Greenling / During Reading / /

Taking Greenling Home

An introduction to the text, first responses and establishing literal understanding.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from Greenling teaching sequence

Required reading: Pages 1-8

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

  • Visual language: Colour, line, shape, position
  • Genre: Picturebook


  • Read Aloud
  • Discussion and Dialogue


Reading aloud to the class helps to establish a narrative voice, developing the children’s ear for reading. This continues to be important beyond the stage where children can read independently, particularly as a wider range of forms and writing styles are introduced.  To maximise this benefit, read simply for enjoyment on a first reading. Stopping too frequently to ask interrogative questions interferes with the comprehension process. Only interrupt the flow when it is absolutely necessary to clarify something and to avoid potential confusion. There will be opportunities to talk about the details and unfamiliar vocabulary later. 

Teacher’s note: practise reading this text aloud to ensure you don’t stumble on the irregular meter.

This session involves close reading. The children are encouraged to read actively,  monitoring their comprehension to share confusion, puzzles and questions. It allows time for children to develop their understandings as a basis for extending their thinking.

Teacher’s note: A discussion circle or horseshoe is used in the second part of the lesson. Ensure the children can see each other’s faces so they can talk directly to each other without filtering their ideas through you. The children can learn to set up a discussion circle quickly and routinely, usually by moving just a few chairs while most of the class remains in their seats. It is worth establishing this at the beginning of the year so that the process is achieved quickly and efficiently each time you use the circle.


  • Copies of Greenling, at least one between two.

Teacher’s note: ensure the children do not read beyond page 8. You might use paper clips to secure the pages to prevent children from reading past page 8.


Start by reading the story aloud to the class while the children follow in their books. Read without stopping to establish the flow of the narrative. There will be time for clarifying and asking questions later.

Initial prompt:

  • Did you find anything strange or puzzling about the story so far?
  • Record the children’s ideas for future reference.

Now working in pairs or small groups:

Ask the children to re-read the text and then share the pictures. They can take turns reading and listening to a spread at a time.

After reading each spread, ask them to discuss the details they notice.

  • Is there anything you find strange or puzzling?


Spread 1

Gather the class together. Organise a discussion circle so the children can see each other’s faces. This is important so the discussion isn’t filtered through you. Your role is to ensure important points are not glossed over too quickly and to challenge the children to think more deeply, as well as reinforce good discussion protocols.

Beginning with the first spread, invite the children to initiate the discussion by sharing what they have noticed.

Supplementary prompts could include, if needed:

  • Who or what is Barleycorn? (Make sure the children understand this is the man in the picture. Point out the capital B to denote a proper noun, if necessary.)
  • What do you notice sitting on the fence? (Introduce the word ‘crow’, referred to later in the story. You might also introduce the word ‘carrion’. Crows are associated with death because they feed on carrion.)
  • Where do you think the water has come from?
  • What can you see, ‘where once stood a tree?’ (Human actions such as cutting down trees to make use of land can lead to problems like flooding. You may or may not want to talk about this at this point. Alternatively, you can return to this in the Review and Reflect stage.)
  • Introduce the term ‘culvert’ for the pipe.
  • What do you notice about the dog’s body language?

Spread 2

Repeat the process, inviting the children to initiate the discussion with their observations.

Supplementary prompts, if needed:

  • What do you think Mrs Barleycorn means when she says, ‘It belongs to the wild?’
  • What response do you have to the picture of the Greenling’s feet? What is familiar? What is unfamiliar?
  • What do you imagine Mr Barleycorn is saying to his wife?
  • How is the dog responding? Why do you think it is responding in this manner?
  • What do you notice about the way that the house is built? Where is the front door? Why might it have been built in this way?

Spread 3

As before, invite the children to start the discussion and prompt where needed:

  • What do you think is happening in the picture at the bottom left-hand page?
  • What words tell us that Greenling is different from other babies? ‘This is a different breed’he has needs only trees understand.’ ‘a vegetable hunger to feed’.
  • How are the Barleycorns attempting to meet Greenling’s needs?
  • How do you think all of the characters are feeling in this picture?

Spread 4

Repeat as above

  • Why does Barleycorn say, ‘We can’t leave him outside for the crows’?
  • What evidence can you see that ‘some of the outside is inside’?
  • How many ways is the sun shown in the picture (shining through the window, clock poster)? Who is depicted in sunlight? What pattern does the sun make on Mrs Barleycorn? Does it remind you of anything? 
  • What word does Mrs Barleycorn use to describe the baby? Do you think it is an affectionate or hard-hearted word?

Teacher’s note: the children may observe that the shadow makes a pattern like prison bars. This motif is repeated in the image showing Mrs Barleycorn lying in bed. Avoid heavily directing the response, but see what connections the children make when prompted.

Final reflection

Ask the children to summarise the story so far.

Briefly discuss what you think will happen next based on what we know so far.


Key vocabulary

barren, wasteland, drainage, flooding, derelict, neglected


Subject-specific and technical vocabulary 
Academic process words


Advanced vocabulary

carrion, culvert

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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