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The Tear Jar Level 6 Comprehension Questions

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The Tear Jar
Level 6 Comprehension Questions

When the children have read pages 2 and 3, ask them to explain how the author has shown what period of history the class are studying.

The children should conclude that they are studying the Romans during the destruction of Pompeii, answers should include:

  • Lena is looking forward to the school trip to the exhibition of Pompeii and Herculaneum

  • The class had been doing a project about the destruction of the two cities on 24 August, AD79

  • The teacher had shown them pictures of Romans

  • The teacher is dressed as a Roman lady

  • They see a photo of Mount Vesuvius erupting.


The author describes how the relationship between Lena and Katy had changed and the impact of this on Lena. Discuss how this impacts the overall mood of the story on pages 9-11.
Discussion should include:

  • The rain is hitting the window and the author has written ‘the weather matched how she (Katy) felt’

  • The time dragged at the service station because Katy was on her own

  • The author has written that Katy felt ‘empty’


On pages 11 and 12 we are introduced to the ‘fluorescent bibs’, discuss the purpose of these and how significant they might be in the overall story.
Children should identify the purpose of these as being to identify the children as being from the school group to stop them sneaking away or getting lost. The name of their school is on the back so they could can easily be identified and returned to the correct group.
Ideas for how significant these might be should include:

- Lena and her friends might try and sneak off from the museum as their behavior in the service station was not good.

- some of the children might get lost in the museum and need to be returned to the group

- it might be dark in the exhibits and the bibs might help them to find each other again.


On page 14 Lena lingers at the cabinet containing small items. Two of these items are described to us. Ask children to discuss how these items might support the overall purpose of the story and how significant they might be.
Discussion should include:

  • One of the items is a ‘tiny blue glass jar’ and the title of the book is ‘the Tear Jar’ so it is likely to be the same item and therefore significant as it is the title of the story.

  • The exhibits are described as ‘little everyday things that had been found in the ruins of Pompeii’ and Katy thinks ‘perhaps these things had belonged to a girl like her’ so maybe she will find out more about this little girl and how the items were ruined.


On pages 18 and 19 there is a change in time period from what has gone before. Ask children to identify how the dialogue helps to show this change, encourage them to find specific examples from the text that show this.
Children should identify:


After reading page 22 ask children to explain in detail how the opening sentence of each paragraph helps to shape the mood and content of this part of the story
Answers should include:

  • paragraph 1 explains the stillness and silence so gives the reader a sense of calm (calm before the storm?). The paragraph then goes on to add a sense of mystery and foreboding by describing the paintings of masks staring at something in the distance.

  • The second paragraph breaks through the sense of stillness by introducing the violent shaking. The rest of the paragraph goes on to describe further bangs and shaking and the effect on the two girls watching.

  • The final paragraph sums up what has happened, leaving the reader in no doubt that the volcano has erupted.

  • The mood of the story therefore changes from calm to extreme violence in the space of three short paragraphs as reflected by the opening sentence of each.


Page 27 contains a long description about the setting and what Elena can see. Ask children to explain what we learn about the pebbles and what this tells the reader about Elena’s understanding of what was happening.
Answers should include:

  • we know that the pebbles have come from the volcano as we know what happened on that day in history.

  • Elena does not understand what is really happening or what the pebbles are – she thinks they have come from the sea and turned to stone. This emphasizes her vulnerability as she does not know the real danger she is in.

  • People at the time of the disaster did not have the advantage of understanding what volcanoes were like we do today.

Low 6

After reading Afranius’ words on page 30, ask the children to explain the view that men had of women during this time in history.
Explanations should include:

  • Rich men (like Livilla’s father) do not listen to women or their slaves so there is no point trying to tell him things if you are a female or slave.

  • Livilla has said earlier that not only will he not listen to her as a child, he will not listen to her mother so we know that it is females rather than just young people.


After reading the detailed description on pages 38 – 40. Discuss how the children (as the readers) feel and how the author has achieved this through the language used.
Discussions should cover the following points:

  • The author has made us feel sorry for Livilla as she has come to apologise and to give Elena her bracelet but then becomes trapped away from her family. She had expected to be told off by her parents but had not expected to not be able to get back to them.

  • The author shows how frantic the people were and how dangerous the situation was by giving details about the lady being trampled and the child slipping from her mother’s grip – this makes the reader feel frightened and scared for the people living through these events.

  • When Livilla is struck on the head with the rock, the reader feels even more frightened as now one of the characters they have empathy with has been hurt.

  • The author creates a sense of further panic and despair when Afranius looks out to sea and cannot see the ship in the harbour.


Draw children’s attention to page 46 where it says that Livilla was standing ‘dazed and nervous’. Discus what this means and why she is feeling both of these things.
Discussions should draw out the following:

-She is feeling dazed because a rock hit her on the head and because she was taken to the boat and away from her family so is confused as to what has happened and what might have happened to her family.

- She is feeling nervous because she does not know what is going to happen next as her family have been left in Pompeii and she does not have a mother and father to look after her. She does not know what will happen to her.


After reading page 58, ask the children how the quotes on this page help us (as readers) to understand what people believed during this historical period?
The children’s discussion should draw out the following:

  • people did not understand what was happening like we do today as they did not understand the science of volcanoes.

  • They believed that the gods had made it happen to punish them and therefore there was nothing they could do.

  • They thought that the world was going to end

  • The people believed that it was targeting them as punishment for something (e.g. ‘the cloud is coming for us’)


After reading page 64, ask children what Elena’s mother means by, ‘You are my daughter now.’
Children should conclude that:

  • Elena’s mother knows that Livilla’s family have died and that she has nobody left to look after her.

  • She knows that Livilla will be sad but nervous about what is going to happen to her.

  • She is telling Livilla that she is welcome into the family and will adopt her as her own daughter so that she has a family again.


After reading, discuss the development of Katy’s character throughout the story.
Discussions should include:

  • In the beginning she had stopped being friends with Lena and was ignoring her.

  • At the service station she was behaving like the other girls in the group and Lena was worried about whether she had thought about her actions.

  • Katy had left Lena to be on her own during the museum visit as she was trying to ‘stay in’ with her new group of friends. She did not consider Lena’s feelings at all at this stage.

  • When she finds Lena at the end she links arms and acts like a friend again, trying to find out what is wrong.

  • Katy then apologises for her previous behavior to Katy and explains that she was sucked in by Carly.

In summary:

  • Katy has been weak throughout the story by following Carly and her group of friends and dropping her friendship with Lena

  • At the end she is a strong character again as she admits her mistakes and makes it right with Lena by doing so. She does not simply say sorry but explains how wrong she had been and how important Lena is to her.

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