Greenling / During Reading / /

Hearts, Minds and Voices

Thinking about the reasons for character behaviour using the hearts, minds and voices strategy.

Lesson from Greenling teaching sequence

Required reading: 21-22

A note about page numbers

This book does not have page numbers. For ease of reference, we have numbered the pages from 1 starting after the title page where the text reads 'What is this growing on Barleycorn land.'. You may like to pencil page numbers in a teacher copy for quick reference.

Text potential

  • Wider learning opportunities: Art: composition
  • Visual language: Body Language: (gesture, posture, gaze and expression)
  • Inference opportunities: Character Emotions
  • Inference opportunities: Character Inference
  • Inference opportunities: Character Motivation
  • Inference opportunities: Character Thoughts
  • Visual language: Characterisation


Sometimes, an author will explicitly state how a character thinks or feels, but at other times, readers must infer this from the clues presented in the text and images.

In this lesson, we use the drama strategy of creating a tableau to explore the main and minor characters’ hearts, minds, and voices. Before creating the tableau, the children develop their understanding of how images are created by comparing Levi Pinfold’s composition with some elements from classical paintings, thus developing visual language and making connections across different art forms.

The lesson begins by asking the children to express their feelings in response to the image and share their thoughts. Initial responses are then used to draw inferences about a character’s emotions, thoughts and motivations.

Teacher’s Note: You might teach this lesson after the First Encounters lesson, ‘We’ve been living in his all along’. Alternatively, you can teach all the First Encounters lessons before moving on to the Digging Deeper phase.


  • Copies of Greenling, at least one between two
  • Slideshow with images of classical painting compositions
  • Hearts, Minds and Voices sheets, one per child, or they can draw their own in their language books
  • If you have a stage block and chair, that would be ideal for recreating the tableau – otherwise, just a chair will do. You will need to have space in the classroom for creating a tableau, otherwise use a hall or an alternative space in the school.
  • A folded towel or doll to represent Greenling.


Distribute the books and turn to page.

In pairs, ask the children to recap what is happening on this spread.

Invite them to look closely at the composition of the picture. Remind them about the image reveal session and how we noticed that every part of the picture added to the overall meaning.

  • How does it make you feel?

Gather the class and make the point that Levi Pinfold often uses compositions (how the characters are arranged and the focal point)  that are reminiscent of classical paintings.

  • Where is the focal point in this picture? Where are your eyes directed to look first? (The children should be able to see that Greenling is the focal centre for this picture) He is at the top centre of the picture. We tend to notice things in the centre of an image first. Notice that he is towards the top of the picture; this can suggest importance/significance.
  • After Greenling, who do we notice next? (Mr Barleycorn and Mrs Barleycorn are both strong visual elements in the picture)
  • Direct the children to notice how Mr Barleycorn looks down at Greenling and how Mrs Barleycorn is holding a hoe. If you follow the straight line of the hoe, that also points to Greenling. Notice how the back of the truck with the bales of hay form another side of a triangle.
  • We also tend to notice light rather than dark colours – the truck is light, and the crowd around the outside is darker. Do any of the characters in the crowd stand out more than others? (The children will probably mention the white-faced character on the right pointing to the ceiling and the man with the cap, headphones and clenched fist on the left. Does their body language suggest anything?
  • This is a strong triangular composition.

Now, share the slides with classical paintings.

Slide 1 Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard Von Honthorst painted in 1692

Ask an open question.

  • Do you notice any similarities between this painting and the spread in Greenling? This is asking for an opinion, so allow the children to respond freely, but ask them to explain their thinking.
Teacher’s Note: no direct connection is suggested here, but the classical nativity pose is reminiscent. Experienced readers with a background in art history might also be reminded of a pieta scene with the twigs on Greenling’s helmet reminiscent of a crown of thorns. This interpretation shouldn’t be pushed but built on if it merges with the children’s responses. The children may notice a similar triangular composition or how the light draws out attention to the focal point in the picture. They might notice how the shepherds form a circle around the holy family and the similarity with the crowd around the Barleycorns.

Slide 2 The Arrest of Louis XVI painted by Thomas Falcon Marshall in 1854

Again ask:

  • Do you notice any similarities between this painting and the spread in Greenling? Allow the children to respond freely, but ask them to explain their thinking.
Teacher’s note: no direct connection is suggested with this painting, but some similarities may strike the children. The female character in the centre is Marie Antoinette. They may notice that, like Greenling, She takes the central position on the page and is painted in lighter colours than the surrounding scene, almost as though she is bathed in light. You may notice that if you follow the back and heads of the characters on the right and the position of Marie Antionette’s veil, a diagonal line is formed, directing our attention to the main focus of the picture. The eyes of the characters on the left gaze towards her, also directing our attention to her. Only the character standing behind her (Axel von Ferson), with whom she had a romantic relationship, mirrors the queen’s gaze. At the same time, her young son looks directly out at the viewer of the picture. Another connection they might pick up is the crowd painted in darker colours pushing forward into the room while a soldier holds them at bay, a bit like Mrs Barleycorn with her hoe).

Now, return to the spread.

Explain: You can’t always tell what a character thinks or feels based on what they say. Sometimes, people say things just because everyone around them is saying the same thing – they follow the crowd. Sometimes, we might think something  with our rational brains, but our emotions make us behave differently. Explore this idea, drawing on the children’s experiences.

In small groups, ask them to discuss the different characters in the spread. What might they be thinking, feeling and saying?

Now, explain that you will recreate the painting using a tableau. Half the class will create the tableaux while the other half will watch and ask questions. Then, you will swap so both groups can create and watch.

Place a chair on a stage block.

Choose one child from the first group to be Mr Barleycorn. Hand them the towel or doll. They should try to recreate his body language. The watching group can make suggestions if needed.

Now, choose a child to be Mrs Barleycorn (if you have a broom or something similar, she can hold it; otherwise, pretend she has the object. As the children get into their positions, ask them to start thinking and feeling in their character’s role. Once Mr and Mrs Barleycorn are in place, invite the other children, one at a time, to come and take on the role of one of the crowd members. They should say which one. If all the characters are taken, they can invent a crowd character (No one takes the dog’s role).

Once everyone is in position, ask them to keep the position as still as possible. Nominate one child at a time to come and tap one of the characters on the shoulder and ask them to tell us what they are thinking and feeling and what they would like to say to everyone listening.

The teacher’s role is to encourage the children to think deeply and to challenge them with further questions if needed.

Now, swap so the other half of the class can create the tableau.

Finally, in pairs, the children can use the hearts, minds and voices prompt sheet to discuss their character with a partner.  Or they can write summary notes and share in groups.

Listen to the conversations and highlight any significant insights to feed back to the class.

Final reflection

Gather the class.

Feedback insights from your observations.

  • What did we learn from this activity?


Key vocabulary

composition, focal

Subject-specific and technical vocabulary


Academic process words 
Advanced vocabulary 
Morphological investigation 
Etymological investigation