Let's get 'curiouser and curiouser' this year, and start celebrating Lewis Carroll's fascinating classic, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The novel was first published 150 years ago in 1865 with Sir John Tenniel's famous original illustrations Who was Alice? What do we know about her world? How has the book managed to entertain readers, both little and big, for one and a half centuries? It hasn't ceased to inspire artists, thinkers, scientists and writers with its fascinating imaginary world. The story also offers multiple opportunities for research in maths, history, geography, biology, psychology, architecture, logic, philosophy and physics just to mention the most evident fields.
Go on an adventure with us to explore Alice's world, read the story with your classes (from elementary on), read and watch adaptations of the story. In the first part of our series we will explore the creation of the story, its connections to other subjects and remember some of its most influential lines.
What will you need for this lesson?
- 45 minutes or more - depending on how far you wander off, researching topics on the Internet
- a good Internet connection
- a computer, a laptop or a tablet
- a projector or an interactive whiteboard
- some curious students, who are willing to become even 'curiouser'
1 Who was the original Alice?
Alice Liddell was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church College in Oxford. Charles Dodgson, an Oxford mathematician was a good friend of the Liddell family. And Lewis Carroll was the pen-name Charles Dodgson, the Oxford mathematician used as a writer.
Read (or read and listen to) this short introduction to the text on the British Library website, and answer the questions below.
*To the teacher: if the level of your class is lower than B1, read the introduction and then tell your students about it.
- How many sisters did Alice have?
- Where and when was the story born?
- How old was Alice when the story was told?
- How long was the original book?
- How many illustrations did it have?
2 Where was the story written?
Although Wonderland is the ultimate imaginary world (set in a dream where everything is possible), it was written in a real world, and was probably inspired by it.
Charles Dodgson lived and studied in Christ Church, Oxford. Follow our steps and learn about Oxford, the University of Oxford and Christ Church College.
- Go on Google Maps and search for Oxford. Where is it located in England?
- Now visit this picture gallery and look at some photographs taken in the city. What are the building like?
- What is the University of Oxford like? Is it made up of one or more buildings? What are the colleges? Visit this Wikipedia page to learn about the University. How many colleges are there?
- What does the University look like? Watch this YouTube video to learn about life at the university.
- Go to the website of Christ Church College. Which famous 'modern classic' was filmed here?
3 How much do you know about the story?
Let's refresh our memory of the plot and the characters in the story.
- Visit this page on the Project Gutenberg website to see Sir John Tenniel's original illustrations of the story. How many characters can you recognize? Find these characters in the illustrations:
- The White Rabbit
- The Caterpillar
- The Cheshire Cat
- The Mad Hatter
- The Queen of Hearts
- The Dodo
- The Gryphon
- The Mouse
- You can also see the original manuscript on the website of the British Library. Read a page out loud from the original handwritten edition.
- Look at the illustrations from the Helbling Reader adaptation of the story, and tell the story with your own words in class. This book was illustrated by Roberto Tomei and adapted by Jennifer Gascoigne.
4 Themes in the novel: eating and drinking
Find examples of eating and drinking in the novel, and do some research to learn about them.
- What does Alice drink first? What happens to her?
- What does she eat? What happens them?
- What is strange about the Mad Hatter's Tea Party?
- Did the Mock Turtle soup really exist? Search the Internet for the answer!
- What are jam tarts?
5 Maths and History in the novel
What can you learn about Maths and History through the novel? There are fascinating mathematical references in the story, and also some interesting historical ones. Let's explore one easy example of each subject.
Read this extract from the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Helbling reader and answer the questions in the discussion box.
Look at this illustration from the Helbling reader. Can you see the roses in the upper left corner? What is strange about them? Search the Internet for information about the Wars of the Roses in England.
- Which family was represented by the white rose?
- Which family was represented by the red rose?
- How long did the war last?
- Who became King of England and Wales after the Battle of Bosworth?
- What is the Tudor rose? What colour is it? What does it symbolise?
5 Famous quotes from the novel
Here are some of our favourite lines from the novel. Which one is your favourite?
"I can't go back to yesterday because I was a different person then."
"Curiouser and curiouser!"
"Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here."
"Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
"You used to be much more...muchier. You’ve lost your muchness.