My favourite topic this term has been based on the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. The class is comprised of seven children between the ages of seven and eight. They have a range of learning difficulties, so lessons must be differentiated to suit all needs, abilities and level of support given.
To help the children gain an understanding of the growing process, we set up our own class garden centre to encourage active learning.
We love to visit the local garden centre, where we feel the children gain a great deal of skills, knowledge and personal and social development.
Before constructing a giant beanstalk for the class, we watched a short film about what seeds need to grow. It's on a wonderful website created by Woodlands Junior School in Kent. One group of children were asked to design seed packets, using resources from www.sparklebox.co.uk.
This encouraged a lot of language and problem-solving skills as the children studied the pictures and information and gained an understanding of how much sunlight and water their growing seeds would need and what colour their plant or flower would turn out to be.
The rest of the class was given plant-pot templates from the Sparklebox website, with a colour written on the front. They had to choose the corresponding colour of pencil to colour their plant pot. Then they were asked to choose from a selection of labels entitled "blue flowers", "red flowers" and so on to match their plant pot and ensure that they understood what colour pencil they were using.
At the end of the lesson, we took the children to the local garden centre where some of them had to hunt for the seed packetsplants that matched their own and the others had to find the correct colour of flower to match their plant pot.
The children responded well to the lesson. The first group loved to be challenged and enjoyed being asked questions that required an element of problem solving - they really enjoyed the feeling of doing a task successfully and receiving lots of praise.
The second group enjoyed the task of matching the colour of their own plant pot to the corresponding colour of flower in the garden centre. On both counts pupils loved the practical element and being part of the local community.
All of our aims were achieved, as the children were challenged in different ways and it was great to be able to explore one element of our topic in such detail.
I would thoroughly recommend this lesson as it helped us to link our class garden centre, as an area to explore language, number and social skills, to our topic of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Visiting the centre and creating our own space in the classroom that the children were familiar with has helped to put the topic into a context that they understand.
We have since constructed a giant beanstalk in the classroom and all the children have some awareness or understanding of how the growing process happens.
Katie Keenan teaches at Kersland School in Renfrewshire, a school for five to 18-year-olds with severe and complex learning difficulties.