Wizard of Oz Unit Study
Compiled by: Ali Lock, 2006
To combine classic scholastic learning with great literature.
Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Time Frame for the unit:
Two and a half to three weeks
To start the unit, decide how many chapters of the book you plan on reading each day. Also, pick and choose other activities
from the various academic choices available.
Get carried way with a study of tornadoes!
Gemstones are common in Oz, from rubies to emeralds. What are gems, how are they made, and why are they so valuable? And
could you really make a city of emeralds, or wear a pair of ruby shoes
Poppies. Identify different colors and varieties of poppies. Figure how many it would take to fill a field the size of
a football stadium/playground/nearby park. Make paper poppies as an arts and crafts project, or grow real poppies in class.
Why do we sleep? Night after night in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz the Scarecrow and Tin Woodsman stand quietly and
watch Dorothy sleeping, wondering why she does it. What does sleep do to restore us? How much sleep do people need?
The Munchkins grew to be no bigger than Dorothy. What factors effect how much you will grow? Discuss genetics, diet, exercise
and other factors that influence size.
In the famous 1939 Judy Garland movie, the whole adventure is a dream caused by stress and a bump on the head. Why do we
dream? Why do we dream only during the R. E. M. stage of sleep? Also, dreams are often spawned by events that have already
happened to us. For example, Dorothy placed Hunk in her dream as the brainless Scarecrow because, before she was knocked unconscious,
Hunk told Dorothy to use her brains about Miss Gulch, and that her head weren't made out of straw. This phenomenon can be
explored as used in this movie, Return to Oz (1985), or in general.
Students can create their own maps of Oz, based on the endpapers of Tik-Tok of Oz (also available
online at Hungry Tiger Press) or the set of maps printed and sold by the International Wizard of Oz Club. Or use the maps to develop map-reading skills.
Using a list of all the languages into which The Wizard of Oz has been translated (about sixty at last count), students
find countries where those languages are spoken. Kids also could report on what life was like in those countries in the year
1900 (when the novel was first published) and how it has changed.
If there was a Yellow Brick Road between your house and the White House (or anywhere else, like Disney World, "The Emerald
City"), how long would it take you to get there if you walked all the way? Dorothy often rode the Cowardly Lion (note to teachers,
remember that Baum's character is a four-legged beast, not a man in a lion suit...). What types of transportation could you
ride? How long would each method of transportation take and what would it cost? If you traveled by ground, what places would
you see along the way? How would your journey have been different 100 years ago?
Where do other storybook characters live? Identify real and make believe places. Make a pretend continent where all the
make-believe places are found.
Live for a day like it was in 1900 schools, with only books -- no TV, recorded music, computers or videos. Have the teacher
and students use only chalk and the chalkboards, share their books and otherwise mimic the 1900 schoolroom. If available locally,
take a field trip to restored/preserved turn-of-the-century site(s).
Many people believe that The Wizard of Oz is a political story, a thinly-veiled satire of the American Populist
movement of the turn of the century. While most Baum and Oz scholars don't believe this to be the case , it does demonstrate
that Baum's writings reflected the times he lived in. Other examples of world events influencing Baum's works may include
the Women's Suffrage movement in The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904), the San Francisco Earthquake in Dorothy and the
Wizard in Oz (1908), and the Russian Revolution in The Magic of Oz (1919). How many other real-life examples can
be found in the Oz books, or any other source? (Note that there are no strict right-and-wrong answers to this, it's all a
matter of interpretation. Also ties in with Language Arts.)
Make a Yellow Brick Road of paper for your classroom floor (or go outside and use yellow street chalk). How many bricks
would it take to make your yellow brick road cross the hall? run across the playground? down the street? What about if the
individual bricks were smaller or larger?
If field mice really could each pull X ounces, how many would it take to pull the Cowardly Lion to safety? Note the added
weight of the wooden "truck" built by the Tin Woodman and the weights of different lengths of string.
Dorothy lived in Kansas, where there are lots of sunflowers. How many seeds are in a sunflower?
In The Marvelous Land of Oz, an important magic spell involves counting to seventeen by two's. How can this be done?
Could Tip's problems with the spell have been the result of faulty mathematics?
For more about mathematics and Oz, you might want to take a look at the book The Mathematics of Oz by Clifford A.
Have the Students compare "The Wizard of Oz" book to the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland. What do both have in common?
And what is diffrent between them?
The Oz books can be used to discuss cause-and-effect, foreshadowing, or just about any other literary convention or device.
Write an essay comparing turn-of-the-century schooling to schools today. Or Dorothy's home to their own home. Or her family
Create a yellow brick timeline of Baum's life and the creation of the Oz books. (also ties in to History).
Who was L. Frank Baum? Students can research him and present their findings. Compare the written biographies of Baum with
the television movie The Dreamer of Oz.
