The Grain Chain

Archive for December, 2010

News time!

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

The start of a new school term can be slow to kick off, as children have got out of the school time routine, but if there is one way to ease them back in gently, it is by getting them to report on their news from the Christmas holidays.


There are lots of questions that you could ask your class and visual prompts that you could use to jog their memories, and as Christmas is the time of year when children may try new foods or travel to see friends or relatives, why not focus on this?


Start by engaging your class in a discussion about what they did during the holidays. You could use the following questions to get you started:


-          What did you have to eat on Christmas day? Did you try any foods that you hadn’t tasted before? What did you think of them? What was your favourite Christmas food and why?

-          Did you cook anything with your parents/guardians? What did you cook?

-          What was your least favourite Christmas food? What do you think you could do to it to make it more tasty?

-          Have you eaten any of the following over the holidays? – cheese straws, mince pies, Christmas pudding, sausage rolls, bread sauce, turkey sandwiches, crackers. What do all of these foods have in common? They are all made using flour.


Children should then find it easier to write their news as you’ve reminded them about what they’ve got up to!


Do you know…the origins of many popular foods which are eaten over the festive season?


Mince pies: Centuries ago the mince pie would have been a large oblong shaped dish filled with various meats such as chicken, partridge, pigeon, hare, capon, pheasant, rabbits, ox or lamb tongue, liver, and mutton meat mixed with fruits, peels and sugar. It was originally known as a Christmas Pye. It was only after the medieval era that meat was gradually replaced with the spices that the Crusaders brought with them. It is also thought that around this time, the pies changes to a smaller, round shape.

Bread Sauce: Bread sauce was first made in the medieval times when bread was plentiful. Flour was not historically used to thicken sauces so stale bread was the perfect alternative.

Christmas pudding: The Christmas pudding started life as a 14th Century ‘porridge’ called frumenty. This combined boiled beef and mutton with fruits, wines and spices and was more like a soup than a pudding. By 1595 it had evolved into the Christmas dessert that we eat today. It was thickened using eggs and bread crumbs, more dried fruit was included and the addition of ale and spirits gave it much more flavor. The puritans banned it in 1664 as a ‘lewd custom’. It was only in 1714 when George I developed a liking for plum pudding that it was re-introduced.

Cheese straws and sausage rolls: The origins of both of these flour based foods are not known but although they are now associated with the festive period, they were traditionally made at the start of Lent to use up any leftover meat and cheese before the fast.

Happy Christmas from the team

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Schools will be breaking up for Christmas soon and we realise that you might have more pressing matters on your mind… such as christmas shopping, the sudden realisation that the turkey won’t quite fit in your oven and how you’ll cope when your mother-in-law comes to stay for a couple of days.

That’s why we’ll be taking a short break over the festive period. But dont fear, we’ll be back after Christmas to help you with your lesson planning for the new year.

So for those of you who celebrate Christmas, have a good one!

Bake your own Christmas decorations!

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

salt doughPrimary school activity

Christmas is coming and we know how excited your class will be getting! So instead of making paper decorations, why not bake them?

Salt dough is easy to make and non-toxic – plus it doesn’t taste very nice so younger children won’t want to eat it! When baked, it sets really hard and its high salt content prevents the dough from going mouldy.

Our basic recipe for salt dough, which can be baked either in an oven or hardened in a microwave for speed, can be found below. Because it involves using hot water, we recommend you make the dough before the lesson.

  • 4 cups of flour
  • One cup of table salt
  • One cup of hot water

Simply mix all of the ingredients in a bowl to form a dough. You’ll find that this recipe makes around 10 medium sized decorations.

If using a microwave, cook for two minute intervals, checking after each interval has been finished to ensure the dough doesn’t burn. If using an oven, bake for two hours on 250 degrees. Note that this temperature needs to be reduced slightly if using a fan oven.

Once hardened, leave the decorations to cool.

To colour the decorations you can either add colourings to the dough before it is baked or they can easily be painted once they have cooled. You could then add glitter, sequins or beads to add a bit of Christmas sparkle.

Encouraging your class to shape the decorations themselves enables them to be more creative but you could always use some festive cookie cutters if you are short on time. Some ideas for decorations could include snowmen, Christmas trees, stars, snowflakes and presents but you could always opt for more traditional symbols of Christmas.

Remember to make holes in all of the decorations so that they can be hung on a tree or around the classroom!

Activities for older students

There are only so many cold turkey sandwiches you can eat before you get fed up with them! Why not plan a lesson based around using up leftovers during the festive season? You could give students a choice of five of our recipes and ask them to pick two to modify. The only rule is that they have to use leftovers from a Christmas (or roast) dinner. We reckon the following recipes would be good choices for this activity, but as our regular readers will know, we have loads of recipes on our database so feel free to take your pick!

Tuna wrap – examples of modifications could include turkey and cranberry, or sausage meat and caramelised red onion.

Mini meatballs in tomato sauce – students could substitute the minced beef for minced leftover turkey and blend leftover vegetables into the tomato sauce.

Crispy leek and cheese sausages – these could be made using leftover vegetables.

 Apple muffins – the apple in this recipe could be swapped for fresh cranberries and candied orange peel could also be added.

Dinner rolls – these could be served with “Christmas dinner soup”, a soup made with all of the leftover vegetable.
Fun classroom gamesenergenie

 If you are winding down for Christmas, why not try some of our games and fun quizzes? Children won’t even realise they are learning!

 For 5 to 7 year olds: Fun Quiz

 For 7 to 11 year olds: Energenie Game (we love this one in the office- the best thing since sliced bread!)

 For 11 to 14 year olds: Fun quiz

 For 14 to 16 year olds: It’s not a game or a quiz as such but our podcasts are not too taxing for students and will provide some food for thought.