Lesson 3: Preparing the Plants

In this lesson pupils will become familiar with the series of processes through which the flax plants are broken down and prepared for spinning into yarn. Pupils have an opportunity to use historical evidence, become familiar with Ulster-Scots vocabulary related to the processes and also to carry out a drama freeze frame activity.

Main Areas of Curricular Focus

Lesson Plan


Learning Intentions

Learning Intentions

Pupils will:

  • be able to recognise and discuss the terms retting, breaking, scutching and hackling, as processes in linen production;
  • be able to explain and demonstrate to each other what the processes involve; and
  • be able to use and understand Ulster-Scots and other vocabulary, relevant to the processes.
  • retting
  • breaking
  • scutching
  • hackling
  • drying



After being harvested, the flax has to go through more processes: retting, drying, breaking, scutching and hackling.

Display photographs of the processes in action on the interactive whiteboard, Resource 1.10: Flax Processes (IWB) and discuss with pupils. (The processes are also listed on Resource 1.7: Teacher Information Card.)

Distribute Resource 1.11: What’s the Process? – Pictures (Cards) and Resource 1.12: What’s the Process? – Explanations (Cards). Ask pupils to work in groups and match each process and its explanation to the correct photograph. Pupils should be encouraged to justify the matches they have made using evidence from the photographs.

Take feedback from pupils and discuss.

Main Lesson

Main Lesson

Now illustrate a more modern, mechanised version of the processes in the following video clips. Pupils will hear the Ulster-Scots word ‘strickers’ who are the men handling the flax in the scutching video. A ‘strick’ was a bundle of broken flax which was twisted and made ready for the scutchers.

Scutching Today: (watch from from 1.32) Point out to the pupils that ‘breaking’ is first done through the rollers and then the flax goes to the scutching machine.

This video illustrates flax combing but remind pupils of the local word, ‘hackling’, and encourage them to use it. (watch from 0.50 to 5.00)

Pupil Activity (Jigsaw Activity)

Give half the class a card with one word on it: flax, lint, pulling, beets, stooks, retting, lint dam, drying, breaking, stricks, scutching, combing and hackle, Resource 1.13: Flax Words (Cards) and the other half of the class the definition of that word, Resource 1.14: Flax Definitions (Cards). Pupils move around the room to find their partner. The pairs could then form up in lines in the order of the stages of the process.

See Resource 1.7: Teacher Information Card for further information.

Take feedback and clarify any points.

Pupil Activity (Freeze Frame – Guess the Stage)

Now split pupils into groups of three or four. Give each group a word from the stages of the process and ask them to form a freeze frame of that stage. Give pupils 10 minutes to plan their freeze frame. Then the groups take it in turns to perform their freeze frame. Ask the other groups to guess the stage.

See Active Learning and Teaching Methods for Key Stages 1&2, page 30 for guidance on Freeze Frame Activity.

How Does it Work?

  1. Pupils get into small groups;
  2. They are asked to pose in a snapshot which represents the word they have been given;
  3. Pupils should discuss and plan what they are being asked to do and how it might look in a freeze frame;
  4. Alternatively, pupils could act out their word and on the teacher’s command, freeze in scene; then
  5. Pupils take turns to view each other’s freeze frames and guess the word or stage of the process (Pupils should not say the word or stage of the process until all pupils have had an opportunity to view each other’s freeze frames).



Ask pupils to join with another group and review the Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities they used during their freeze frame activity and decide what could be improved. A debrief afterwards could focus on the nature of body language used in the freeze frame, why pupils decided to depict the scene in the way they did, and why others might have depicted the event in a different way.

  • retting
  • breaking
  • scutching
  • hackling
  • drying

Assessment Opportunity

Assessment Opportunity

If you wish to assess pupils’ responses to this lesson, see the suggestion below.

You may wish to use Assessment for Learning strategies of self and peer assessment to encourage pupils to review their Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities used to plan the Freeze Frame Activity and to identify one area for improvement.

Other Activities

Additional Pupil Activities

1. Photo Story Activity

Pupils working in groups could take photographs of a stage of the linen process and use the photographs and some Ulster-Scots words to make an audio visual presentation. (Photo Story 3 software is available in Create tab of MyApps on C2K.)

2. Using Ulster-Scots

Watch Scutching Today to remind pupils of the scutching process. Now provide pupils with an opportunity to listen to poet and author James Fenton as he talks about ‘lint’ – growing it, retting it, drying it and taking it to the lint mill. To encourage active listening, give pupils some linen related words such as ‘lint’, ‘beet’ etc that they have already come across and ask them to listen for them in the audio.

  • retting
  • breaking
  • scutching
  • hackling
  • drying

Links to Curriculum

Cross-Curricular Skills

Cross-Curricular Skills: Communication

Children should be given opportunities to engage with and demonstrate the skill of communication and to transfer their knowledge about communication concepts and skills to real-life meaningful contexts across the curriculum. (Language and Literacy)

Talking and Listening
  • Listen to a range of media texts through the use of traditional and digital resources;
  • Participate in a range of drama activities; and
  • Read Ulster-Scots phrases, inflecting appropriately, to express thoughts and feelings and emphasise the meaning of what they’ve read.
  • Read, explore, understand and make use of a wide range of traditional and digital texts; and
  • Represent their understanding of Ulster-Scots vocabulary in a range of ways, including visual, oral and dramatic.


Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities

  • Thinking, Problem-Solving and Decision-Making (Freeze Frame Activity)
  • Working with Others (Freeze Frame Activity)
  • Being Creative (Freeze Frame Activity)

WAU: History

The World Around Us: History

  • Ways in which the use of natural resources through time has affected the local and global environment.
Change over time
  • Some of the characteristics of past societies and distinctive features of life in the past in rural Ulster; and
  • An aspect of the local or wider community over a short period of time.


Personal Development and Mutual Understanding

Strand 1 (Personal Understanding and Health)
  • Being aware of their different learning styles and being able to identify how they learn best.
Strand 2 (Mutual Understanding in the Local and Wider Community)
  • Know how aspects of their cultural heritage contributes to Northern Ireland today.

Active Learning and Teaching Methods

Active Learning and Teaching Methods for Key Stage 2

These active teaching and learning approaches encourage active participation from pupils, making the learning a more relevant and enjoyable experience.

Pupils, working in groups, may make a freeze frame of one stage of the flax processes. The other groups of pupils may guess the stage.

In partnership with  Ulster Scots Agency