Full of Beanstalks

It was a long time coming this year, but finally it looks as though spring has sprung. Everything in the garden is growing like crazy, as are the children in Reception, whose topic recently has been Jack and the Beanstalk.

The pupils in RLW know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, but does that mean they don’t want to hear it again? Not a bit of it! They all gathered round Mrs Way to listen to her read the traditional tale, and then they enjoyed some more untraditional versions of the same story, such as Jack and the Incredibly Meanstalk. William also brought in a book from home called Stinky Jack and the Beanstalk, which the children found very funny. Miss Wigmore laughed her socks off when she read it.

Once you know the story, there’s so much you can do with it. You probably know that teachers are sneaky sometimes and, when they’ve got a perfectly good story, they like nothing more than to jumble it up and make the poor children sort out the muddle. Luckily, Miss Wigmore’s children were up for the challenge, after which they took turns to read out sections of the reassembled story in their group reading session. Other children used their knowledge of letter patterns and shapes to match key words with pictures.

Later, the children retold Jack and the Beanstalk in their own words, writing it all down in their best handwriting. Taking inspiration from the different versions they had heard in class, some pupils were brave enough to introduce new ideas of their own. Ethan, for instance, brought the story right up to date by having Jack dispense with the cow, instead selling his television in order to buy the magic beans.

In Maths, the children used magic beans to help them with subtraction. Starting with practical activities, and working interactively on the whiteboard, they grasped the concept of taking away beans. Finally they represented the process on paper by crossing out pictures of beans.

Beanstalks also lend themselves to the use of helpful comparative language, such as smaller, shorter, taller and longer. Miss Wigmore challenged her class to build the tallest beanstalk possible, and some very mighty constructions resulted. It was all so exciting that the Form 6 buddies came over to help and join in the fun. Or were they perhaps the giants in disguise? Staff very nearly had to call Mr Phillips to ask him to make a hole in the roof so the beanstalk could poke out.

With the weather turning warmer, it is very definitely the time to be planting your vegetables. The children in RLW have been hard at work filling plant pots with soil and planting beans. Now it’s a question of watering, waiting, watching and hoping that, if they’re lucky some beanstalks will appear.

The children had great fun making beanstalks out of playdough, thinking carefully about the long thin shape that a beanstalk needs to be. They pinched the dough with their fingers to give a more authentic appearance to the leaves and the stalk itself. Threading laces through genuine gold harps was another way in which the children could develop their fine motor skills. This will certainly stand them in good stead for the sewing tasks they will encounter in Form 1.

You can never have enough practice at cutting out. This week the children were making cone characters based on Jack and the Beanstalk. Your blogger, on venturing into RLW to ask Miss Wigmore a question, was terrified to find herself face to face with a vast army of giants and Jacks.

Mrs Pemberton loves cooking, so she was keen to find a way to incorporate beans into a food technology task. With the ingredients set out, the children had to pack their yummy bean parcels full of a magic bean mixture that I am sure the giant himself would have loved to devour. Judging by the expressions on the children’s faces, the bean parcels were absolutely delicious, and all the washing up was done afterwards. I have it on good authority that, whilst cooking, many of the children tasted celery for the first time, and they declared it to be very tasty indeed. Parents, you may wish to bear this in mind in the future when planning your menus!

Reflecting on the story in Philosophy at the end of the week, Miss Wigmore started a fascinating discussion by asking the children whether they would choose to have magic beans, a golden egg or a musical harp. For me, the very mention of gold is a clincher but, luckily, the children thought more deeply about the question. They showed their choice by going to stand next to the relevant picture and then told Miss Wigmore what had influenced their decision. Julian suggested that there could be a chicken inside the golden egg, raising the exciting prospect of more golden eggs being laid. Other children thought the egg might contain chocolate which, of course, is only marginally less exciting than gold. Molly said she opted for the harp because she loves music so much but, on a more cautionary note, Mamoun alerted the class to the possibility of the beans growing into a meanstalk.

Miss Wigmore was very pleased with the discussion, which helps to lay the foundations for the thinking skills which we develop throughout the school. The session also helped her to lay down the basic ground rules for class discussion, notably only having one person speaking at a time so everyone can listen to what is being said.

Apart from watching their beanstalks grow up through the clouds, RLW will soon be busy building a giant’s castle in the role play area, and they have a visit planned to Newlands Bishop Farm, where they can see baby animals being reared. Later this term in school, they will be rearing living things of their own when some very tiny caterpillars are delivered but that, of course, belongs to a different story.