Icy History/And Ice Cream for All!

Students will shiver with delight as they read these fascinating articles about the history of ice and the origins of America's ice cream obsession.

By Lauren Tarshis
From the September 2016 Issue

Learning Objective: Students will synthesize information from two texts about how ice cream became popular.

Lexile: 900L, 690L
Guided Reading Level: S
DRA Level: 40
Topics: History,

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More About the Story


synthesizing, vocabulary, text evidence, key idea, inference, problem and solution, figurative language, main idea, drawing conclusions, compare and contrast, explanatory writing

Complexity Factors


“Icy History” describes how ice came into common use in the U.S. and the world. “And Ice Cream for All!” explains how ice cream became affordable for everyone.


Both texts are mainly chronological but include informational passages. Both contain cause-and-effect and compare-and-contrast structures. 


The texts include challenging academic and domain-specific vocabulary (such as harvesting andquantities), as well as metaphors, a simile, and a rhetorical question.

Knowledge Demands 

Some knowledge of geography will be helpful; the texts refer to several locations, such as New England, Europe, and India.

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

Preview Text Features/Set a Purpose for Reading (10 minutes)

  • Have students read the section headers in both articles. Ask: Based on the section headers, what might the history of ice and the history of ice cream have in common? (The headers “Ice for Rich People Only” and “A Treat for the Rich” suggest that both ice and ice cream were once luxuries.) 
  • Call on a volunteer to read aloud the Up Close box on page 16. Discuss: What does it mean when we say that something is popular?

Introduce Vocabulary (10 minutes, activity sheet online)

  • Project or distribute the vocabulary activity to introduce challenging words in the texts. 
  • Highlighted terms: trekked, blustery, harvesting, sweltering, insulated, artificial, quantities

2. Close Reading

Read and Unpack the Text (45 minutes, activity sheet online)

Read the articles as a class. Then put students in groups to answer the close-reading questions.

Discuss the critical-thinking question as a class.

“Icy History"

Close-Reading Questions

  • In the first section of the article, which details help you understand why ice was a “rare treasure” before the mid-1800s? (text evidence) Ice was a “rare treasure” because the process of getting it was dangerous and difficult: Teams of men had to journey to a “blustery mountain” or a frozen river or lake, facing dangers such as avalanches and wolves. They had to “hack away” at the ice with metal tools, lift the giant ice blocks onto sleds or wagons, and finally “haul it back home.” 
  • According to the section “Ice for Rich People Only,” why was ice cream a luxury in the 1700s? (key idea) Ice cream was a luxury because it was made using ice, which only wealthy people could afford. And since there was no way to make or buy ice in warm places, people who lived in such places could not have ice cream at all.
  • What can you infer was the biggest problem with transporting ice over long distances? How did Frederic Tudor solve this problem? (inference/problem and solution) The biggest problem was most likely that the ice melted long before reaching far-off destinations. Tudor solved this problem by using a special tool that cut ice into samesized cubes, and by coating the cubes with sawdust. This helped the ice stay cold on ships for months. 
  • At the end of “The Ice King,” why does the author say Tudor’s name “melted into history”? (figurative language) She means that people have forgotten Tudor’s name over time, because fridges and freezers made his ice unnecessary by the 1940s.

"And Ice Cream for All!"

Close-Reading Questions

  • Reread the last three paragraphs of “A Treat for the Rich.” What is the main idea of this section? (main idea) The main idea is that only wealthy and important Americans could eat ice cream in the 1700s, because its main ingredients were expensive and rare, and the process of making it was time-consuming. 
  • In what important ways did Jacob Fussell change ice cream-making? (main idea) Fussell was the first person to make ice cream in large batches and sell it cheaply. 
  • Reread the first paragraphs of “New Invention” and “Ice Cream Factory.” How did Nancy Johnson’s invention end up helping Fussell? (inference) Fussell and his workers used Johnson’s hand-cranked machine to make ice cream in their factory. They did not have to shake and stir the ingredients by hand, as ice cream makers had to do in the past. 
  • Based on the section “Ice Cream Factory,” what can you conclude about why Fussell’s business became successful? (drawing conclusions) Fussell’s business became successful because his ice cream was inexpensive and because he made it easy for customers to buy by delivering it to their doors.

Critical-Thinking Question

  • Based on these two articles, how does a luxury turn into something popular? Use examples from both articles in your answer. (synthesizing) For a luxury to become popular, it must become easier to make, more available, and less expensive. For example, Tudor’s ice became popular when he offered it to people in more parts of the world. Ice cream became a hit when Fussell started selling it cheaply and the ice cream-making process became more efficient. 
  • What character traits did Tudor and Fussell have in common that made them both successful? (compare and contrast) Tudor and Fussell were both smart businessmen and creative problem solvers. Tudor cleverly realized that he could make a lot of money selling ice in hot parts of the world and figured out how to do it. Fussell turned his biggest problem—unsold cream—into a new business.

3. Skill Building

Featured Skill: Synthesizing

Distribute our synthesizing activity. Start it as a class, then have students continue working on it in groups. It will help students respond to the writing prompt on page 19.

Differentiate and Customize
For Struggling Readers

Have students underline every sentence in the articles that contains a date. Then ask them to choose five of those dates and use them to create a timeline about the history of ice cream. 

For Advanced Readers

Have students go online to research the history behind another of their favorite foods. Then ask them to write an article explaining the food’s history, using the articles in the magazine as mentor texts.

For ELL Students

References to American geography might be challenging for some students. On a map, point out the places mentioned (South Carolina, New England, Baltimore, Virginia, New York) and talk about the climate in different regions. 

For Small Groups

Divide students into small groups to do a second read. Then ask them to study the photos and photo captions in both articles, discussing what these text features add to their understanding of the stories.