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Classical Childrens Books

Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin Unit Study

Increase your students' enthusiasm for this literary unit with the activities for the 22 chapters of Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin.

Summary of Benjamin West & His Cat Grimalkin

A well written true tale of the famous 18th century American painter, Marguerite Henry captures the life of the young Quaker boy and his companion, Grimalkin.

Benjamin's grandfather was a councilor to the famed Quaker governor, William Penn and his large family stays true to the ideals of the Quaker Society. But Benjamin dreams of being a painter, an activity the Quakers do not partake in.

Can Benjamin be an artist AND a Quaker? And just what does it his cat have to say about it anyway?

Benjamin West Unit Study Guide

Benjamin West Student Study Guide Page Benjamin West Student Teachers Answer Key Page
Student Guide AND Teacher's Answer Key Included
$2.00 Download - 48 pages
Add to Cart button

What is in The Unit Study Guide?

Chapter by Chapter Activities

Each of the 22 chapters has accompanying daily activities. At the rate of one chapter a day, it would take a little over three weeks to complete the unit if reading continues over the weekend. With five lessons per week, it will take four and a half weeks to complete.

See below for a description of the activities for the first two chapters.

Language Arts Activities

To reinforce reading skills, some of the activities focus on comprehension questions. Vocabulary, word study, letter writing, and other skills are sprinkled throughout the chapter activities.

Historical Context

Information is added to help students place the story in its historical context. A map of Pennsylvania reinforces the location of the story, Philadelphia, and the Delaware River.

Quaker Society

Quaker Silhouette

Throughout the book students take notes about Quaker life, dress, food, and culture.

As with all activities, the Teacher's Answer Key (included with the unit study) lists all the relevent information students might glean from individual chapters.

Art Activities

How to Draw A Bear

A variety of hands-on activities, including art activities, are suggested at points relevent to the story. Some of the activities include:
  • How to draw bears, elks, beavers, turtles
  • Sketching faces
  • Mixing colors
  • Feather and ink drawings
  • Paint scenery

Cooking Activities

The kitchen is the central hub or a nineteenth century Quaker Inn. Students can try their own cooking and sampling of:
  • Homemade bread
  • Apple Butter
  • Johnny Cakes
  • Churn Butter
  • Caraway Cakes
  • Whipped Silabub

More Hands on Fun

Benjamin did a lot more than eat and paint. Of course, we wouldn't expect our kids to do ALL the chores he had to do, but they might like to do some of these activities to complement the story:
  • Play horseshoes
  • Measure a cat's tail
  • Blow a conch shell
  • Make a rag bag
  • Italicize words

Chapter One Activites from Benjamin West Unit Study Guide

Introduction: This is a story about a boy named Benjamin West (and of course, his cat.) Benjamin was a real boy from a Quaker family. In addition to learning about him, you may learn a lot about the Quakers, particularly as they lived in Pennslyvania in 1748. (Keep in mind everyone talks, dresses, and lives differently from how people lived 250 years ago - not just Quakers.)

The author has a prologue at the beginning of the book. I recommend you read it after you read the rest of the book.

In this unit study, there are a variety of activities. We will tell you if we think you should do them before or after reading the chapter.


New Terms

Here are three words you will see in the chapter that might be new to you. From the context, see if you can determine which definition goes with which term. Match the words and definitions. WORDS:
  • Latch
  • Sidelong Glance
  • Lanthorn
  1. A lantern made from a cow’s horn
  2. A fasterner for a door or gate
  3. To look at someone from the side of your eyes

Archaic Words

The Quakers used these words: “thee,” “thou,” and “thine.” These are words for “you” or “yours” from about 1500. They were used in the King James Bible that was translated in 1511 and are still used by some religious groups.


A dialect is a distinct pattern of speech. Authors write different dialects to try to imitate the speech of different people. Notice the author uses words and phrases to reflect the dialect of the German guests and even the cat.

About The Quakers

The last pages provide space to make a list of things you have learned about the Quakers from the 18th century. In Chapter One, make a note of anything you learn about their clothing.

Comprehension Questions

Space is given for students to write the answers to the questions. Answers are provided in the Teacher's Key.
  • Why do you think the inn is named “Door Latch Inn?”
  • How did the mother cat accept the kitten that was not hers?

Word Usage: Compound Words

Here are some compound words in this chatper:
  • nightcap
  • moonlight
  • scarecrow
  • coattails
  • stairway
  • grownups
  • cobblestone
  • teapot
  • tiptoe
Write some compound words of your own.

Apple Butter

Let’s make some apple butter. You will need:
  • 3 pounds of crisp apples (chopped)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of apple cider
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
Optional: You may put the apples through a blender which will give you a smoother butter.
Combine the ingredients. Bring to a boil in a Dutch oven. Simmer 30 minutes or until thick.

Adult Supervision

They “pinched out” a candle. How did they do that?

Chapter Two Activities for Benjamin West and His Cat Unit Study

More About Quakers

Continue to add to your list of characteristics of 18th century Quakers. What did you learn about their family life?


Pennsylvania map for Benjamin West home

The map shows the town of Springfield, Pennsylvania (the smaller dot.) The larger city of Philadelphia is also shown. Trace the outline of Pennsylvania.

Chapter Questions

  • What was Jacob’s dream?
  • What was Benjamin’s dream?
  • Do you have a dream about what you would like to be?
  • Why did Benjamin want to cry at the end of the chapter?

Hands On Activities

Feather Bed Have you ever put your head on a feather pillow? What would an entire feather bed feel like?

Conch Shell Blow on a conch shell. If you don’t have a shell, blow across the top of a glass bottle. How far away do you think it could be heard?

Buy the Unit Study Guide

Benjamin West Student Study Guide Page Benjamin West Student Teachers Answer Key Page
Student Guide AND Teacher's Answer Key Included
$2.00 Download - 48 pages
Add to Cart button


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