"James & the Giant Peach" Primary Literacy Activities

A classic children's book takes elementary school literacy lessons to another dimension. A book such as Roald Dahl's "James and the Giant Peach" works for every elementary school grade. The plot of James and the human-sized insects flying inside a peach holds the attention of young children listening to the story, while the complexities of the characters, such as their abilities to overcome their fears during their journey, work well with older readers. "James and the Giant Peach" is a classic book that is ideal for any primary literacy activity.


Young elementary schoolchildren can listen to "James and the Giant Peach" and work on craft projects afterward. Have students draw each of the characters, such as James, the Glow-worm and the aunts, onto heavy construction paper and colour them with crayons. Cut the characters out and glue them onto craft sticks. Build a large peach tree from play dough, and use the puppets to act out the beginning of the story when the peach grows larger than the aunts' house.

First to Second

Have first- and second-graders listen to a chapter of the book and find new vocabulary words. Spell out and define challenging words, such as "admonition," "traumatised" and "tranquil," that are found in "James and the Giant Peach." Help students use the new words to describe illustrations found in the book, like when James meets the insects inside the giant peach. Assign plot comprehension questions to the children. Groups of students may discuss the answers to questions such as, "Why did the old man give James the magic bag?" and "How did James figure out how to hook the peach onto the seagulls?"

Third to Fourth

By the middle of primary school, most students are reading on their own. Assign students to read specific chapters and work on activities focusing on those sections. Individuals can recreate the scenes, such as the cloud men painting a rainbow, with shoebox dioramas, or present each chapter, such as the arrival into New York city, to the class in an oral book report. Reinforce literacy and critical thinking by having each child write a biography about a character. For example, students could write about the Glow-worm and the role she plays in the story.

Fifth to Sixth

Older elementary schoolchildren are more advanced readers and should participate in writing activities. Ask students about a time when they overcame fears like James and the other characters. Assign students to write essays about their own fears and the strategies each character in the book uses to overcome his fears. Roald Dahl uses poetry in much of the book, and older children can try writing their own poems. Use the book as a method of introducing different kinds of poetry, such as haiku and sonnets.

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About the Author

Charong Chow has been writing professionally since 1995. Her work has appeared in magazines such as "Zing" and "Ocean Drive." Chow graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. She also received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts.