The Star Beast
30 October 2008Add to My Folder
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Poster 1 features the opening of a classic short science fiction story by Nicholas Stuart Gray. A strange creature arrives at the door of a farmhouse, injured and needing attention. His arrival follows the sighting of a strange streak of light through the sky and a huge bang and flash of fire. The creature is like no other the farmer and his wife have ever seen and draws people from all around to gaze and wonder. Could he be from outer space?
Shared learning and teaching
- Discuss the title with the children. What do they think the text will be about? Discuss what a Star Beast might be. The children could create their own drawing of what they think it might look like.
- Read the first line together. Why has the author chosen this line? ‘Soon upon a time, and not so far ahead…’ How is this different to other stories?
- Look at the figurative language within the extract. What does this make us think about? Why?
By the time they reach Year 5, children should have read and written a variety of science fiction texts.
Key learning outcomes:
- To work in role/use drama to explore complex issues and themes;
- To compare different types of narrative and how they are structured;
- To explore how writers create dramatic effect, coherence and impact;
- To adapt sentence construction to text type, purpose, readers.
- What would have happened to the beast if it had gone to another house and not the farmhouse?
- Why were the farmer and his wife so kind?
- How do we know this is science fiction? What clues are there in the text to show this genre?
- What is the main theme of the extract? Is there more than one theme?
- How would the creature feel with everyone coming to stare at it?
- Why did they want to see it?
- How has the author created impact in the text?
- What does it make you feel?
- Does it make you think of another similar text? Why?
Group and guided activities
- In small groups, let the children brainstorm ideas about the extract, thinking of questions they would like to ask the farmer, the farmer’s wife and the beast. They could then hot seat the characters to find out the answers to their questions.
- Create freeze-frames using sections of the extract – such as when the beast first comes to the farmhouse and when the villagers come to look at the beast. Compare the differences in emotions.
- Create space diaries of the beast and how it got to the farmhouse and what the children think happened to the creature from day to day.
- Write newspaper reports of the beast’s discovery at the farmhouse. Think about the audience you are writing for: is it for adults or children; a formal broadsheet or more informal newsletter?
- Use the activity sheet to continue the story, writing in the style of the extract.
About the author
Nicholas Stuart Gray (1922-1981) was a British actor and playwright, best-known for his work in children’s theatre, but who also wrote many fantasy stories for children. He wrote a number of novels, a dozen plays, and many short stories. The Star Beast originally appeared in his collection Mainly in Moonlight, published in 1965.
Links with ICT
- Use a digital camera to record the children as they perform their freeze-frames.
- Use a tape recorder to record the creature’s thoughts. Play this within the different freeze-frames.
Speaking and listening
- Draw the outlines of figures from the story. Discuss different words to describe each of these characters then write them down inside the character outlines. The children can use these to help them in their drama.
- Create your own news reports with the children taking on the role of reporter, farmer, farmer’s wife and eyewitnesses.
Share the children’s drama with the other groups and discuss how the drama helped or made an impact on their writing activities.