10 Classroom Life Lessons From Roald Dahl
“So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookcase on the wall.”
– Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.
Roald Dahl would have been 101 years old on the 13th of September – a date now internationally recognised as ‘Roald Dahl Day’. Despite the turn of over a century since his birth, Dahl’s books continue to be cherished by new generations, with their enduring ability to portray the strange, the serious and – perhaps most importantly – the silly.
Although undeniably entertaining, Roald Dahl’s stories also reveal some valuable life lessons for children; and a few we shouldn’t forget as teachers, too.
Here’s our top 10 quotes to inspire creativity, curiosity and compassion in your classroom.
1. "If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."
– The Twits
Ah, there’s nobody more honest than a young child, is there? Actually, scratch that – most teachers can tell you that some children are certainly more honest than others…!
From “I like your tie” to “you have hands like my Granny, miss!”, standing in front of 30 pairs of beady eyes would make anyone a bit self-conscious (particularly when they’re all giggling, and you don’t know why).
Your own unease aside, young children will often find out more about their appearance from the commentary of their peers than from their own mirror at home. ‘The Twits’ offer a timeless reminder that it’s what’s inside that counts.
2. “Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog.”
Some classroom obsessions could probably use a half measure, we’ll give you that (you can definitely confiscate homemade slime too many times…)
However, it’s certainly worth instilling in children that there’s more to life than Netflix, and hobbies are the way to go (especially when, in Matilda’s case, the passion in question was an entire library of books).
3. “There are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven’t started wondering about yet.”
– James and the Giant Peach
As primary teachers, there’s nothing we enjoy more than indulging a child’s sense of wonder. For many, it’s why we went into the profession in the first place.
Curriculum restrictions aside, spending a bit of time chatting about children’s personal interests will help us to remember that they’re filled to the brim with curiosity – and it’s our job to help it to grow.
Now… has anyone checked that log thoroughly for caterpillars?
4. “If you are good, life is good.”
Children are surrounded by the insistence of “will you just BEHAVE!”.
For many, the meaning is lost – obedience for obedience’s sake.
Matilda, in her infinite wisdom, can help children to understand that positive actions have positive consequences (and a teacher swinging a child by her pigtails certainly does not – no matter how much you might be tempted!)
5. “‘The matter with human beans,’ the BFG went on, ‘is that they is absolutely refusing to believe anything unless they is actually seeing it right in front of their own schnozzles.’”
– The BFG
Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Elf on the Shelf… Depending on the age of your class, you may have a mishmash of pupils with varying degrees of belief in magic and childhood traditions.
Of course, Father Christmas is most definitely real, and anyone who thinks otherwise can await their festive lump of coal. For classroom purposes, however, The BFG offers a friendly reminder that you don’t have to believe in only what you see (and we’re sure a few parents will thank you for the sentiment).
6. “Nothing is any fun if you can get as much of it as you want. Especially money.”
– The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More
We’ve all wondered how many bottles of wine a pay cheque can buy; particularly after a hard week. Children, however, are yet to appreciate the – *ahem* – joy of budgeting and looking longingly to the NUT for help to get an extra 3.5%.
Whether it’s cold, hard cash or Nutella sandwiches, children have a lot to learn on the concept of moderation.
7. “Grown-ups are complicated creatures, full of quirks and secrets.”
– Danny, The Champion of the World
… and this is why you will never, ever put your real name or place of work on Facebook.
8. “Life is more fun if you play games.”
– My Uncle Oswald
Another sage piece of advice for teachers – let’s face it, the kids already know, and will challenge anyone who says otherwise with vigour!
When parents’ evening is looming, or you know you’ll be making cups of tea for the OFSTED inspectors next week, shake it off with some ‘heads down, thumbs up’. A quick release of tension for 5 minutes can sometimes save a whole day – we just need to remember that it’s okay to do it every once in a while.
9. “Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.”
What could be more profound than telling children that they can be future world leaders? It’s true, after all (even for children who are still attempting to lick glue sticks – this, too, shall pass).
You may not wish for your class to stage a Matilda-esque intervention, complete with floating pieces of chalk, but a little empowerment can go a long way; especially when persuading those who aspire to be PM that even Theresa May had to practice her handwriting at some point (even if she did have to cross out ‘free school breakfasts’).
10. “Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.”
– Roald Dahl
As said by one of the mightiest writers of them all, who are we to argue?
Learning to be a reader is the ultimate leg-up in most every academic subject, with learning to be a writer following close behind.
To give children a head start and spark an early passion for literacy, Mighty Writer is the ultimate classroom tool. Using a large mat that can either be hung up or laid on the floor, Mighty Writer allows children to visualise the writing process, using fun tiles to illustrate a story, as well as additional Velcro accessories to help teachers highlight good grammar and punctuation.
This physical and visual approach is universally engaging and easy to use, allowing children to transform their literacy skills almost overnight.
So, whether the class are creating an alternative ending to George’s Marvellous Medicine, re-telling a passage in Fantastic Mr Fox or crafting an entirely new story of their choosing, Mighty Writer will allow children to accurately relay ideas with ease.
Once they’re familiar with putting their concepts on the mat, their writing will become ‘gloriumptious’! Not only is it a breakthrough in teaching children to write, but children thoroughly enjoy the entire process.
We think Mr Dahl would approve.
Keen to find out more? Download the Mighty Writer Teacher’s Guide today.
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