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Matilda by Roald Dahl

Teacher Guide by Elizabeth Pedro

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Elementary School Category!

Student Activities for Matilda Include:

Matilda by Roald Dahl is a novel about an extraordinary young girl. Despite having a family who doesn't care about her, Matilda’s brilliance, charm, and special powers keep readers rooting for her from beginning to end. This is a great lesson plan for elementary to teach figurative language, themes, and analyzing characters.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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A Quick Synopsis of Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda’s parents don’t particularly like her; they are just waiting to flick her off like an old scab. Unlike her parents, Matilda is an amazing, intelligent young girl who taught herself to read by the age of four. Matilda is able to walk herself to the library while her parents are at work or playing Bingo. First, she read all of the children’s books, but when she finished with those, Mrs. Phelps, the librarian, recommends books from famous adult authors: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, and more. Matilda reads them all.

Mr. Wormwood is a second-hand car dealer, and very proud of the way he cheats his customers. Matilda expresses her disapproval, and in response, he calls her names like “ignorant little squirt." Matilda's blood boils when called such names and she makes a decision that every time her father or mother are beastly to her, she will get them back.

Matilda puts superglue in her dad’s hat, hides a parrot in the chimney and pretends it’s a ghost, and adds platinum blonde hair dye into her dad’s hair product. After each act of retaliation, her parents go into a state of panic which helps Matilda feel content for a while.

When Matilda begins attending Crunchem Hall Primary School, she is assigned to Miss Honey’s class. On the first day of school, Miss Honey quizzes her on math and reading, and realizes that Matilda is gifted. Miss Honey speaks to Miss Trunchbull, the cruel Headmistress, to describe Matilda’s brilliance, and to move her to the top class in the school. Miss Trunchbull immediately squashes Miss Honey’s requests, and accuses Matilda of being a naughty girl. After getting nowhere with Miss Trunchbull, Miss Honey decides go straight to Matilda’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood are more interested in watching their television program than hearing about their gifted daughter. Miss Honey leaves both surprised and disgusted at the Wormwoods’ disinterest in Matilda.

Matilda befriends Lavender, a gutsy and adventurous little girl. The two meet an older schoolmate named Hortensia. Hortensia explains the pranks played on Miss Trunchbull, and all the horrible things Miss Trunchbull does to children. For example, when she put powerful itching powder in Miss Trunchbull’s pants, “The Trunchbull” grabbed her by the ear and stuck her in the Chokey, a very narrow cupboard with bits of broken glass sticking out so you can’t lean or sit down. Soon, Matilda and Lavender see Miss Trunchbull in action. Without much effort, Miss Trunchbull hurls a little girl with pigtails across the playground and a day later forces a boy to eat an enormous chocolate cake in front of the entire school.

Lavender develops a plan to put a newt in Miss Trunchbull’s water jug. When Miss Trunchbull sits down at her desk and pours herself a glass of water, the slimy newt plops out into the glass and puts Miss Trunchbull in a panic. She yells at Matilda, calling her a “disgusting little cockroach” and “a filthy little maggot”. Being accused of something she did not do, makes Matilda so angry she feels like something might explode inside her; she focuses on the glass of water on Miss Trunchbull’s desk. The strength inside her continues to build, Matilda whispers “tip it”, and the glass of water spills right over onto Miss Trunchbull. Miss Trunchbull screams in alarm and anger. Seeing as nobody from the class moved, Miss Trunchbull has a hard time proving who did it and marches out of the classroom angrily.

After this eventful afternoon, Miss Honey sends the class out to the playground. Matilda stays behind and confides in Miss Honey; she explains how she was able to tip over the glass with her eyes. Miss Honey doesn’t believe her at first and has Matilda try it again. When Matilda is able to do it a second time, Miss Honey is shocked. She invites Matilda to her cottage to explore her abilities further.

Matilda is very surprised to see Miss Honey’s simple, tiny cottage with no running water or furniture. She listens to Miss Honey explain how she was forced to be a slave to her aunt, Miss Trunchbull, when her parents died. Miss Honey was able to rent this small cottage, but owes her wages for 10 years. Matilda feels sorry for Miss Honey and secretly develops a plan to help her. She only asks Miss Honey two questions: what were the first names of Miss Honey’s father, and her aunt. Miss Honey tells her: Magnus and Agatha.

Matilda goes home and begins practicing her special powers. For six days, she works on picking up a cigar and moving it where she wants, using only her eyes. When Miss Trunchbull is set to return to Miss Honey’s class, Matilda is ready. Matilda picks up the chalk with her eyes and, pretending to be the deceased Magnus, begins writing a message to Agatha Trunchbull. Magnus demands Agatha to give Miss Honey the house and the money that she is owed.

Miss Trunchbull passes out and is whisked away by the school matron with help from five other teachers. The next day, Miss Trunchbull is nowhere to be found. The house and her father’s lifetime savings were left for Miss Honey and Miss Honey moves in.

In the end, Matilda’s parents frantically pack their belongings to move to Spain. Matilda’s father was a crook and in a lot of trouble. Matilda does not want to leave, and asks Miss Honey if she can stay with her. Miss Honey consults with the parents, and not surprisingly, they don’t care. Miss Honey and Matilda hug each other while they watch Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood drive away without ever looking back.


Essential Questions for Matilda by Roald Dahl

  1. Do good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people?
  2. Is family important? Why or why not?
  3. Is revenge necessary? Why or why not?
  4. Is it possible for a child to make a big difference?

