Matilda by Roald Dahl – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

As teachers, we always look for new ways to engage our students in the classroom.

This challenge can be incredibly daunting when teaching literature classes as you want to ensure they experience the books they read while understanding the broader themes and takeaways.

One of the best books for these lessons is Matilda by Roald Dahl. With its exciting plot, delightful characters, and inspiring messaging – your students will be eager to discuss this classic tale!

In this blog post, we will provide a planning overview of how to bring Matilda into your class that touches on overall book discussion points and activities for further learning.

Related: For more, check out our article on The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier  here.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Storyline of Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda is a young girl born to parents who are utterly uninterested in her and show only disdain for her intelligence and love of learning.

When she begins school, she quickly finds that the headmistress Miss Trunchbull has a sadistic dislike of children, especially Matilda.

With the help of her teacher Miss Honey, Matilda’s unique abilities come to light, and she shows an almost magical power which she can use against Miss Trunchbull.

Matilda uses her powers to rescue her school from Miss Trunchbull’s tyranny.


Critical Themes in Matilda by Roald Dahl

Power of Education

Matilda uses her love of learning and knowledge to access herself and combat Miss Trunchbull. Miss Honey exemplifies the power of education and how it can inspire children to reach their potential and be more than society expects.

Overcoming Adversity

Matilda faces adversity from her parents, Miss Trunchbull, and even life as she discovers who she is. Despite this, Matilda finds the courage to fight for what’s right and ultimately tears down a tyrant with strength.

The Importance of Family

Matilda’s journey highlights the importance of family support despite all odds.

Matilda is often alone throughout the story but finds solace in books, Miss Honey, and eventually, her parents, who come around towards the end. This demonstrates that family doesn’t always have to be perfect; as long as they care for each other, it is enough.

Key Characters in Matilda by Roald Dahl


Matilda is the story’s protagonist, a young girl with an incredible love of learning and intelligence. She can use her knowledge and courage to fight against the abuse of Miss Trunchbull.

Miss Agatha Trunchbull

The story’s antagonist, Miss Trunchbull, is an ex-Olympic athlete and headmistress of Matilda’s school who abuses students for her amusement. Her sadistic behaviour serves as a constant obstacle for Matilda throughout her journey.

Miss Honey

Matilda’s teacher at school and first ally, Miss Honey, recognises Matilda’s potential despite Miss Trunchbull’s abuse. Miss Honey encourages Matilda’s development and helps create a safe space to learn and develop her skills.

Teaching Opportunities from Matilda

  • Showing the importance of education in shaping our understanding and perspectives of the world
  • Discussing how to overcome adversity and use problem-solving methods to reach solutions
  • Examining themes such as power dynamics between characters, family support, and changing expectations
  • Exploring how different storytelling techniques can move a narrative forward
  • Analysing character development, motivation, and decision making

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan 1: Exploring Power Dynamics Through Matilda


In this lesson, students will explore the power dynamics between characters in the book Matilda by Roald Dahl. They will discuss how this affects the story unfolds and what we can learn about decision-making and problem-solving.

Main Teaching Points

  • Discussing how various characters use their power to influence the outcome of events
  • Analysing how characters’ choices affect the story in terms of problem-solving methods and decision making
  • Developing empathy for characters to understand their motivations


Students should reflect on their learning through questions such as:

  • What did I learn about power dynamics?
  • How did my understanding of the story change after exploring different characters’ perspectives?
  • What strategies can I use to make better decisions when faced with a difficult situation?

Lesson Plan 2: Stories as Problem-Solving Devices


In this lesson, students will look at stories as problem-solving devices by discussing themes in Matilda by Roald Dahl.

They will explore different storytelling techniques authors use to move a narrative forward and how different perspectives can add depth to our understanding of stories.

Main Teaching Points

  • Examining different types of problem situations presented in the book and possible solutions given by characters
  • Discussing other storytelling structures used throughout the novel, including flashbacks and plot devices like suspenseful moments or climax scenes


Students should reflect on their learning through questions such as:

  • What was a central theme in this story, and why does it matter?
  • How do my own experiences relate to the themes discussed in this book?
  • How have my perceptions changed after exploring this issue through a narrative structure?

