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Teaching Guide

Teaching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

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Lions and witches and wardrobes, oh my! Courage and war and religion…oh—uh…that calls for a different exclamation, but we'll keep it family-friendly as we discuss this one.

Whether you want to tackle the themes of Christianity head on or focus on other meaty topics, we've got you covered.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity asking students to choose a side: good or evil…in the context of Narnia, of course.
  • resources comparing C.S. Lewis to Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials) and Tolkien (do we really need to clarify?).
  • real-world connections like links to movies and miniseries and explanations of what the heck Turkish Delight really is.

We've already been through the wardrobe and back, and we have all the magic you need to teach this book.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." --J.K. Rowling

Bravery is a popular theme in many young adult texts from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games. More and more, characters in young adult novels find themselves in a fight with weapons ranging from the traditional to the magical to the futuristic. In many cases, the characters' weapons reveal something about them. What's less popular in today's fiction is the old "brave boy, passive girl" paradigm. Just look at Katniss; we'd bet on her over Peeta any day. But in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the weapons bestowed on Lucy and Susan are for defense only, revealing a more traditional view of gender roles when it comes to battle. However, there are some tricky contradictions even here, so let's dig in.

In this lesson, students will analyze the weapons given to the Pevensie children and what they reveal about their characters and the novel's stance on gender. Then, students will design their own magical weapons that reveal something about themselves. This activity should take two to three class periods.

Materials Needed: 

  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe text
  • Computer with Internet 
  • Poster board, markers, pencil, paper, etc.

Step 1: The Pevensie children had to show courage even when their knees were knocking and all they wanted to do was run away. They also display several different types of courage. For example, it takes courage to fight in battle, but it also takes courage to ask for forgiveness. With your students, take a few minutes to brainstorm possible definitions of courage and examples of courage throughout the novel. For extra help, check out Shmoop's courage theme and quotes pages.

Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling:

  • What examples of courage do you remember from the novel? Be sure to think about all the characters, not just the children.
  • How would you define courage?
  • Does courage have to do with how you feel or how you act, or both?
  • Are courage and fearlessness the same thing? Why or why not?

Step 2: Now, let's talk weapons. Each child in the story was given a special weapon with magical powers. In literature, a weapon often reveals something about the character that wields it, so let's take a closer look at these weapons. Review Chapter 10 with your students, looking specifically at the scene where Father Christmas gives the children their weapons. Then get the discussion going with these questions:

  • What is the purpose of each weapon given?
  • What does each weapon tell us about the role the character is intended to play?
  • How does each weapon relate to or reveal the character's traits? Check out Shmoop's character pages for help here.

Step 3: Your students hopefully noticed the glaring difference between what the girls are supposed to do with their weapons versus the boys, and if your ladies are fans of Katniss or Hermione, they're probably feeling pretty indignant right about now. (Though, if you're mentioning modern female heroines, it might be worth pointing out that Twilight's leading lady, Bella, ends up with a magical power that's purely for defense too. If you've got the time, a discussion on gender roles in modern young adult lit is a pretty interesting tangent.) But back to the point: let's dig into Lewis's take on gender a bit further:

  • How are the girls' weapons different from Peter's? What does Father Christmas say about girls and battle?
  • This scene obviously reveals a more traditional view of gender roles. How do you feel about that? Is it right that Susan and Lucy stay out of the battle, or should they be allowed to fight? Why or why not?
  • If girls aren't supposed to fight, what do we make of the White Witch? After all, the leader of the opposing army is a woman, so how does that fit into the book's take on gender roles? Is this a contradiction, or is there another reason the villain is female? 
  • At the end of the book, Susan becomes Queen Susan the Gentle, so that fits with the old "girls are sugar and spice and everything nice" routine, but what about Lucy? Lucy becomes Queen Lucy the Valiant (in other words, brave), and she's the one who questions Father Christmas, saying that she would be brave enough to fight. We tend to associate valiance with the battlefield, so what's the deal? If Lucy's key characteristic is courage, why can't she fight?

