When I'm teaching, making resources or preparing for this blog, I'm always picking up and reading children's books. The books I enjoy (and there are plenty I don't) tend to divide up into four main groups:
- Books I love due to pure nostaligia: toasty warm blankets of childhood memories, between whose pages I can slip in and wallow for a while.
- Books that make great teaching aids: things that make my head pop and fizz with ideas for games, immersive activities, silly songs, and mad discussions.
- Books I appreciate, and would recommend to students, but cannot really get into myself: I just can't lose myself in the characters and the story, or I appreciate the genre but it's not 'for me'.
Varjak Paw by SF Said is in the fourth catagory:
- Simply great books. No matter the age, no matter the audience.
The plot is simple but deceptively layered, with interesting lessons about family and personal responsibility. It draws readers into a nighttime city populated by stray cats and dogs, and delivers a hero who trains in The Way (somewhere between supernatural cat kung-fu or a feline Jedi 'Force'), led by dreams of a famous ancestor. Despite using familiar themes, Varjak Paw always feels fresh. It manages to blend the epic and personal in a way that reaches out to the reader.
This blog post contains:
A Reading Comprehension
A Verbs of Movement Vocabulary Activity
Varjak Paw is a great book for reluctant readers, a challenge for younger students making the transition from chapter books to longer-form narrative, and particularly good for teaching kids to write action effectively. It has a surprisingly broad vocabulary for a book with a younger target audience (it won the 2003 Smarties Gold Award for the 6–8 years age range). I particulary enjoy reading it out loud with students, and it has the extra benefit of a wonderful sequel for those obsessed with reading a series!
If you haven't already, I hope you pick up a copy. Please enjoy the resources.
This 40 minute comprehension is suitable for 8+ / 9+ or as an early 10+ challenge. The introduction suggests a route for teaching students to always write their best responses, no matter the mark scheme.
Walk Like a Cat
This is a fun way of introducing a whole bunch of new verbs to your student, and stop an over-reliance on "go", "walk" and "run" to indicate a character's movements. Almost all stories have at least some movement, so these are great words to absorb!
As always, if you have any feedback or questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org