Lesson Plan 3: Understanding Education in Matilda


In this lesson, students will explore the importance of education in Matilda by Roald Dahl.

They will examine themes such as family support and changing expectations and understand how this can shape our understanding of the world.

Main Teaching Points

  • Exploring why education is essential for developing knowledge and skills
  • Identifying critical topics in the book that contribute to understanding it on a deeper level
  • Examining themes such as power dynamics between characters, family support, and changing expectations
  • Applying their own experiences to the narrative to deepen their understanding


Students should reflect on their learning through questions such as:

  • What does learning mean to different characters in the story?
  • How does this book demonstrate how education can shape our perspectives?
  • What key takeaways from this book about schooling can I apply to my life?

Lesson Plan 4: Analysing Character Development Through Matilda


In this lesson, students will analyse the character development in Matilda by Roald Dahl.

They will discuss how various characters move throughout the story and what we can learn about motivation and decision-making from them.

Main Teaching Points –

  • Examining character arcs throughout the novel
  • Discussing motivations behind decisions made by different characters
  • Analysing how other characters evolve, both internally and externally


Students should reflect on their learning through questions such as:

  • How did my perception of certain characters change after exploring their motivations?
  • How do some actions taken by characters reveal more information about them than dialogue or descriptions?
  • What strategies can I use when faced with a challenging situation based on what I’ve learned about these characters?

Recommended Books

Website Resources

Roald Dahl’s Teach Guide offers plenty of activities and tips for teaching the value of reading with Roald Dahl’s books. It includes a series of lessons that can help bring books to life in the classroom and a selection of resources for further learning in various topics, such as math and science.

Guided Reading Notes: Matilda by Roald Dahl helps teachers prepare for a guided reading lesson on Matilda by providing questions and materials for discussion during the session. This resource covers various aspects of language, storytelling, characterisation and literary devices in the book to help students get the most out of their readings.

Matilda by Roald Dahl 7+ (EN/GB) is an online resource, The Literacy Shed Plus, created with videos and activities designed to explore Matilda from different angles. Students can use this guide to develop their visual literacy skills, making connections between characters and themes through video analyses and quizzes about the book’s storyline, plot points and characters.

Teaching literature can be a rewarding journey filled with discovery and joy, especially when you have the right tools. Roald Dahl’s Matilda is one such tool, offering a world of exploration and a wealth of opportunities for student engagement.

By incorporating this classic tale into your curriculum, you expose students to the beauty of well-crafted storytelling, stimulate critical thinking, and foster a deep appreciation for literature.

So, prepare to embark on an educational adventure with Matilda and her friends, and watch as your classroom transforms into a vibrant hub of learning and excitement!

FAQs for Teaching ‘Matilda’ in the Classroom

1. What themes does ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl present that can be discussed in the classroom?

Matilda presents several themes suitable for classroom discussion, such as the importance of literacy, the fight against injustice, and the power of courage and determination.

2. How can I engage my students with the story of ‘Matilda’?

You can engage your students by connecting the story to real-world situations, incorporating games or activities related to the book, or initiating group discussions about the characters and their actions.

3. Are there any specific activities that can help students better understand the book?

Activities like character analysis, plot prediction, or role-playing can provide students with a deeper understanding of the book. You might also consider creative writing assignments where students imagine alternate endings or additional adventures for the characters.

4. Is ‘Matilda’ suitable for all reading levels?

While ‘Matilda’ is typically suited for middle-grade readers, its universal themes and engaging narrative make it accessible and enjoyable for a wide range of reading abilities.

5. How can ‘Matilda’ contribute to my students’ overall literary appreciation?

By exploring the rich narrative, vivid characters, and compelling themes of ‘Matilda’, students can develop a deeper appreciation for literature, sharpen their analytical skills, and foster a lifelong love of reading.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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