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A Reading Unit for "Matilda" by Roald Dahl

By Sylvie Colette

"Matilda" is a great read-aloud book for an elementary school classroom. Imaginative and exciting, the story will engage your class. This article gives instructions on creating a comprehensive book report that incorporates vocabulary, reading comprehension and writing.

Synopsis

Many students will have already seen the movie by the time they reach your classroom, but that is not a reason to avoid this book. Roald Dahl did a great service to elementary school teachers when he wrote Matilda. There are many teaching opportunities through reading this book in class.

Matilda is a tiny genius who is stuck with a trashy, overbearing family. Her parents ignore her completely when they aren't being horribly nasty to her. She learns to take care of herself and cleverly manages to get back at them a few times. Entering school doesn't turn out to be the wonderful learning institution she might have hoped though. Faced with an enormous and evil headmistress, Matilda uses her superior abilities in this delightful story.

This is an excellent book for reading aloud, children will be captivated by precocious Matilda, fall in love with Miss Honey and be infuriated at The Trunchbull and Matilda’s frustrating parents. The storyline truly lends itself to discussions. Roald Dahl’s classic will engage their imaginations and allow the challenging vocabulary to soak in.

Matilda is broken down into 21 chapters. Read one or two chapters a day to your students. After each reading, go over the challenging words and discuss the events. There may be portions of the selection that need some explanation.

On-going Book Reports

Objective: the students will create a detailed book report on Matilda.

Material needed: Folders, worksheets or paper, pencils, crayons

Read a chapter. As you are reading, let the students fill out a simple chapter report. The chapter report could be a blank page, with the information listed on the board, or copy work sheet pages and give as a handout for them to store in their folder.

  • Chapter Title
  • New Vocabulary
  • Characters Involved in this Chapter
  • Overview of Chapter
  • Illustration
  • Include a page for each new character introduced. Fill out a detailed character analysis, these will be added to as more details about the character are revealed.

Once the book is finished, have them polish up drawings of each of the characters, the school and Miss Honey’s Cottage. This book report will be a nice tribute to a great book, while teaching many new words along the way.

Vocabulary Words

Roald Dahl sprinkles colorful terms and very descriptive words into the story. Encourage the students to come up with their own definitions of the following words. Then have them look up the actual definition and check their answers. Hearing the words in context is helpful. Encourage their attempts, many of these are not simple!

  1. The Reader of Books – Revolting, Half-witted, Formidable
  2. Mr. Wormwood, the Great Car Dealer- Sports, Fiddle, Resented
  3. The Hat and the Superglue- Rakish, Skulking
  4. The Ghost-Seized
  5. Arithmetic-Comparatively
  6. The Platinum Blond Man-Vigorous, Diluted
  7. Miss Honey-Bleak, Bewilderment, Understatement, Epicure
  8. The Trunchbull- Interval, Formidable, Breeches
  9. The Parents-Emerged, Underestimated
  10. Throwing the Hammer-Plaited
  11. Bruce Bogtrotter and the Cake-Exceedingly, Wary, Implacable
  12. Lavender-Exploit
  13. The Weekly Test-Nauseating, Whimpering, Riveted
  14. The First Miracle-Malicious, Reformatory, Ranting
  15. The Second Miracle- Riffling,
  16. Miss Honey’s Cottage-Tabloid
  17. Miss Honey’s Story-Heroine
  18. The Names-Cautious, Snippet
  19. The Practice-Vital
  20. The Third Miracle-Blithering
  21. A New Home-Tuppence