For those who want to use The Wizard of Oz to teach vocabulary words, perhaps the book The Wizard of Oz Vocabulary
Builder by Mark Phillips would help.
Society has changed greatly since 1900, when the book was originally written. In the movie version of The Wiz, we
see the Wizard of Oz all urbanized. Most of Oz looks like back alleys, forests are replaced with amusement parks and subway
stations. Students can make the Wizard of Oz more modern. Imagine Dorothy as a N*Sync obsessed valley girl with a pair of
silver platforms. Maybe the Lion could be a tough, cigar smoking, geezer with no real tough stuff. Who knows what you can
come up with, but have students rewrite The Wizard of Oz as if it were to take place in the current year and illustrate.
Use Oz words for spelling, or study some of the more obscure vocabulary from the books or movie. (What does caliginous
The newspaper of Oz is called The Ozmapolitan. Students can write and illustrate their own issue of The Ozmapolitan
with news of what's going on in Oz. Use the events of an Oz book or events going on in their lives (this will allow the children
to really pretend as though they are "in Oz".)
Use The Marvelous Land of Oz or any of the later Oz books to bring up the idea of a sequel. Discuss what a sequel
is and why an author would write one. Students can also write their own sequel to The Wizard of Oz or any other story
Encourage students to write their own, original Oz adventures. The students can even make themselves the main characters!
How did they get there? Who did they meet? What problems did they encounter? How do they get home?
Word games -- making other words from the letters in "The Wizard of Oz" (there are at least 64 in The American Heritage
Dictionary), write vertical poems around Oz character names, etc.
What would your students like the Wizard to give them, if they could meet him? What might characters from other stories,
movies, television, etc. ask from him?
Students can draw their favorite Oz characters or places, or make Oz sculptures, collages, batiks, masks, oversize cutouts,
etc. and set up an Oz museum. They could also bring in Oz memorabilia or other objects relating to the story. Let them create
labels and explanations for the items.
What different kinds of instruments might be used to characterize each of the Oz characters, especially the Scarecrow,
Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion? What kinds of tunes or rhythms might characterize each one (a la "Peter and the Wolf")? How
might each character dance or move to their instrument or rhythm?
Compare the songs and soundtracks of The Wizard of Oz and The Wiz (both available on CD). How are they the
same? How are they different? What musical styles and traditions are in each?
In the movie, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion sang songs about themselves and what they wanted, all
to the same tune. What might other characters from the movie have sung to the tune of "If I Only Had a Brain/a Heart/the Nerve"?
What about characters from other stories, or the students themselves?
Research Oz sites on the World Wide Web.
Use digitized pictures from Oz books or movies (many are available online), and combine them with the student's faces in
PhotoShop or other art programs.
Social and Life Skills
Good things come in small packages. Munchkins are important people in Oz, described as being "no taller than Dorothy, who
was just a little girl herself." Discuss the wonderful things only small people can do. Make this an opportunity to influence
kids to appreciate those who are noticeably small.
From the little people who could repair World War II airplane wings (from the inside!), to entertainment industry stand-ins/stunt
men and jockeys, reinforce the value and contributions of mature little people over the years. (Solicit content help from
Little People of America organization.) Recommend documentaries on this topic (one even includes interviews
with actors/actresses who played Munchkins in the 1939 MGM Oz classic).
Discuss appropriate vocabulary when referring to those who are small. Explain the right and wrong difference between labelling
someone for where they are from (American/Munchkin) versus their physical characteristics (giants/mermaids) using fantasy
people to illustrate. Apply the lesson to real people today. Could incorporate professional titles and other vocabulary. Do
a "what are you" exercise that has kids think of names they are proud to be called.
Find a copy of an Oz-themed cook book (Cooking in Oz: Kitchen Wizardry from America's Favorite Fairy Tale by
Elaine Willingham and Stephen Cox., The Wizard of Oz Cookbook. Recipes inspired by Kansas, Munchkinland,
the Emerald City, and every point in between. , The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Cookbook by Monica Bayley. Oz-themed
recipes for young chefs to try out.) Study how the recipes are categorized by what region of Oz is highlighted, and how ordinary
recipes are "Ozzified". Let students create their own Ozzy recipes.
Psychology (For Highschool level students)
In the study of personality types, split the class into four groups. Each group is assigned a personality approach to use
to create a personality profile of Dorothy Gale (or any other Oz character). Then share and discuss.
When studying different states of consciousness, one can look at the famous film version of The Wizard of Oz and
how Dorothy's real life affected her dream
Lost can be lonesome. What should you do and who should you to turn to if you are lost? How can you help someone who is
lost? How would it feel to be lost? Could tie in a program that documents info on kids for security purposes.
Dogs can be more than friends. Toto, Dorothy's pet dog, travels with her to Oz and protects her from many dangers. Study
different breeds of dogs and how working dogs (guide dogs, guard dogs, sled dogs, World War I messenger dogs, "actor" dogs)
are raised and used.