Greenling / After Reading / /

Is technology a threat or a solution?

Probing one of the key themes and posing a text to world question. for debate.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from Greenling teaching sequence

Required reading: Whole book

Text potential

  • Theme: Nature and technology


  • Discussion and Dialogue
  • Close Reading


On the surface, the message in Greenling appears to be an obvious one, but look again, and you might find more subtle nuances.

This session provides an opportunity to probe one of the major themes in the story and to read against the dominant message. Is technology harmful? Is nature always better than technology?


  • Copies of Greenling, at least one between two.
  • Sets of Yes, No cards, one for each child.


Scan the book and locate any references to technology. Mark them with a sticky note.

Use a T diagram to identify the differences in Mr and Mrs Barleycorn’s responses to the way Greenling overpowers technology.

  • Cooking: 
    • Mrs Barleycorn How will we cook breakfast today?’ 
    • Mr Barleycorn’ Them melons look ripe.’
  • Television:
    • Mrs Barleycorn’ How will we watch telly tonight?
    • Mr Barleycorn ‘Just look at him grow.’
  • Transport
    • Mrs Barleycorn’ Well there goes the shopping!’
    •  Mr Barleycorn’ Depends what you need…’
  • Telephone: 
    • Mrs Barleycorn ‘I’m calling for help to fix up your brain.’


  • How would you feel if you couldn’t use the technology in your house? 
  • Would you cope as well as Mr Barleycorn with the changes?

Distribute the sets of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cards.

Explain to the children that you are going to ask a question and give them ten seconds to think about their answer without discussing it with anyone. On a given signal, they should show either the ‘yes’ or the ‘no’ card.

  • Question: Is Mrs Barleycorn right to be upset by Greenlings actions?

Discuss the reasons the children made their choices. Encourage them to probe each other’s responses. 

Use dialogic talk to challenge the children. In particular, make references to their lives to encourage authentic discussion. For example, ‘So you would be happy to give up your phone?’ or ‘Without technology, we would need to return to old methods of farming, are you saying that would be the best solution?’ or ‘Should we only keep essential technology? We don’t really need television do we?’ Explore as many viewpoints as possible.

At the end of the session, replay the ‘yes’ ‘no’ game. 

  • Has anyone changed their mind?


Final reflection

  • Does the story suggest that technology is a problem? Find evidence in the book.
  • Can it also be a solution? Can you find evidence in the book?

Notice the final spread. 

  • How has the landscape changed? (wind turbines, grain storage, the land seems to be less desolate, the meadow is in flower, there’s a single bird).

Teacher’s note: this could lead to writing an argument piece: Do we need technology?


Key vocabulary

debate, argumentation, turbine

Subject-specific and technical vocabulary 
Academic process words 
Advanced vocabulary 
Morphological investigation 
Etymological investigation 


Nikki Gamble

Nikki Gamble
Director, Just Imagine
Nikki has worked extensively in schools across the UK and internationally. She is the author of Exploring Children’s Literature (4th edit) (2019) and co-author of Guiding Readers (2016) which was awarded the UKLA Academic Book of the Year Award 2017. Nikki is KS2 reading advisor and series consultant for Oxford University Press and content creator for the Oxford School Improvement and Oxford Owl websites. Nikki is Associate Consultant at the University of London, Institute of Education and Honorary Fellow at the University of Winchester

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