Roald Dahl’s novels feed the imaginative with wit, humour and gore. The Witches is one of his novels that has plenty of scope for cross curricular educational activities. The book is exciting, filled with suspense and can be used as a class reader to explore different themes.
The book has several examples of verse that the Grand High Witch uses. The children can create their own verses about witches experimenting with particular poetic forms such as acrostic, blank verse or limericks. The subject matter also lends itself to instructional texts. The boy in the story has to recognise witches. Children could write instructions for spotting a witch or training a mouse. The Grand Witch gives the other witches a recipe for the Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker. Recipes could be made up related to the theme of the book. Both non fiction and fiction novels can be analysed to show the differences between the two.
Mathematical problems based on the book can be made up. These can range from the number of witches at a conference, multiples of two with the pairs of gloves and shoes they wear to hide their identity. Distance and time can be looked at such as the distance between Norway and England or the distances between Bournemouth (where the conference is held) and another UK city.
There are references to mice and frogs. Computers can be used for research information about animals, Roald Dahl’s novels or the author. The children could use different fonts and use software to create posters and Artwork related to the book.
Looking at animals and habitats is another area of study that can be explored. In the books the main reference is to mice. The unnamed narrator has two mice he looks after and when he becomes one Grandma researches the lifespan of mice and their dietary needs. The children could research their favourite animals.
Throughout history witches have been a part of many cultures from famous saints accused of witchcraft to myths and legends in folklore. In the novel Grandma is a keen storyteller linked back to her Norwegian heritage. The children could explore cultures and their traditions.
The boy and Grandma stay in Hotel Magnificent and a plan of Hotel Magnificent can be drawn or the castle where the Grand High Witch resides. The two different countries featured in the book, Norway and England can be compared and contrasted.
The quirky illustrations by Quentin Blake can be used as a starting point to help readers draw their own pictures. Examples of witches can be painted or drawn based on Roald Dahl’s descriptions in the book. Warning posters on how to spot a witch can also be used. In Design and Technology the children could create their own contraptions to help a mouse move around a house.
In the book there is a strong message about being wary of strangers. When the narrator first meets the Grand High Witch he thinks she is a beautiful young woman until she takes off her mask. This theme in the book is useful for exploring how sometimes wicked people can hide behind a beautiful mask.
In conclusion Roald Dahl’s imaginative novel is a great starting point across the curriculum. Whether it is writing recipes making up rhymes or drawing the characters the book has something to offer every child.