Teaching “The BFG” by Roald Dahl: Ideas for Upper Elementary Students

Teaching The BFG

In The BFG, author Roald Dahl introduces a friendly but outcast giant and an orphan named Sophie. Upon entering their world, readers find a never-ending chance to learn about context clues and figurative language, all while enjoying a delightful story.

Creating good writers starts with encouraging students to love words, and teaching The BFG provides many opportunities to simply enjoy the sounds and appearance of words. Encourage students to have fun with the book and its activities, rather than becoming too focused on the lessons themselves.


  • Students will identify similes and metaphors in the novel.
  • Students will write similes and metaphors for use in their own writing.
  • Students will explore the use of context clues to provide meaning for unfamiliar words.


  • Copy the paragraph beginning “It’s a winksquiffler!” of the chapter entitled “Dream-Catching” to an overhead transparency. (You may use any selection that contains a number of nonsense words.)
  • Ask students to read the passage and write down words that are unfamiliar to them.

Direct Instruction

  • Have students read their lists from the introductory activity while you circle the words they mention on the transparency.
  • Ask, “What was the giant saying about the dream he caught?” Solicit various ideas from the students.
  • Ask, “How could you tell what the giant was saying, if you didn’t recognize the words? What helped you know his meaning?” Draw the students to the conclusion that they used the rest of the words and sentences to figure out what the nonsense words meant.
  • Discuss using context clues to help decipher unfamiliar words in other texts.
  • Review the definitions of simile and metaphor with students.
  • Ask the students to locate examples of each from the first chapter of the novel.

Independent Practice

  • Assign a chapter each to teams of students. Ask them to locate the nonsense (or otherwise unfamiliar) words in their chapter and make a glossary of definitions. Each entry should include the word, the meaning the students believe it to have, and the context clues they used to decide on the meaning.
  • Student teams should locate, categorize, and copy the similes and metaphors in the book.
  • Individually, students should pick out several of the similes and metaphors from the list that they particularly like and record them in their writing journals.
  • Provide an array of dissimilar items and allow students to create similes and metaphors to compare them. Students should record the examples in their writing journals for use in future writing exercises.


  • Read “Jabberwocky” with students and continue the practice in using context clues to determine meaning of unfamiliar or made-up words.
  • Have students write descriptive poems or paragraphs using both the figurative comparisons from the novel and those they created themselves.

If you have other ideas for teaching The BFG, be sure to leave them in the comments section below.