James and the Giant Peach first published in 1961 is a popular novel, by Roald Dahl that has plenty of material which can be used in primary classroom.
In the speaking and listening aspect of literacy the children could talk about the book, the characters and reflect on their favourite parts of the novel. When reading the children can experiment with different voices and think about how Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker would speak when insulting James.
The novel has unusual characters. There are the two villainous aunts and lots of creatures that James encounters inside the peach. The children can analyse the characters and look at the language used to create a vivid character. The children can then write their own villains and heroes or adapt James and the Giant Peach.
The centipede has lots of pairs of boots for his legs. There is the opportunity to create number problems around this looking at doubling, pairs and multiplication. They could look at counting the insects inside the peach, or counting the number of legs each creature has such as eight for the spider. There is the opportunity to look at distance and the children could work out the destination from where they live to New York or from where they live to England.
The book makes an excellent link in with the topic of mini beasts. Roald Dahl subtly includes through characterisation the different skills the creature has, such as the grasshopper’s unique sound, the spider spinning a web and the centipede having lots of legs. Using information books or computers the children could research information about mini-beasts or creatures they like and find out habitats, what they look like, eat and their purpose such as the ladybird eating greenflies.
The book on several occasions has poetry interspersed in the prose. This could be linked in with music. Musicians could think of the kind of melody that would suit the poetry in the book.
Musical effects could be created by groups of children, such as using percussion to create the sound of the sea, birds, emotions such as panic or excitement and the sound of the rain.
James is an unhappy boy when he lives with his nasty aunts. PSHE topics such as loneliness, unhappiness and friendship are themes that can be used during this lesson or circle time activities.
The book gives two contrasting locations when it talks about the isolated quiet coast where James lives and the busy city in America. Comparing and contrasting two very different places could be a starting point for a Geography topic. Depending upon age and the ability the children could find where the UK and the USA are on a glove. There is also the opportunity to find out about favourite landmarks which could also be linked to research in ICT.
Whether it is finding out about the author one of the countries mentioned in the novel there is plenty of opportunity to research information.
The children could paint or draw what they think the gigantic peach looked like inside. A model peach could be used for display using a ball, balloon or papier-mâché. On the display boards scenes from the book could be painted or a display of characters, and the seaside scene created.
This book is not only fun but immediately inspires children to imagine. The above examples are some ideas for educational activities.