This week’s blog considers a theme in stories favoured by many authors – food. Here we explore how we can use this theme to develop children’s understanding of stimulus and consequence in narrative.
Food appears in many stories, frequently working as a device to move narrative forwards. Here we take a look at foods that really shouldn’t have been eaten. Food that we like to call ‘forbidden’….
Forbidden foods appear in stories from different times and cultures, meaning that they are great for making cross-curricular links and raising opportunities to teach NC Reading Assessment Focus 7. Once children have experienced a number of stories that use forbidden food they should begin to notice that there are always consequences for eating the food. This, then, in turn supports them in Reading Assessment Focus 3, so that they are able to infer what may happen if a character eats something they shouldn’t.
Before looking at some learning activities that could be undertaken with food, let’s consider some of the stories where forbidden foods play a role.
A serpent tempting Eve to eat an apple in the Garden of Eden has to be the starting point for any analysis of forbidden food. It also allows a useful opportunity to look at morals in stories and to make links to RE. Staying in the ancient world, what about Persephone in the Underworld? As a consequence of having eaten six pomegranate seeds whilst in Hades, she was doomed to spend six months of every year in the underworld for the rest of her life.
When Alice ventured through Wonderland she encountered two different types of Forbidden food: Eat Me cake which caused her to grown to an unfathomable size and Drink Me potion which did quite the opposite. Both of these consequences were an inconvenience to Alice, but neither was particularly sinister. This isn’t the case in all stories, however. Just think what happened to Edmund Pevensie when he ate the Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; or Snow White when she ate the apple (yes, apples again).
Sometimes the consequences of a bit of food indulgence aren’t quite so serious. A severe case of tummy ache is all that worries little Tiro, when he’s indulged on stolen oranges in Journey to Jo’burg. More comically the young Michael Rosen is given away by a chocolate smudge after his nocturnal chocolate cake consumption. And Julian and Huey suffer a ticking off and a quick cookery lesson after eating the Pudding like a Night on the Ocean intended for mum.
So, how can we teach children about the use of forbidden food in stories? First we need to collect stories where something happens as a consequence of consuming forbidden food. (Take a look at our Pinterest board). Once children have knowledge of this narrative tool it should help them to make inferences when they come across other examples of forbidden food in their reading (AF3).
There are lots of PSHE links to be made by looking at forbidden foods. The danger of taking food from strangers springs to mind – this could be covered with Snow White in KS1 and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in KS2. What about foods, potions and poisons? Why not debate whether Alice should have drunk the Drink Me potion, how did she know it was safe? Alternatively, you could turn each of these foodie encounters into an opportunity to persuade a character why they should eat the forbidden food. This could be as a poster or a persuasive letter.
If you’re feeling really creative you could provide the class with a selection of food. Naturally they will want to taste it, touch it and smell it, which is great for stimulating descriptive writing. If you’ve used The Pudding Like a Night on the Ocean you could even persuade them to use figurative language. Why not then, get the children to invent possible outcomes of eating various foods. Giving them exposure to lots of stories that use forbidden foods should really help fire their imaginations.
Explore creation myths which use food. I’ve referred to Eve and Persephone, can the children locate any others? This would make a good research activity.
Ask children to write their own stories where a character eats some food that they shouldn’t. In KS1 these could be simple innovations on well-known stories such as Snow White or Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In KS2 children could box-up the narrative structure from one of the stories above and include a forbidden food with consequences that are suitable to the setting of their story.
And now we’re off for lunch. This blogpost is making us feel a little peckish…
Rachel Clarke, Coventry Primary English Consultant.