The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, is a classic of children’s literature. In it, a young girl named Dorothy is carried by a cyclone to a magical land called Oz.
Her house lands on and kills the Wicked Witch, and a couple of good witches help her out, giving her the Wicked Witch’s silver slippers (they were made red in the movie, since it was the first major color film and it seemed a waste not to take advantage of the color options) and sending her off to the Emerald City to see the Wizard.
Dorothy teams up with a lion, a tin man, and a scarecrow, all of whom have their own issues they hope the wizard can help them solve. They have lots of adventures, and Dorothy does get home. In the movie, the whole thing turns out to have been a dream, or perhaps an out of body experience.
You can read the whole book online at Classic Reader. If you have Kindle in your classroom, you should also download Wizard of Oz Illustrated Series: 15 Books, which includes the whole series with the original illustrations. You can get the Kindle app for free for your classroom computer.
There are lots of online resources for this story:
- A drama-oriented lesson plan with comprehension questions.
- Check out the Warner Brothers’ site for an interactive timeline and music clips.
- A great collection of ideas for Wizard of Oz activities.
- Wizard of Oz ideas for homeschool or classroom.
- Learn more about Kansas, where Dorothy’s story begins.
- Plan a class trip to the Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas. It can be a virtual field trip, of course — it’s still a great opportunity to work with maps.
- There has long been a theory that The Wizard of Oz was designed to be a parable on populism, particularly referring to the arguments about the gold and silver standards. Read an essay on the subject with older students for an interesting lesson on economics.
- Those who see The Wizard of Oz as a political statement believe that Baum took his inspiration for Dorothy from Mary Lease. Challenge students to research this interesting woman.
- Weather is a great science connection for the Wizard of Oz. Use a Tornado Tube to create a tornado in a couple of 2-liter bottles. Add houses from a Monopoly game to get the effect Dorothy must have experienced when her house was carried away.
- National Geographic has a tornado lesson plan.
- Parts of the body are another option, since the tin man needs a heart and the scarecrow needs a brain. Use an Anatomy Apron, or have students draw around themselves on kraft paper and add cut-out or drawn hearts, brains, and other internal organs appropriate to your grade level.
Art and Music
- Look at 25 different styles of Wizard of Oz illustrations. Let students enjoy sorting them into groups, or discuss the styles and influences from the point of view of art history. Encourage students to make their own illustrations, too.
- Check out Dover’s Wizard of Oz Paper Dolls. Make a center with them by putting them into a shoebox and allowing students to play with them, recreating the story or making up new stories. They can also be used for acting out the story while listening to it (a good focus aid for kids who need some movement or tactile activity while listening), or for making dioramas.
- The song “Over the Rainbow” from the movie version of The Wizard of Oz begins with an octave interval. That is, the word “Somewhere” has the same note for its two syllables, but an octave apart. This is a good time to study about octaves.
- Older students might enjoy listening to parts of Wicked and The Wiz, two musical adaptations of the story. Bring out the Venn diagrams to compare the stories and the music. With older students, you might like to read the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West .
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: A Commemorative Pop-up has Robert Sabuda’s astounding three dimensional paper art. Admire it, and then try it out in the classroom.