James and the Giant Peach is a wonderful book to study in your homeschool. It is has a fun cast of characters, is full of wonderful descriptive language and describes a great fantastical journey across the Atlantic Ocean. James’s life is dramatically improved as the book unfolds, which just makes everyone feel good!
This book would be appropriate for grades 3-5 depending on the skill of your reader. It could even be done as a read aloud with younger ages involved, too! The chapters are typically just a few pages and make it easy to read a chapter a day with in depth discussion and learning activities. Below are many activities to accompany the book to increase comprehension, study science, and practice writing and drawing skills! Make sure to download the comprehension grid and descriptive language cheat sheets before you get started!
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Strategies for Comprehension for James and the Giant Peach
Besides basic wh- comprehension questions, there are a variety of interesting ways you can encourage your children to comprehend this book.
Prediction questions are great to ask at the end of chapters to see if your children foresee what might be coming next. Discuss why your children might make that prediction and then see if it comes true. For example, in chapter 4, the old man gives James very specific instructions of what to do with the green crystals. You can discuss at the end of the chapter what you each think James will do. Will he follow the instructions? Would you follow the instructions? Why or why not?
Making charts can be a fun way to discuss what different characters are feeling or doing. In James and the Giant Peach, the different animals often are expressing different feelings or have a different role to play. Creating a chart on a whiteboard or paper to fill in is a great visual way to organize this information. For example, in chapter 22, everyone works as a team to implement James’ plan to lift the peach out of the water. You can make a chart listing each characters’ job to further understand this scene.
Other possibilities for charts include in chapter 30, where you could record how different animals felt after the storm ended. In chapter 39, you could create a chart of each job the animals had in New York City.
You could use these Book Notetaking Sheets to take notes during the book or any other book of fiction!
Find Descriptive Language
Roald Dahl’s books are full of descriptive language. Here are a few types that you can look for, but download the descriptive language cheat sheet, included with the book notetaking pages above, to have all the types and definitions at your fingertips.
Dahl’s books are full of comparisons either through the use of similes (using ‘like’ or ‘as’ to compare) or the use of metaphors (using the ‘to be’ verb to compare). See which ones you can find in each chapter and discuss how that comparison helps you to better understand what is being described. For example, in Chapter 27, the peach is being compared to an airplane. You could have a great conversation about in which ways it is similar to the airplane in the scene and how it is still different.
See if you could find a few idioms in the book and talk about what they mean. In chapter 11, we found ‘all in the same boat’ and in chapter 12, we found ‘pulling his leg’.
Personification or giving human like characteristics to inanimate objects, is always a fun type of descriptive language to find. To get you started, look in chapter 16 for personification of the peach and the ocean.
Find Different Forms of Literature
There are a few different places in the book where poems and songs are included. Talk with your children about these types of writing and how a reader can see the transition to them while reading. They can also be fun to study on their own, either with an in depth study of the poem or by just finding rhyming words or discussing the rhyme scheme.
Get Creative with James and the Giant Peach
Creative projects are fun to improve comprehension of a story without children even realizing it! And they can improve their writing and drawing skills at the same time! Here are a few from James and the Giant Peach to get you started.
Chapter 1: Write a news report about James’s parents’ accident. Look at sample articles from the Time for Kids website to give your children ideas. Encourage them to think through the six question words: who, what, where, why, when and how.
Chapter 6: Draw the scene where everyone is staring up at the peach. Review the descriptive language in the chapter to help children visualize details they can include in their drawing.
Chapter 8: Make a poster to advertise the peach. Think about what information would need to be included. Think about the six question words. Also consider where a good place to hang the poster would be.
Chapter 15: With a sibling act out the scene in this chapter from beginning to end. Planning how to act out a scene leads to great comprehension of the text!
Chapter 16: Draw a picture of one of the scenes described in this chapter. Be sure to include a large peach in the picture. Then after reading chapter 17, cut around part of the peach in your drawing, leaving part attached so that the peach can be folded open like a door. Attach a blank piece of paper to the back of the picture by gluing at the edges. Now draw a picture of the scene inside the peach on the blank paper that is showing through the door.
Chapter 27: Study the descriptive language in the first paragraph and a draw a picture of the scene based upon it.
Chapter 33: Write an announcement that the President would have communicated to the Admirals and Generals when the peach was seen hovering over New York City.
Chapter 36: Have your children research the Empire State Building and write a short description that could be used in a brochure for people visiting New York City.
Research the Animals in James and the Giant Peach
If your children enjoy the animal characters in the book, they may be interested to learn more about them. Chapter 12 is a good place to stop and research each animal (grasshopper, centipede, earthworm, ladybug, silkworm, and spider) and write down the role they play in the ecosystem.
Or you could offer your children specific questions to research such as, What is a spider’s web made of?, Does it differ with the type of spider?, or What is a glow worm and how does it glow? Or have your children research what sharks like to eat and determine if the sharks really would have been eating the peach.
Study the Geography of the Settings
You can also incorporate some geography study in the James and the Giant Peach book. First, find the setting on the globe. Then in Chapter 18, find England on the map and determine which ocean the peach landed in. Make a prediction about where James and his friends are headed. You may even want to research current patterns in the ocean in that area to help you make your prediction.
Learn a New Skill: Knot Tying
Do your children know how to tie knots? This is a fun activity to incorporate into chapter 22. Research loop knots and make one with a rope or string. Do your children think making a loop knot will work for James’s plan? Is there a certain loop knot that will work better than the others?
This is a fun book that we have:
Other Literature Resources
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