Movie-based lessons are always popular with our English students, especially teenage ones.
Today we will look at one of the most famous Tim Burton movies: Alice in Wonderland, 2010.
This lesson will give your students opportunities to practice their listening, reading, speaking and writing skills. In addition to that, they will practice their memory skills and work on paying attention to details. Some of the tasks will require creative thinking and a skill of establishing logical links between the chunks of information.
Lesson type: Speaking, Reading, Listening Writing.
Level: Intermediate and higher
Time: 50 minutes
Number of students: an individual or a group lesson
Task 1. Lead in
Aim: to engage your students in the topic of the lesson.
Look at the picture and answer the questions.
- Do you know these characters?
- Where did you see them?
- Do you know their names?
- Who are the other characters in the movie?
- Who is your favorite? Why?
Task 2. Speaking
Aim: to practise students’ listening comprehension.
Watch the trailer and answer the questions:
- What scene does the trailer start with?
- How is Alice dressed? What about other people at the garden party?
- What happens after Alice falls into a rabbit hole? Who does she meet there?
- How does she react to this sudden change?
- Are you interested to know what will happen to Alice and other characters?
- Have you watched the movie before? Would you like to rewatch it?
Task 3. Getting acquainted with the characters
Aims: to introduce the characters; practise speaking skills.
Look at the photo collage, name the characters if you know them and answer the questions:
- Describe each character in three words
- Does this character look positive or negative? Why do you think so?
- What can you say about each character’s personality?
The characters in the photo collage are Cheshire Cat, Caterpillar, March Hare, Alice, TweedleDee and TweedleDum, White Queen, The Mad Hatter, White Rabbit and Red Queen.
Task 3. Memory game
Aim: to train students’ attention to details; to make students remember the characters.
Look at the picture for 45 seconds paying attention to all the details.
Now answer the questions without looking at the picture:
- What characters are sitting at the table?
- Who is sitting on the throne? What color is the throne?
- Who is the first character on the right side?
- What color is the tablecloth on Red Queen’s place?
- Where is the map of Wonderland?
- Who is standing on the pile of books?
- What is the Mad Hatter holding in his hand?
Keys: 1. Red Queen, White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, Alice, Cheshire Cat, White Queen.
- The Mad Hatter. The throne is green.
- White Queen.
- It is light-green.
- The map is on the floor, to the right from the pile of books and under the throne.
- A teapot.
Task 4. Pre-teaching vocabulary
Aim: to introduce more characters; to pre-teach blocking vocabulary before reading.
Match the names of the characters and words with their descriptions/definitions.
- Bayard Hamar
- Vorpal sword
- The Jabberwocky
- The Knave of Hearts’
- The Bandersnatch
- Tweedledee and Tweedledum
a) the main weapon of Alice that she is supposed to kill Jabberwocky with.
b) a pair of identical twins who always argue with each other.
c) a huge dragon under the control of The Red Queen.
d) a bloodhound (a hunter dog) working for the Red Queen.
e) a cat-like creature under the control of the Red Queen.
f) a character based on a playing card (now more commonly called a Jack). He is a personal assassin of the Red Queen.
Keys: 1 -d; 2- a; 3 -c; 4 -f; 5- e; 6-b.
- Tuck (someone into something)
- The weapon
- To dismiss
- To corrupt
- To refuse
a) to say “no” to someone’s offer.
b) to make someone dishonest or spoiled in some way.
c) to put a child into bed and make sure that they are warm and comfortable by covering them well.
d) send away.
e) a thing used to fight or attack someone with.
Keys: 1 -c; 2 – e; 3 – d; 4 – b; 5-a.
Task 5. Reading
Aim: to introduce the storyline (some students will recall it if they’ve already watched the movie).
Read the scenes and put them in the order they come in the movie. Even if you haven’t watched the movie, try to guess the order of the events logically.
- With Bayard’s help, Alice arrives at the Red Queen’s castle. There, she eats a piece of cake and becomes much larger. The Red Queen doesn’t know who she is and welcomes her into her palace. In the castle Alice discovers that the vorpal sword is locked in the den of the Bandersnatch.
- The White Queen dismisses the Red Queen and the Knave of Hearts. When the Knave attempts to kill the Red Queen the Mad Hatter stops him. The White Queen then gives Alice a bottle of the Jabberwocky’s blood which can give her whatever she wishes. Alice wishes to go back to her life in England.