Matilda Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Matilda Theme


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In this activity, students will identify a theme and support the theme with evidence from the text. One theme in Matilda is good versus evil.


Good vs. Evil

Mrs. Phelps, Matilda, and Miss Honey are examples of kind, intelligent, and selfless characters who help others. Mrs. Phelps, the librarian, notices Matilda’s talents, but does not make a fuss about them; she simply hones in on the girl’s interests by providing her with classic books. Matilda shows her goodness when she helps Miss Honey get her house back by scaring Miss Trunchbull. Miss Honey shows her compassion and kindness when Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood run off to Spain, and she vows to take care of Matilda as the parents drive away.


Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood and Miss Trunchbull are characters who are ornery and cruel to others. Mr. Wormwood is abusive to Matilda – often calling her stupid and ripping up her books. Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood do not care that Matilda is especially gifted, and actually see it as a weakness. Miss Trunchbull is evil towards the children at school as well as Miss Honey, her niece. For example, Miss Trunchbull threw a little girl by the pigtails, picked up a boy by the ear, and forced a boy to eat an entire chocolate cake. Also, Miss Trunchbull made Miss Honey her slave as a child, and continues to control her money as an adult.


Matilda Theme

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in Matilda. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Matilda you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represent this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



Template: Theme

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Matilda Character Map


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In this activity, students create an outline for the characters in the story, paying close attention to the physical characteristics and the character traits of both major and minor characters. Students can also provide detailed information regarding the character’s actions, how they influence other characters, and how the main character changed over time.

Characters included in this character map are:

  • Matilda
  • Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood
  • Michael Wormwood
  • Mrs. Phelps
  • Miss Honey
  • Miss Trunchbull
  • Lavender
  • Hortensia
  • Bruce Bogtrotter
Matilda Characters

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a character map for the major characters.


  1. Identify the major characters in Matilda and type their names into the different title boxes.
  2. Choose a Storyboard That character to represent each of the book characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  3. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  4. Fill in Textables for Physical Characteristics, Personal Traits, and How does s/he influence Matilda? or How does Matilda change?.
  5. Save and submit to the assignment.


Blank Character Map

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Matilda Figurative Language


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Matilda uses several examples of figurative language including similes and personification. In this activity, students will directly quote an example of figurative language from the text. Students can display their understanding of figurative language by identifying the examples and creating a literal and/or figurative portrayal of the language:

  • The first example is a simile: "'Welcome to borstal,' she added, spraying bits of crisp out of her mouth like snowflakes."
  • A second example is also a simile: "She saw the child white in the face, as white as paper, trembling all over..."
  • Lastly is an example of personification: "In the space of thirty seconds the atmosphere in the tiny room had changed completely and now it was vibrating with awkwardness and secrets."
Matilda Figurative Language

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows three examples of figurative language in Matilda.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify use of figurative language in the text.
  3. Put the type of figurative language (such as simile or metaphor) in the title box.
  4. Give an example from the text in the description box.
  5. Illustrate the example using using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.



3 Figurative Language Ex Template

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Matilda Vocabulary


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In this activity students are able to demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words using sentences and corresponding images. Students may be provided the vocabulary words, or they can use words that they have discovered through reading the text. The sentences and images validate the understanding of the word and the context that it was used in the novel.


Example Matilda Vocabulary Words

  • phenomenon
  • scheming
  • appalled
  • headmistress
  • scorch
  • tinkle
  • sensational
  • surge
  • prostrate
  • matron
  • hover
  • elated
  • twaddle
  • delve
  • resent

Matilda Vocabulary

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in Matilda by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



Vocabulary Template Blank

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Matilda Summary


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In this activity, students will demonstrate their comprehension of the text through summarizing three or more events.



Example of a Concise Summary of Matilda

Beginning

In the beginning of the novel, the author provides descriptions of the Wormwood family, including examples of how they are unfit parents, and how cruel they are to Matilda.


Middle

In the middle of the novel, Matilda attends school and meets Miss Honey, her teacher who is interested in her brilliance and wants to help her.


End

In the end, Matilda and Miss Honey confide in each other, and help each other get rid of their enemies: the Wormwoods and Miss Trunchbull.


Matilda Summary

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Make a storyboard summary of Matilda.


  1. Make a picture that shows the beginning of the story.
  2. Make a picture that shows the middle of the story.
  3. Make a picture that shows the end of the story.
  4. Write a sentence under each picture.


BME

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Matilda - Making Inferences

Matilda provides many opportunities for readers to make inferences about what they are reading. More often than not, these inferences are confirmed later on in the text. In this activity, students will be able to monitor their thinking while they read – paying close attention to the interpretations, or inferences, they are making and understanding how that helps readers comprehend the text.

Here are some examples:
  • The first example is from Mr. Wormwood: " 'Listen boy,' he said, addressing the son and ignoring Matilda, 'seeing as you'll be going into this business with me one day, you've got to know how to add up the profits you make at the end of each day.' "

    It can be inferred that Matilda, being as bright as she is, will be able to compute the problem faster than her older brother.

  • The second example is from Miss Honey: " 'And you must remember that this aunt of mine is a much respected figure in the community. She has a lot of influence.' 'Who is she?' Matilda asked.”

    It can be inferred that the cruel person she is referring to has to be none other than Miss Trunchbull.

  • Last, towards the end of the novel Matilda states, "I've been thinking about it all the way back from your cottage and I believe I've got just a tiny bit of an idea."

    It can be inferred that Matilda is going to develop a plan to help Miss Honey escape from Miss Trunchbull once and for all.

Matilda Making Inferences

Example

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