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Donny Morrison

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A Spelling Seed for Varmints


KS: Lower KS2

Year Group: Year 4

Literary Theme: Finding Freedom

Author(s): Helen Ward


This is a three-session spelling seed for the book Varmints by Helen Ward.  Below is the coverage from Appendix 1 of the National Curriculum 2014.

Spelling Seeds have been designed to complement Writing Roots by providing weekly, contextualised sequences of sessions for the teaching of spelling that include open-ended investigations and opportunities to practise and apply within meaningful and purposeful contexts, linked (where relevant) to other areas of the curriculum and a suggestion of how to extend the investigation into home learning.

There is a Spelling Seed session for every week of the associated Writing Root.


Word List Words

decide, guide, important, learn, natural, notice, possible, group

Spelling Rules and Patterns

Words with endings sounding like /ʒə/ or /tʃə/

The suffix -ation

A Writing Root is available for Varmints.

Writing Root Overview:

This updated version of the Writing Root for Varmints was produced in August 2023.  If you have used the previous version in the past and would like a copy of the resource, please email us at info@literacytree.com.


Diary entry, instructions, letter, description, speech 

Main Outcome:

Explanation of a life cycle


16 sessions, 3+ weeks

Overview and Outcomes:

This is a three-week Writing Root using the film (which can be found online) and text of Varmints by Helen Ward and Marc Craste. The sequence of learning starts with children entering the classroom to find seeds and flowers mysteriously left with an urgent letter of appeal from the main protagonist in the text, urging children to look after them and learn all they can about these gifts. Children will go on to plant the seeds and write instructions about the process, collecting subject-specific vocabulary as they go. Children will also dissect the flowers left behind, identifying and labelling the various parts and explaining their various roles in reproduction and pollination. Children will be given opportunities to describe flowers, write letters and make speeches to a secret society of gardeners who plan to change the world through the power of nature. This series of lessons culminates in children writing an explanation text about the life cycle of a plant with a clear structure. 

Synopsis of Text:

Once, the only sounds to be heard were the buzzing of bees in the grass, the murmuring of moles in the earth, and the song of birds in the sky. These warmed the hearts of those who cared to listen - until the others came to fill the sky with a cacophony of noise. With dramatically lit artwork and a spare, intriguing text, Varmints tells of a pastoral world in need of protection and of the souls who love it enough to ensure its regeneration.

Text Rationale:

Covering themes of hope, environmentalism and the cyclical nature of life, this surreal and haunting text provides links to many areas of the curriculum including science, geography, PSHE and art.  Helen Ward is a significant children’s author and children will enjoy exploring many of her other titles including The Tin Forest (which addresses similar themes) and The Dragon Machine.  There is also a BAFTA and Oscar-nominated accompanying short film which will support children’s learning and lead to discussion about how to look after the places we live.  

Links and themes:

Environment, environmentalism, habitats, conservation, activism, film, life-cycles, hope

Date written: May 2013

Updated: August 2023

View Varmints Writing Root

Literary Leaves within the same Literary Theme

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