The Witches by Roald Dahl – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Welcome teachers! We are excited to bring you this planning overview of Roald Dahl’s classic, The Witches. This beloved story contains unexpected twists and complex characters that children will love reading about.

Whether you’re teaching in a classroom or virtually, your students will find something to spark their imagination by exploring the world of The Witches.

In this article, we’ll discuss the topics and activities to help you enhance the discussion around these themes with your students.

These guidelines will provide an engaging experience for everyone involved as they explore compassion, courage, and community on their journey through Roald Dahl’s mysterious world!

Related: For more, check out our article on Matilda by Roald Dahl  here.

The Witches by Roald Dahl

The Storyline Of The Witches

An orphaned boy moved in with his grandmother, and she told him of witches and how to recognize them so he could stay safe.

These witches looked like regular women but had a few distinct characteristics, such as bald heads, clawed hands, and a lack of toes.

The most potent and feared witch was the Grand High Witch; this evil creature planned to put a potion called Formula 86 into candy to turn children into mice.

When the Boy and his grandmother went on vacation to a hotel on the English coast, he miraculously stumbled upon a group of witches there for their yearly gathering.

During her presentation, the Grand High Witch turned a young boy named Bruno Jenkins into a mouse. After hearing this, they discovered that the Boy was also transformed into a bit of a rodent.

The two boys devised an ingenious plan involving stealing potions from the Grand High Witch and putting them into her food.

This plan succeeded, instantly changing all of the witches present into mice before staff members and guests killed them.

Upon returning home, the grandmother and grandchild figured out how to use this formula-86 potion to eradicate all witches worldwide.

Although being cursed with such fate would only give him nine more years to live in mouse form, he wasn’t worried since he had his beloved caretaker by his side who would outlive him regardless of species.

Key Themes of The Witches by Roald Dahl

Good vs Evil

This is the book’s central theme, highlighted in the battle between the orphaned Boy, his grandmother, and their allies against the Grand High Witch and her fellow witches.

It demonstrates that even seemingly insurmountable odds can be overcome with courage and ingenuity.

Bravery and Tenacity

The Boy’s bravery when facing off against the Grand High Witch and his tenacity in devising a plan to save himself, Bruno Jenkins, and all other children from the witches’ curse show how humans can achieve extraordinary things when given hope.

Triumph of Hope over Fear

Light constantly shines through in this story; even in darkness, there are always glimmers of hope that keep people going until fear eventually dissipates into a distant memory.

In this case, hope allowed the Boy to bravely stand up against evil – ultimately leading to victory over fear.

the witches

Key Characters in The Witches by Roald Dahl

The Grand High Witch

The Grand High Witch is the story’s main antagonist, an evil and powerful witch who is feared by all her kind. She concocted a plan to put a potion into candy that would turn any children who ate it into mice.

This plan was thwarted after the unnamed Boy and his grandmother used their wit and courage to outsmart her.

The Unnamed Boy

The story’s unnamed protagonist, known only as the Boy, is one of the most essential characters due to his cleverness in defeating the Grand High Witch.

After being orphaned and moving in with his grandmother, he learned about witches and how to recognize them to stay safe from them. He also showed true bravery with his ingenious plan to use Formula 86 against the witches, ultimately leading to their demise.

Bruno Jenkins

Bruno Jenkins is another critical character in this tale; he is a hotel guest whose transformation into a mouse further pushes the plot forward, proving what Formula 86 was capable of.

Since both Bruno and the unnamed Boy were left in mouse form, they were able to come up with a clever plan together that ended up eliminating all of the witches from existence throughout their world.

Teaching Opportunities from The Witches by Roald Dahl

Empathy and Respect: This book provides an excellent platform for teaching children about the importance of compassion and respect for others, as seen in the characters of Luke and Bruno, who have to put themselves in difficult positions to defeat the Grand High Witch.

Inclusivity and Acceptance: The story can be used as a great tool to illustrate the importance of acceptance, regardless of one’s physical characteristics or differences, as exemplified in Luke’s relationship with his grandmother.

Overcoming Challenges: This tale presents an ideal opportunity to discuss overcoming challenges—even when they seem impossible—as illustrated through Luke’s journey against the witches.

Responsibility & Choices: With themes like responsibility and choices, this book offers a beautiful way to teach children how their decisions affect them and others around them.

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan 1: Teaching Opportunities from The Witches


  • Recognize good vs evil as a central theme in literature.
  • Appreciate the power of courage and tenacity.
  • Understand the importance of hope over fear.


Introduce students to the story of The Witches and discuss the message about good vs evil with them. Encourage critical thinking by asking questions such as: what strategies do people use to overcome evil? What does it take for a person to fight the darkness?

