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In the bleak mid-winter

Friday, 16 December 2016
Farming and Countryside Education (FACE)

Brrr … these words make us shiver! The Christmas carol goes on to say “Frosty wind made moan/ Earth stood hard as iron/Water like a stone.”

What a great introduction to some vocabulary work! What does “bleak” mean? Dictionary definitions include:

  • (of an area of land) lacking vegetation or exposed to the elements
  • (of the weather) cold and miserable
  • Chilly, dreary, grim, deserted, gaunt, windswept

How about wrapping up and getting out there into the countryside or on the farm to investigate the use of these adjectives and to find examples? Ask your pupils to make notes and sketches, to take photos depicting some of these words.

Can they do the same for the antonyms?

  • Bright, cheerful, happy, comforting, comfortable, pleasant, sunny, warm, appealing

Maybe it provides a greater challenge if you split the class into groups and some have to find examples of the synonyms whilst others look for depictions of the antonyms. What conclusions can you draw afterwards – were the examples of synonyms harder to find in the winter or is that just an attitude? Surely there are bright, cheerful, appealing things in the winter landscape? Maybe what one pupil finds miserable, another might consider cheerful.

The Countryside Classroom website offers a wealth of inspiration for activities at any time of year and winter is no exception. For ideas take a look at the Winter Activities e-booklet. How about learning to cook outdoors? The cold should not be an obstacle to maths outdoors or to the development of literacy skills using the outdoors.

Countryside Classroom points to a number of videos with a particularly winter flavour:

How do computers help on the farm in winter?

Who provides all those sprouts and Christmas trees and what went into making your Christmas jumper?

How do farmers manage the seasons when it comes to both animals and crops?

Maybe winter isn’t really bleak but full of interest and activity – you may just have to look a little harder!

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