Scuttle Bug

story by Shaye Wardrop , illustrated by Queenie Chan

Learning intention:

I am learning to construct word clines so that I can investigate how vocabulary choices create meaning in texts.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify vocabulary that contribute to the mood of a text.
  • I can create a word cline using synonyms.
  • I can describe why an author may have chosen specific vocabulary for a text.


Read the story as a class or listen to the audio recording. Ensure students understand the setting and situation of the story by asking the following questions (sample answers are given in brackets):

  • When do you think this is set? (The future)
  • Where do you think this is set? (A city somewhere)
  • What is the genre of this narrative? (Post-apocalyptic)
  • What clues tell you it’s post-apocalyptic? (Buildings are in disrepair, children don’t go to school, grow caves suggest food has to be grown underground, there is mention of a time “before”, supposedly nothing is left beyond the city)
  • What do you think the apocalyptic event was? (Climate change, nuclear war, zombie apocalypse)


Explain that a post-apocalyptic story usually portrays a certain bleak mood, and that the author selects specific vocabulary to convey this mood. Instruct students to study the text closely to find examples of vocabulary that contribute to the post-apocalyptic mood. Answers may include:

  • crumbling
  • tattered
  • broken
  • dusty
  • rusty
  • smashed-up
  • soggy


Invite students to share their answers with the class. Choose a word from the students’ answers and write it on the board. As a class, come up with synonyms for that word, then place the words from weakest to strongest in a word cline.


For example, write the word “crumbling” on the board. Students might suggest synonyms such as decaying, fragmenting, disintegrating, deteriorating, collapsing, and decide to order them from weakest to strongest like this:

  1. decaying
  2. fragmenting
  3. disintegrating
  4. deteriorating
  5. crumbling
  6. collapsing


Discuss with students why they decided to place the word “crumbling” where they did on the cline (for example, it is the second-most dangerous condition, behind collapsing). Look at the context of the word in the text and ask students why the author might have chosen this word over its synonyms (for example, a collapsing road doesn’t make sense unless it’s raised, so crumbling is the strongest word to portray the poor condition of the street).


In groups of three or four, students are to choose a different word from the list and repeat the task. They should:

  • List synonyms
  • Order the synonyms from weakest to strongest
  • Describe why the author might have chosen this particular word for the text.


Once complete, have groups share their answers with the class.