Step 4: By now, your students who engage in regular pencil sword fights or craft slingshots from paper clips are probably dying to create their own magical weapon. Hey, we don't blame them; this sounds fun to us too. But don't worry, these weapons will be of the 2D drawing variety, so there's no risk of black eyes. Students have analyzed how weapons reveal character traits and roles, so now they will create a magical weapon of their own that reveals their own characteristics and role in an epic battle-between-good-and-evil type story.

You may want to point out that our discussion on gender wasn't meant to imply that defensive weapons are a bad thing; we're just skeptical about assuming that all the ladies will be calling for help and healing people while all the guys are out pulverizing the enemy; you know, mix it up a little. Maybe some of the guys fancy themselves healers (any future doctors in your class?) and maybe some of the girls want a sword. Plus, in the department of other literary connections, in Lord of the Rings, the horn of Gondor (which calls for aid, much like Susan's horn) was passed down through the guys in the royal family.

In fact, we want students to think outside the box here with possibilities like potions or horns or magic lanterns. And even when it comes to traditional weapons, we don't want everyone ending up with a sword or a bow. Encourage students to get creative and design a weapon that suits their strengths and their character. Since we're operating in the land of Narnia, each weapon should also have a magical element.

To help students with the brainstorming process, you might refer them to these links on weapons throughout history:

And now, a brief public service announcement: Make sure you stress the importance of keeping the topic of weapons on the imaginary end of the spectrum. The links above are provided to give students some additional ideas as they design their own magical weapon, but some of them give pretty explicit detail for how the weapon would be used. You should definitely preview these sites and decide if they are appropriate for your students. Another option would be to pull just the images from these sites and create a PowerPoint that shows different weapon designs without getting into the gory details of their use in battle.

Step 5: Once students choose/design their weapon, they'll present it via poster. Each student should create a poster that shows a visual rendering of the weapon, along with information about what the weapon does and how it is used. Students should write a brief explanation of how this weapon relates to their particular strengths and characteristics and how it would aid them in the role they would play in an epic Narnia-style battle. For example, let's say their role is to defend the castle gates. How is their weapon designed to help with this specific task? Here are some questions to help with their explanations:

  • What is the name of your weapon?
  • Why is it perfect for you?
  • What is its magical power?
  • What time period is it from?
  • In what war—real or imaginary—would you use it?
  • What type of enemy would you fight?
  • What would be your name and position in this war?
  • If your weapon is not the kind for combat (think about Lucy) then what does it do?
  • How will you use it to your advantage? Who will you save with it?

You can have students present their posters to the class and even vote on the most creative magical weapon. Or if you're short on time, you can simply display the posters around your room.

Instructions for Your Students

Bravery is a popular theme in many young adult texts from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games. More and more, characters in young adult novels find themselves in a fight with weapons ranging from the traditional to the magical to the futuristic. In many cases, the characters' weapons reveal something about them and the Pevensies' weapons are no different.

Now it's your turn—zap! You are standing in front of Father Christmas and he is handing you a weapon. What is it? And what does your weapon tell us about you?

In this lesson, you will analyze the weapons given to the Pevensie children and what they reveal about their characters and the roles they play. Then, you will design your own magical weapon that reveals something about yourself. There's a fight on the horizon, so let's get started.

Step 1: The Pevensie children had to show courage even when their knees were knocking and all they wanted to do was run away. They also display several different types of courage. For example, it takes courage to fight in battle, but it also takes courage to ask for forgiveness. Let's start by brainstorming possible definitions of courage and examples of courage throughout the novel. For extra help, check out Shmoop's courage theme and quotes pages.

  • What examples of courage do you remember from the novel? Be sure to think about all the characters, not just the children.
  • How would you define courage?
  • Does courage have to do with how you feel or how you act, or both?
  • Are courage and fearlessness the same thing? Why or why not?

