"James and the Giant Peach," Roald Dahl's well known tale of a young boy who leaves life with his miserable aunts by escaping in a house-sized peach, is a popular book to read in the upper elementary grades. In addition to the standard book discussions, vocabulary lessons and comprehension questions, there are several fun classroom activities to get students involved in their learning.
James travels in the peach with a variety of bugs including a spider, grasshopper and an earthworm. Talk to students about the difference between types of animals, focusing on how not all bugs are insects. Have students each select an animal in the book to learn more about and classify it and learn about related animals. Invite students to share what they have learnt and make a list of the types of animals that James lives with while in the peach.
Create a Peach
Let students use their knowledge of the story to create a replica of James' peach. Have students work together to create papier mache models of what the peach looked like from the outside, or provide a variety of art materials such as markers, coloured pencils and paint for students to create a diagram of what the inside of the peach looks like. Encourage students to use details from the story and their own imagination to build their peach homes.
Provide students with a chance to explore fresh peaches to help them get a sense for the peach in the story. Give students several peaches and allow them to feel, smell and taste them. Use magnifying glasses to get a closer look at the bumfluff and pits. Discuss student findings after exploring the peach and if possible, introduce students to other pitted fruits such as cherries and nectarines and give them a chance to compare fruits and decide in which they would prefer to travel.
Watch the Movie
Once your class has finished reading the entire book, reward your students by letting them watch the "James and the Giant Peach" movie. Once you have finished viewing the movie, lead students in a conversation about the similarities and differences in the book and movie. Use a Venn diagram to help students organise their thoughts about the two different presentations of the story.