

Look for "attention-grabbing promotions" for gum in stores that are aimed towards kids.  Some companies select special times of the year to promote their new gums. Determine which months would be best.

"Bubble gum is tasty and comes at a low price." Clarify and test this statement.  Share results.

Chapter 13

Are instructions included?  Write an essay explaining how to play a gumball machine. Attach to a gumball machine pattern and display.

Research and discuss the advantages of vending machines.  Inventions often take place because of a need or an attempt to solve a problem.  How does the invention of the vending machine fit within this explanation?

Draw the inner basics of a gum ball machine.  Use diagrams to explain its working.

It looks like..."an upside-down fishbowl." Feels like, sounds like, etc.  Make a list of other comparisons that can be made to the gumball machine. Use to write a shape poem.

Chapter 14

Bubble gum cards were used to sell more gum. Encourage students to design their own "gimmicks." Present and decide on best.  Display on "Wall of Fame."

Invite a baseball (or other trading) card collector to share information about his hobby, focusing on how to build and care for a collection.

Hold a trading card program.  Involve the specialist to provide general books on the hobby and price guides.  Encourage the students to display samples of their own.

Provide cards for the class and teach them how to determine their value with the use of a price guide. Allow time for trading.

Have students create their own trading cards. Possible suggestions:  Author Cards, Famous Inventors, Figures in American History, Sports Figures, etc.

Discuss elements of humor.  Provide samples of Bazooka comics for a "comical read-in."  Make a list of Bazooka Fortunes.  Create individual "messages with an edge."  Select the best and add to school intercom messages.

Research cartoonists, their qualifications, and job opportunities.  Invite a cartoonist to the school.

"Kids who collected Bazooka Joe comics could redeem them for prizes."  How does this compare to promotions used by companies today?

Compare and contrast the original Bazooka Joe strips with the more modern Bazooka strips.  Create a storyboard of the comics, compiling profiles of the characters.  Survey class for favorites.  Design new ones.

Chapter 15

Brainstorm "how to measure a bubble" Experiment with circumference.  Test and determine the best instrument for measurement.

Have students interview one another on "how to blow a bodacious bubble."  Compile into booklets to distribute.  Organize a school-wide bubble-blowing contest.  Determine rules and guidelines.  Add to booklets.

Chapter 16

Discuss the characteristics of a landmark.  Research and share some famous ones from your home town, state or country.

Design a travel brochure inviting tourists to visit Bubble Gum Alley to "see and smell the gummy, globby, gooey wall" for themselves. Include a map with directions.

Write a "who done it" and solve the mystery of Bubble Gum Alley!

Create sculptures with bubble gum and bubble gum bubbles.

Make bubble gum pictures and/or collages.

Chapter 17

Research Emily Post and determine the role she has played as an authority on "proper behavior." Share parts of her etiquette book.  Check the copyright date and discuss the impact of changes in social behavior over time.  How does the advice given by Emily Post compare to Miss Manners or other etiquette specialists?

Read the advice given by the sixth-grade students from Peabody Charter School, on chewing gum.  Are you in agreement?  If not, explain.

Create additional "rules to chew by" to keep gum chewing fun for the people around you.

“Stretch" those rules and create personal anecdotes.

Chapter 18

Removing "gooey wads" can be both time-consuming and costly.  Avoid "sticky limericks" and present this problem to the student body. Brainstorm solutions and present to principal.

Explain the difference of interpreting words by what they say rather than what they mean.  Share several words or phrases not meant to be interpreted literally. (i.e. you have a lot on your mind.)  Draw pictures of their "literal meanings."

Lend a "sign" to Lady Liberty!  Avoid bubble blunders of "PUT YOUR GUM HERE" and design a sign that is not so "literal."  Send best examples to the Statue of Liberty, in care of M. Ann Belkov.

After Reading
Have students compare what they have written about bubble gum with the information learned in Bubblemania

Bubblemania is packed full of bubblegum "trivia."  Collect trivia and design a class trivia game.  For "wads of fun" invite another class to play.

Locate a Guinness Book of World Records. Write to the address provided and request guidelines for the "greatest reported diameter for bubble-gum bubble."  Stick to the rules and hold a class contest.  Add other categories and hold a school-wide record-breaking bubble gum-blowing contest.  (Perhaps even the students vs. the teachers?)

"Bubblemania" and "bubblemaniacs" are compound words used by the author. The practice of "compounding" is combining two existing words to create a new word. Create original compounds using bubble ______, ________ mania, and/or _______ maniacs. Add definitions and illustrations.  Compile to form a class "Dictionary of Bubble-ology."

Language Arts

Create a word bank of chewing gum words.  Search throughout the book for references, (i.e., slurpy, sticky, etc.).

Distribute chewing gum and make additions to the list.  Include synonyms, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. Form into a poem. Illustrate and display.  Read aloud.

“Does your chewing gum loose its flavor?" Write an essay explaining what to do when bubble gum loses its flavor.

Asserting awesome alliteration.  Find examples of alliteration in the book.  Experiment with alliteration and create alliterative sentences.  Illustrate and bind into a class collection.

Have fun with puns!  Identify and list examples of puns used by the author.  Discuss their meanings and elements of humor. Create awards to distribute to students acknowledging bubble gum accomplishments.