Step 2: Now, let's talk weapons. Each child in the story was given a special weapon with magical powers. In literature, a weapon often reveals something about the character that wields it, so let's take a closer look at these weapons. Review Chapter 10, looking specifically at the scene where Father Christmas gives the children their weapons. Then answer these questions:

  • What is the purpose of each weapon given?
  • What does each weapon tell us about the role the character is intended to play?
  • How does each weapon relate to or reveal the character's traits? Check out Shmoop's character pages for help here.

Step 3: Did you notice the glaring difference between what the girls are supposed to do with their weapons versus the boys? We're guessing you fans of Katniss or Hermione are probably feeling pretty indignant right about now, and we don't blame you. Let's dig into Lewis's take on gender a bit further:

  • How are the girls' weapons different from Peter's? What does Father Christmas say about girls and battle?
  • This scene obviously reveals a more traditional view of gender roles. How do you feel about that? Is it right that Susan and Lucy stay out of the battle, or should they be allowed to fight? Why or why not?
  • If girls aren't supposed to fight, what do we make of the White Witch? After all, the leader of the opposing army is a woman, so how does that fit into the book's take on gender roles? Is this a contradiction, or is there another reason the villain is female? 
  • At the end of the book, Susan becomes Queen Susan the Gentle, so that fits with the old "girls are sugar and spice and everything nice" routine, but what about Lucy? Lucy becomes Queen Lucy the Valiant (in other words, brave), and she's the one who questions Father Christmas, saying that she would be brave enough to fight. We tend to associate valiance with the battlefield, so what's the deal? If Lucy's key characteristic is courage, why can't she fight?

Step 4: Okay, be honest; who's dying to create your own magical weapon? Here's your chance to create a weapon in school and not get into trouble—but only because these weapons will be of the 2D drawing variety, so there's no risk of black eyes. You have analyzed how weapons reveal character traits and roles, so now you will create a magical weapon of your own that reveals your own characteristics and role in an epic battle-between-good-and-evil type story.

Now, our discussion on gender wasn't meant to imply that defensive weapons are a bad thing; we're just skeptical about assuming that all the ladies will be calling for help and healing people while all the guys are out pulverizing the enemy; you know, mix it up a little. Maybe some of you guys fancy yourselves healers (any future doctors in the room?) and maybe some of you girls want a sword. Plus, in the department of other literary connections, in Lord of the Rings, the horn of Gondor (which calls for aid, much like Susan's horn) was passed down through the guys in the royal family, so calling for help isn't just for girls.

In fact, we want you to think outside the box here with possibilities like potions or horns or magic lanterns. And even when it comes to traditional weapons, we don't want everyone ending up with a sword or a bow. Get creative and design a weapon that suits your strengths and your character. Oh, and since we're operating in the land of Narnia, each weapon should also have a magical element. Cool, right?

To help you brainstorm some interesting weapon designs, check out these links on weapons throughout history:

And now, a brief public service announcement: Make sure you keep the topic of weapons on the imaginary end of the spectrum. We're not actually building weapons or encouraging violence here; instead, we're looking at weapons as character devices. Let's keep the actual fighting in the land of literature. Deal?

Step 5: Once you choose/design your weapon, you'll present it via poster. You'll each create a poster that shows an illustration of the weapon, along with information about what the weapon does and how it is used. You should write a brief explanation of how this weapon relates to your particular strengths and characteristics and how it would aid in the role you would play in an epic Narnia-style battle. For example, let's say your role is to defend the castle gates. How is your weapon designed to help with this specific task? Here are some questions to help with your explanations:

  • What is the name of your weapon?
  • Why is it perfect for you?
  • What is its magical power?
  • What time period is it from?
  • In what war—real or imaginary—would you use it?
  • What type of enemy would you fight?
  • What would be your name and position in this war?
  • If your weapon is not the kind for combat (think about Lucy) then what does it do?
  • How will you use it to your advantage? Who will you save with it?

P.S. Please don't bring any real weapons to class. It would mean immediate defeat.

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WANT MORE HELP TEACHING THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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