Main Teaching Points

Explain how courage, tenacity and hope can be used to overcome impossible odds. Emphasize how these qualities were evidenced through the Boy’s battle against the Grand High Witch and her followers by stealing potions, devising plans and inspiring people.

Instruct students to reflect on their experiences by drawing parallels between the book’s themes and real-life scenarios. Pose questions such as “Can we ever truly conquer evil?”, “What qualities doe it take to stand up against fear?”, etcetera. Allow them time to discuss among themselves or answer in writing individually.

Reflection & Key Questions

Give students an opportunity for self-reflection so that they can apply the concepts discussed in class to their own lives.

Ask questions that will make them think deeply about their actions and reactions in difficult situations – for example, “How have you shown courage in your life?” or “How have you handled being afraid?”

Encourage honest responses from them without judgement for everyone involved to learn from one another’s thoughts/experiences.

Lesson Plan 2: The Power of Imagination


  • Understand the importance of imagination
  • Practice creative expression and problem-solving
  • Examine how understanding oneself and others leads to empathy


Explain to students the power of imagination and the possibilities that can come from it. Talk about how creativity can be a strength in achieving big and small goals.

Ask them, “What have you imagined doing that seemed impossible but later became a reality?” or “How has creativity helped you think outside the box in difficult situations?”

Main Teaching Points

Focus on how understanding oneself and others leads to empathy and compassion. Use examples from The Witches to illustrate this point (e.g. Boy befriending Bruno Jenkins despite his differences).

Explain how having an open mind can help us face challenges by coming up with new solutions we never thought were possible before.

Please encourage them to practice creative thinking even when they don’t know what will happen next or where they’ll end up.

Reflection & Key Questions

Give students time to reflect on their imaginative capabilities by asking questions like “How have I used my imagination in the past?”, “When was a time I felt challenged but overcame using my creativity?” etcetera.

Ask how they think their imaginations will help them solve future dilemmas or if they think it can become a positive tool for personal growth.

Allow them time to brainstorm potential solutions together, discuss their ideas with one another without judgement, and come up with plans of action for any difficulties they may face in life.

Similar Books with Themes Like The Witches


Q1: Why should I consider using “The Witches” by Roald Dahl in my ELA curriculum?

A1: A pertinent question! “The Witches” is a treasure trove of linguistic richness and narrative complexity. It’s packed with vivid descriptions, intricate plot developments, and unforgettable characters, offering a myriad of opportunities to enhance reading comprehension, vocabulary, and analytical skills. Can you visualize how this captivating tale could enrich your ELA lessons?

Q2: How can I use “The Witches” to teach narrative structure?

A2: The narrative structure of “The Witches” is a masterclass in storytelling. From the exposition and rising action to climax and resolution, each stage allows students to understand how narratives are constructed. Can you imagine the depth of understanding your students could gain from dissecting this engaging tale?

Q3: What strategies can I use to teach vocabulary with “The Witches”?

A3: Dahl’s unique language – often playful and inventive – provides an excellent resource for vocabulary lessons. You could create word lists from the book, discuss their meanings in context, or even encourage students to write their own sentences or stories using these new words. Doesn’t that sound like a fun and effective way to expand their vocabulary?

Q5: What activities can I plan around “The Witches” to enhance reading comprehension?

A5: Isn’t it exciting to think about the possibilities? You could organize reading circles, comprehension quizzes, or even dramatic readings. These activities not only reinforce understanding of the text but also make reading a more interactive and enjoyable process. Can you feel the enthusiasm such activities could generate?

Q6: How can I use “The Witches” to inspire creative writing?

A6: The imaginative world of “The Witches” can be a powerful springboard for creative writing. Students could write alternate endings, create character backstories, or even invent their own magical creatures. Can you see how this could unleash their creative potential?

Website Resources

  1. Twinkl : Twinkl’s The Witches page offers a range of resources to help teachers and parents teach the Roald Dahl classic about a world of magical creatures, which leads not just to the imagination but also to kindness, understanding, and bravery. It includes a teaching guide, worksheets, lesson plans, story plans and activities – all designed to make teaching fun and engaging for students of all ages.
  2. TES Teaching Resources: This TES resource package contains everything you need to start teaching The Witches to your class. It includes a scheme of work and a range of accompanying resources tailored to the text’s different themes, including comprehension and writing tasks and additional activities such as art projects and games.
  3. Teachers Pay Teachers: Here, you can find free resources related to the classic book The Witches by Roald Dahl, including puzzles, worksheets, colouring pages and more for helping with comprehension skills or introducing children to the beloved story in an engaging way!

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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