- Alice thinks she is in a dream and attempts to wake up, but it doesn’t work. The Bandersnatch, led by the Knave of Hearts, begins to run after them. Tweedledee and Tweedledum are plucked from the ground by the Jubjub bird and taken to the castle of the Red Queen,
- The Knave of Hearts tries to corrupt Alice, the Red Queen becomes mad because of jealousy and orders for Alice to take her head off, but Alice is able to escape and rescue the vorpal sword with the help of the Bandersnatch. Eventually they arrive at the White Queen’s Castle.
- At the White Queen’s castle, Alice learns that she has been to Wonderland before as a child. She realizes now that this is very real and her destiny is to kill Jabberwocky. The armies of the Red and White Queens meet on the battlefield for a final fight and the Jabberwocky is released.
- Hamish, the son of a business partner of Alice’s father, proposes to Alice, in front of all the guests during a garden party. Alice tells everyone that she needs a moment and starts to follow a white rabbit until she falls through the rabbit-hole and finds herself in a strange room.
- A child Alice wakes up in the middle of the night after having a nightmare. Her father tucks her back into bed and tells her that she is mad, but that ‘all the best people are’.
- When she returns to the garden party, Alice refuses Hamish’s proposal, and decides to make her father’s shipping bigger and trade route with his business partner. She’s traveling on a ship heading to China.
Task 6. Follow-up discussion
Aim: to practise speaking for fluency; practice new vocabulary.
Discuss the questions:
- Why do you think Alice didn’t refuse to fight?
- What are the recognizable features of the film that distinguish it as a Tim Burton film?
- Director Tim Burton makes it clear that this is intentionally a very different sort of Alice from that of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Which Alice, from Burton’s movie or Carroll’s book, do you like most? Why?
- In the film Burton explores the question: What if Alice returned to Wonderland when she was older? As a result, he addresses the struggle of identity, as well as place and meaning in the experience of growing up. Make up your own version of Alice’s returning to Wonderland.
- She is brave, fair, well-brought up. She can tell the good from the evil.
- One of the most easily recognizable Tim Burton signatures is his casting. It is usually a fair bet that when you see Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter together in a film playing eccentric characters, you are watching a Tim Burton film. Additionally, the visual style, at once whimsical and macabre, establishes Alice in Wonderland as a Tim Burton confection. There is always something at once magical but also a little dark or off about a Tim Burton film, and Alice in Wonderland has that. The forest of Wonderland is filled with curvaceous branches, the Red Queen’s castle is a Gothic maze, and the image of the white knights and the red knight meeting one another on the battlefield is at once Medieval and futuristic/dystopian.
Change the partner and discuss the questions:
- Has anyone ever tried to corrupt you? If so, why?
- Did you like it when you were tucked into your bed by your parents?
- Have you ever been dismissed earlier at school? Why did that happen?
- What do you think is the most powerful weapon of a person? Why?
Task 7. Writing
Aim: to develop students’ writing skills.
Choose a topic and write a 200-word essay.
Write a movie review. Follow the plan:
- What genre is the film?
- What is it about?
- Where/when is the film set?
- Who stars in the film? What do you think of the acting?
- Who is your favourite character in the film? (Why?)
- What kind of person would like this film?
As we remember, Alice chose to get back to England and travel around the world, but miraculously she can still send letters to the inhabitants of Wonderland and receive letters back from them.
First, think who Alice is going to write to. It can be absolutely any character from Wonderland. Then write a letter.
Extra task. Speaking
In Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation, he creates a desolate and depressing world of Underland, highlighting only the negative undertones of the original stories. He attempts to offer a darker interpretation, where the riddles, rhymes, and childlike nonsense of Wonderland no longer exist. However, let’s go back to the original version and learn the art of making puns. Look at the quotes from the book ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Find the play on words.
“…flamingoes and mustard both bite.”
“There’s a large mustard-mine near here. And the moral of that is–“The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours.”
“We called him Tortoise because he taught us”
“That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: `because they lessen from day to day.”
What do you think they mean?
Work in groups of four, make your own puns.
Compare with other groups. Give feedback.
Speaking activities are, obviously, essential for English language speaking classes. A lot of students join classes particularly to develop their communicative competence, become more fluent, versatile, adaptable, and confident communicators in English. However, designing speaking activities might be time-consuming and nerve-wracking for any teacher. We have prepared a memo with superb ready-made speaking tasks that will make your student talking. Download it here.