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The Cat Who Beckons

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By Jan Williamsauthor

This story, written by storyteller Jan Williams, is perfect for reading aloud. Set in Japan, the story has a traditional feel, centring on the mischievous adventures of Kiyoko, the bobtail cat.

It provides a fun way to introduce the children to storytelling, as Kiyoko’s skill in telling his story inspires the Master to make him into the storytelling cat. The Japanese background is inspired by the little statuettes of ‘the cat who beckons’ a nobleman to safety in a great lightning storm.

These teachers’ notes accompany the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS Ages 9 to 11, September 2008.

The Cat Who Beckons image

Reading the text

  • Discuss the story’s title. What do the children think it is about? Why might the cat be beckoning?
  • Elicit how a writer knows when to begin a new paragraph.
  • Read through the story together as a class or group.
  • Elicit how we know Kiyoko is telling the stories (speech marks are used in the text). Who else speaks? Note that a new line is started when there is a change of speaker. Clarify any misunderstandings regarding the use of speech marks.
  • After reading the story, think about the line, ‘The monks all turned to look at him with an expression of wonder on their gentle faces.’ Why do they have this expression? Why is the room already full of cats?

Previous learning

Children should have read a selection of stories from other cultures in guided and shared reading sessions. They should also have an understanding of the tradition of oral storytelling.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To tell a story using notes designed to cue techniques;
  • To make notes on, and use evidence from across a text to explain events or ideas;
  • To use speech marks and paragraphs;
  • To devise a performance considering how to adapt it for a specific audience.

Responding to the story

  • List Kiyoko’s adventures as actions and consequences. Ask the children to discuss these in pairs and feedback, writing them on the board.
  • How do we know that the story is set in another country/culture? Are there clues before the line, ‘ladies here in Japan …’? Discuss subject-specific words – eg, tea ceremony, kimono.
  • How would the children describe the opening? How does it set up the development of the story? What do they infer about Kiyoko from it? What words or phrases make us empathise with Kiyoko?
  • Identify the variety of sentence types within the text.
  • Look at the section from: ‘The Master flung back his head’ to, ‘they love to hold a tea ceremony.’ Elicit how we know this is spoken language (speech marks) and discuss the use of the ellipsis. Explain what an ellipsis is.
  • Complete the SAT-style activity sheet below.

Further reading

The British Museum Book of Cats: Ancient and Modern Juliet Clutton-Brock (British Museum Press 978 07141 17584).

Follow-up to guided reading

  • Explain that storytellers often use prompt cards. Ask the children to make a set of cards, which Kiyoko could use to tell of his adventures. Emphasise the use of phrases or words, rather than sentences.
  • Ask the children to make another set of cards, telling a different set of adventures, seen from the point of view of an animal of their choice. What did the animal get up to? Link this to the actions and consequences previously prepared.
  • Rewrite one of Kiyoko’s adventures from the viewpoint of the person Kiyoko annoyed.
  • Research other animals which are sacred or important in other cultures.
  • Complete the, ‘A Smart Summary’ activity sheet below, which considers when to use paragraphs.

Speaking and listening

  • Create freeze-frames for different sections of the story.
  • Using the cards prepared earlier, ask the children to practise telling their story, embellishing it with description and detail as they talk.

Plenary

  • Hold a storytelling session in the class, using the prompt cards that the children prepared. Perform the stories for the youngest children in the school.
  • Ask the children to read their stories in the role of someone who was annoyed by Kiyoko.

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