Complete these sentences:  Bubble gum is ...;

Bubble gum is for...  Add new ones.  Use to create bubble gum shape books.

Believe it or not?  Compile a list of "bubble gum facts" and "bubble gum myths."  Bind into a class "Trivia Book of Chewing."

"Bubble gum has always been ... pink."  Pink being the only coloring available, bubble gum really owes its "characteristic" color to "serendipity." Write an original story featuring a specific color as a common characteristic. (i.e., why frogs are green.)

Directions are as easy as 1, 2, 3.  Write directions for how to blow a bodacious bubble.  Test the directions on one another; revise as needed.

Select a person from "chewy history."  Research and gather information.  Describe the person using a poem as a format.

Report on an author from the bubble gum center. Feature  individual bookmarks to promote reading.

Bring in newspapers.  Check-out the classified section.  Design an ad for bubble gum invention. Include a catchy slogan.

Design a pamphlet demonstrating the benefits of chewing gum.

Write a how-to book about the gathering of chicle.  Include step-by-step outline of the process with illustrations.

Social Studies

Create a time line of the development of chewing and bubble gum.  Include the differing people and civilizations who have chewed, noting their locations and the material used to make the gum. 

Compare and contrast the loggers of New England harvesting spruce chewing gum to the Indians of South;

America gathering chicle from the sapodilla tree.

The ancient Maya took chicle with them on their journeys by wrapping rolls of it in banana leaves; thus creating the first "packaged" gum.  Discuss the reasoning of packaging.  Experiment with others and share results.

Develop a television commercial to persuade others to purchase a favorite gum.  Investigate different types of advertising and use one in the commercial.

Gum in any language "translates to fun all over the world."  Use the Internet to access a chat room in order to connect with a global classroom. Compare notes with key pals and exchange information on bubble gum.

Assemble assorted bubble gum.  Distribute to students and allow them to sort and determine categories. (i.e. color, shapes, sizes, forms, flavors, packaging, etc.)  Present to class and explain their reasoning. Chart results.

Chew, chew, chew... just how much bubble gum does the class chew during an average week?  Let the students make predictions for the amount chewed for the entire class.  Keep a log of "chewing" for more than one week.  Average.  Compare with predictions.  Devise other questions such as length of chew, time to chew.  Predict.  Log.  Average.  Discuss.

Survey the class for favorite brand of gum.  Represent results on a bar graph.

Make a comparison chart of bubble gum products, listing the weight, number of pieces, and cost. Determine the best buy.

Gumball math.  Place gumballs in cup containers.  Allow students to sort by color and find the percent of each color in the cup. Use a calculator to check work.

Estimate the volume of the "upside-down fishbowl" gumball machine.  Predict the number of gumballs needed to fill the machine.

Leaf is the leader in the production of bubble gumballs.  They produce 20 million pounds of bubblegum every year.  Approximately how many gumballs are in a pound?  How many in 20 million pounds?

Refer to the class time line to create "popping math word problems." (i.e., Blibber Bubble bubble gum was first invented in 1906 but never made it to market.  How many years will pass before Walter Diemer makes his breakthrough?)

"Double your pleasure, double your fun." Challenge the classmates and create more math problems from other examples found in the book for great balls of fun!

Use advertisements, wrappers, containers, etc., and create a class collage or mural.

Make a class chain by weaving gum wrappers.

Discuss possible uses.

Decorate classroom windows by painting images of gum.  (Mix one pint of tempera paint with two squirts of clear liquid detergent.)

Hold an Art Show and display bubble gum art, poetry, sculpture, pictures, etc.


Collect gum wrappers and compare the ingredients. Research the terms listed.  List the basic ingredients. Study the nutrition facts.  Determine which nutrient is represented; discuss the impact on the body.

John Curtis Bacon invented machines to produce his gum more efficiently.  Inventions often happen in chains as one discovery or invention may create a need for another.  Choose an invention and trace its history. Make a timeline showing its development.

Check the weight of bubble gum on the package. Weigh and compare.  Chew it and weigh again.  Use the scientific method to resolve any differences made.

What makes chewing gum chew?  Research "gumbase," the ingredient found in chewing gum.  Describe its characteristics and how conducive it is to chewing.

Predict, research, investigate, test, and analyze the following problems:  Does chewing gum contribute to tooth decay? How bio-degradable is chewing gum?  Can chocolate be a flavor for chewing gum?  Develop additional problems and share online.

Bubble Gum Sites of Interest:






(National Association of Chewing Gum Manufacturers)


(Fun pix of kids blowing bubbles)

About the Author
Lee Wardlaw is the award-winning author of more than two dozen books for young readers.  To research Bubblemania,
Lee toured a bubble gum factory, interviewed bubble business bigwigs, attended a gum convention, judged a bubble-blowing contest, made gumballs in her kitchen, and took a gooey walk down Gum Alley in San Luis Obispo, CA.  A former elementary school teacher, Lee now writes full-time from her home office in Santa Barbara, CA, where she lives with her husband, son, and two cats.  Her favorite bubble gum is Bazooka.

This guide was created by Sherry Park, a library media specialist in the Edmond, Oklahoma, Public School System.  Sherry has been a classroom teacher, a consultant on foreign language curriculum guides, and has presented ideas at workshops to integrate literature throughout the curriculum.  She also teaches for the Education Department at the University of Central Oklahoma.