Greenling / During Reading / /

The Language of Bees

Identifying references to bees and considering the word choice and effect.

Lesson length: 1 session

Lesson from Greenling teaching sequence

Required reading: Pages 15-27

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

  • Literary features: Metaphor and simile
  • Vocabulary: Semantic Field: bees


  • Close Reading
  • Vocabulary: Blended Approach


Bees are essential for growing crops and in part, this fable is a hymn to the bee. Levi Pinfold references the bee in text and images. A pivotal moment in the story takes place when Mrs Barleycorn defends Greenling. This act seems to unleash a special power. ‘Suddenly flowering with all the attention’. He utters a magic spell, and at this point, we see the image of him surrounded by the bees. References in the text foreshadow this moment.


  • Copies of Greenling, at least one between two.
  • Projection of the book jacket onto the whiteboard.
  • Gather a collection of books about bees for display in the classroom. There are some suggestions on the supplementary book list.


Share the book jacket. In this large close-up Greenling has bees collecting pollen from his sprouting branches and also sitting on his hand.

  • Why has Levi Pinfold included the bees in this picture? Greenling doesn’t seem disturbed by their presence.
  • Are they essential to the story?

Working in pairs, starting on the sunflower spread (p15) read to the page with the large close-up (p 27), ask the children if they can find any reference to bees in the text and illustration.

Gather the class and take feedback.

Write these examples on the board.

  • We’re already swimming in honey
  • ‘What are you? A bee?! You’re beginning to buzz like a drone.
  • the humming upon the lines
  • A swarm of passengers bound for work
  • There’s a box of honey flakes next to the stairs where Mr Barleycorn is giving Greenling a mudbath.

Discuss the word choice.

  • What is a drone? 

A drone is a male bee. The children may be familiar with the term used to refer to a crewless aerial vehicle. We also use the word droning on… speaking in a boring way.

  • Can you see any connection between the different definitions?
  • What image is created by referring to the passengers as a ‘swarm’? 
  • How would it have been different if Levi Pinfold had used the word ‘crowd’ instead?


Final reflection

  • Why do you think Levi Pinfold has made so many references to bees in this story?

Writers often use patterned language in literature (novels and poems). When they use patterned language, it can reveal something interesting about the text. In this case, the return of bees enables pollination and flowering, as we can see in the final spread.

Take the opportunity to share your collection of books about bees to encourage wider reading and research. Share contents pages and illustrations and share interesting snippets of information to pique children’s interest.



Key vocabulary

drone, droning,  swarm

colony, pollination, pollen, nectar

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

Read more