Teaching Roald Dahl’s ‘The BFG’ in Elementary School: Four Ideas

A Quick Summary

If you’re about to read BFG to your class, for the first time, no doubt you’ve already read — and loved — it before.

Here’s a quick plot summary of BFG, if you want to give your class a "heads-up" about what’s to come.

This is the story of Sophie, an orphan who has a hard time getting to sleep one night. She gets out of bed and walks over to the window in her orphanage, only to see a giant! He’s stopping at each window and blowing something inside, and when he comes to her window and sees her, he snatches her and goes home with her to his cave in the desert.

Once home, he tells Sophie that what he was blowing was dreams into the children’s minds along his walk. The other giants out there in the desert are twice as large as he is, and they eat children everywhere. Luckily for Sophie, though, he only eats snozzcumbers. When the evil giants decide to eat the children in England, Sophie comes up with a plan to stop them.

Comparing and Contrasting with Dahl’s other Heroes

As you read through The BFG, and your children learn more and more about Sophie, you can ask your children to draw a character map about her. Have your students write Sophie’s name in a circle in the middle, and draw spokes outward from the circle. At the end of each spoke, have your children write an adjective that describes her. "Brave," "creative," "lonely," "anxious" and others may come to mind.

Then, some of your students may have been exposed to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Have your students consider what all three heroes have in common. All three have lost at least one parent, for example; all three spend a great deal of time encountering significant obstacles without a parent nearby to help. (Yes, Grandpa Joe goes through the factory with Charlie, but he acts more like an older friend than a parental figure.)

Give your class a chance to make character maps of Charlie and James. If not all of your students have been exposed to those stories, split the class into groups, and make sure that each group has one or two members who know the stories. Have each group make a map. When everyone is done, give an opportunity to share with the class as a whole.

Reading “Dreams”

Another interesting lesson for Roald Dahl’s The BFG involves the chapter called "Dreams." It is very long, in comparison to most of the other chapters, so to keep your students engaged, tell them that the chapter contains the nightmares and good dreams that the BFG had found. You might also ask your students to be thinking about their own nightmares and dreams that they can remember.

When your class is done with the chapter, give your students some choices for activities:

  • Write the story of a good dream that you had recently.
  • Write the story of a nightmare that you had recently.
  • Draw pictures from a good dream (or nightmare) that you had recently.

Hand Puppet Theater

This lesson is good to use at the end of a study unit on The BFG.

Give each student in your class a character from the story, and a brown paper lunch sack. With markers, pipe cleaners, stickers, and other supplies, let each student choose a character (make sure each character is chosen at least once), and make a hand puppet out of the paper sack. The puppets should look the way your student imagines him or her after having heard the book.

Giants on the Wall

This is a good group activity that you can start near the beginning of the novel unit and then expand as you get closer to the end of the book.

Using butcher paper, make an outline about eight feet tall for the BFG. As children have spare time, they can use this as an art center, and fill it in, drawing parts of the BFG as they imagine him.

When you get closer to the end of the novel, make outlines for Butcher Boy, Bonecruncher, Manhugger, Meatdripper, Childchewer, Maidmasher, Fleshlumpeater, and Bloodbottler. Split your class into eight groups, and give each group a giant. If it will help with class morale, draw numbers to see which group should choose first. Each group should draw that giant, and then all can be displayed when they are finished.