Binky the Space Cat - Teachers’ Guide

Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires (2009, Kids Can Press)

Suggestions for Teachers
Dr. Bev Brenna, U of S

  1. Consider the understandings students should utilize in reading graphic novels, and either teach these ahead of time, or elicit them from the students during the unit of study:
    1. Narrator’s text box
    2. Onomatopoeia
    3. Meaning related to size of print
    4. Directionality of story frames
    5. Differences between story frames in terms of perspective (wide angle, long shot, close-up, panorama)
    6. Use of colour
  2. Consider the types of reading strategies on which to focus:
    1. Making connections to self, text, and world
    2. Rehearsed rereading for oral fluency and sight word development
    3. Summarizing
    4. Making predictions
    5. What to do when encountering a hard word (guessing from the picture and checking to the actual letters using phonics; looking for a little known word within an unfamiliar word; looking for a familiar word part/word family; thinking about what would make sense and then checking to the actual letters using phonics, etc)
  3. Response activities (see below for webbing of ideas)
Recommended Teacher Resources

Booth, D., & Lundy, K. (2007). In Graphic Detail. Markham, ON: Scholastic.

Hart, M. (2010). Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom. Westminster, CA: Teacher Created Resources.

Thurman, M., & Hearn, E. (2010). Get Graphic! Markham, ON: Pembroke.

Webbing Framework (adapted from Charlotte Huck)
Literature Selection: Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires

**a mix of response activities intended for grades 1 - 5

Art Activities

Use the materials in the Art Centre and experiment with your own collage versions of Binky.

Use found materials to present a glass-jar-scape of the provisions Binky might take with him on his space expedition. Take a digital photograph of the jar for your portfolio and then return the materials to the box.

Paint the new rocket ship Binky invents.

Considering Alternatives

What if Binky accidentally got outside? How might the story change?

What if Binky hadn’t liked his humans?

What if Binky had never received the letter from FURST?

What if Binky had received a letter from another organization?

Creative Writing

Brainstorm descriptive words for your jar-scape (above).

How might Binky have learned to build rocket ships? Develop Binky’s backstory to explain his skill.

Write a dialogue Binky and Ted might have about Binky’s space travel ideas.

Have you ever wanted to travel to outer space? Explore your ideas for a trip through poetry or autobiographical narrative.

Think about Binky’s job in protecting his humans from aliens. Consider a fictional character you may be working on in writers’ workshop; what is this character’s main purpose in life? Sketch this information in prose or thumbnail sketch format.

Write a plea in card from from one of the “aliens.”

Drama

Characters A & B improvise a scene where A is Binky, and B is one of the aliens.

Work in a small group to create a tableau of Binky and his family. Use Voice in the Head to highlight details from the book.

Hotseat Binky regarding the ways he is important.

Develop a monologue as Binky, Ted, or an alien from the story, and present it to the class.

Improvise a conversation between Binky and Sergeant Fluffy Vandermore where Binky confides that he doesn’t want to be a Space Cat.

Interdisciplinary Research Ideas

Ask three questions about cat care regarding city cats and search out the answers.

What does a balanced diet look like for cats?

What natural predators eat flies?

What stages does a graphic novel go through before it’s published? Send some questions to the author in terms of process.

Literary Awareness

Have you heard the phrase “Man cannot live by bread alone?” Do you know where it came from? What does it mean in the context of this story? How might we rewrite the phrase in our own words?

Binky was happy to be considered a Space Cat. Are astronauts valuable to society? Why? Why not?

What is the setting of the story? How does the author introduce the setting in the story?

How do readers get to know Binky’s personality?

Personal Response

In what ways does Binky remind you of yourself or anyone you know?

How did Binky deal with being bored and cooped up at home? How do you deal with being inside on a rainy Saturday?

Would you choose to go to space by yourself, or would you take others with you? Why? Draw a picture of your own trip to space.

Add ten words to the class list of ‘favourites.’ After everyone has had a turn, choose one word and illustrate it for the ‘Favourite Word Book’.

What questions would you have for Ashley Spires, author of this book? Locate her contact email address and send her the class’s list.

Related Literature

Compare Binky the Space Cat with other titles in the Binky series by Ashley Spires. What are some similarities? Differences?

Compare Spires’ illustrations here to other texts such as Small Saul and Penguin and the Cupcake.

Compare Binky to Mister Got to Go, the cat in a picture book of the same name by Lois Simmie.

Compare Binky to Chester by Melanie Watt. Make a comparison chart like Spires did when she compared aliens and bugs on page 24.

Values Clarification

Was it right of Binky’s humans to keep him inside? Discuss.

In what ways can our imagination support us in our lives?

Other

Music: Find a song that you think represents Binky in some way (i.e. Binky’s period of preparing for space travel).

Critical Literacy: From whose perspective is the story told? How does this make the story unique?

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