My best lesson - On yer bike, stereotypes: a new princess is in town

31st October 2014 at 00:00

There are some lessons that you just can't help repeating year after year; the reaction you receive from each class is so different and interesting that it makes you pull the old favourite out again and again. My must-do lesson focuses on Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole.

I start off by displaying the image from the book's front cover with all the text removed. Who is this person on a motorbike in biker clothes, I ask? What does she do? Sometimes a pupil will notice the tiny crown balanced precariously on her head, sometimes no one will.

When I reveal the title, the children are shocked. Princesses don't ride motorcycles; princesses wear dresses, don't they? We discuss this before starting to read the book.

When we reach the part where the princess - who has some incredibly extreme hobbies - sets her potential husbands a series of tasks, we come up with ideas to help the poor princes who are keen to win Smartypants' hand in marriage. We then compile these suggestions in a handbook called "How to Help a Prince".

Then we hit the part of the story where Prince Swashbuckle turns up. He represents that smarmy man we all recognise, who turns out - as Smartypants discovers - to be a right toad. There are life lessons here as well as academic ones!

Then we reach the ending of the book, which appeals to my feminist nature and provokes all sorts of discussion about the children's own families: Princess Smartypants doesn't get married, but she does live happily ever after in a truly modern fairy tale.

The possibilities for activities are endless with this fabulous piece of fiction. I love hearing pupils' ideas for how the princes could complete their crazy tasks - suggestions have included hiring a helicopter to feed the pets and drinking an energy drink before the roller disco. We also create freeze-frames of scenes from the story, take photos and write captions to go with them.

Most of all, we have a lot of fun. And when we're done with Princess Smartypants, we move on to Prince Cinders, a pretty weedy-looking royal specimen.

Alice Edgington teaches at St Stephen's Infant School in Canterbury, Kent. Find her on Twitter at @aliceedgington

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