LEARNING GUIDE TO:
THE WIZARD OF OZ
SUBJECTS — Cinema; Drama/Musicals; U.S./1865-1913;Age: 5+; No MPAA Rating; Musical; 1939; 101 minutes; B & W and Color. Available from Amazon.com.
Description: A Kansas farm girl is caught in a tornado and knocked unconscious. She awakens far from home in a magical land with witches, wizards, little people, flying monkeys, and other fantastic characters. The movie describes her efforts to get back home. The film is adapted from the popular children's book by L. Frank Baum.
Benefits of the Movie: "The Wizard of Oz" is a classic musical, beloved by children and their parents for generations. The film is perennially popular because it explores many of the issues and fears that children ages 5 - 12 must confront as they mature. In addition, the film can be used in language arts classes. It is an example of the archetypal journey of the hero and displays several literary devices including the frame story, irony, foreshadowing, and symbolism. Finally, an argument can be made that the story told by the book is an allegory to the history of populism in the U.S. in the late 1800s. High school history teachers can ask their classes to prove or refute the theory as an alternative to the usual methods of teaching this period of U.S. history.
See also TWM's Movie Lesson Plan for: The Wizard of Oz and the Hero's Journey — Teaching the Journey and Its Archetypes Through a Children's Classic.
Featured songs include: "Over the Rainbow," "Munchkin Land," "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," "Follow the Yellow Brick Road," "If I Only Had a Brain/a Heart/the Nerve," "If I Were King of the Forest," "The Merry Ole Land of Oz."
Possible Problems: MINOR. Younger children may be frightened by the Wicked Witches and their minions.
MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie.
Film Study Worksheet for ELA Classes; and
Worksheet for Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.
Additional ideas for lesson plans for this movie can be found at TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.
Parenting Points: Parents can maximize the benefits of the film by asking and helping children to answer the discussion questions. See Understanding the Story; Hopes and Fears; and Quick Discussion Questions. The remaining discussion questions are also helpful. See Social-Emotional Learning and Morality and Ethics Discussion Questions. Select the questions that are appropriate for your child's developmental level. Many children will want to see the film on several occasions. This will allow parents to ask different questions over a period of time. Even after children have stopped watching the film, parents can start discussions based on questions that had not been previously asked. Don't be surprised if, after these discussions, children want to see the movie again.
Children will also like parents to retell the story at bedtime or to make up new stories about Dorothy and the other characters in the movie. These tales should repeat and reframe the issues raised by the film. The first two parts of the Helpful Background section will help parents identify the themes to be covered.
Selected Awards, Cast and Director:
Featured Actors: Judy Garland, Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Burt Lahr, Frank Morgan, Charley Grapewin, Clara Blandick, Mitchell Lewis, Billy Burke.
Director: Victor Fleming.
QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION FOR CHILDREN AGES 5 - 9: Remember how the Lion needed a medal from the Wizard before he felt that he was courageous? The Tin Man needed a heart from the Wizard before he thought that he could be kind. And the Scarecrow needed a piece of paper saying he was smart. But the Lion was courageous, the Tin Man kind and the Scarecrow smart when they were walking with Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road. This was long before they ever met the Wizard. What does this tell you?
Suggested Response: That you are who you are regardless of whether people recognize that fact. Being given awards for your courage, compassion, or knowledge is great but it doesn't change who you are. In this story, the person who gave awards to the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man was himself a charlatan, a false wizard, whose power came merely from appearances.
QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION FOR CHILDREN AGES 9 - 11: Where did the power of the Wizard of Oz come from? Was it real?
Suggested Response: It came from appearances and the willingness of others to obey him. If a child responds that it is not real, remind them that the inhabitants of Oz obeyed the Wizard and that throughout most of the movie Dorothy did as well. Talk about the power to persuade, e.g., George Washington inspiring men to fight for the revolution; Franklin Roosevelt persuading Americans that we could get through the Great Depression: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."; Gandhi stopping the fighting between Hindus and Muslims by merely fasting; and Martin Luther King inspiring civil rights activists to use nonviolence to gain equal rights. This type of power is not tangible but it is very real.
QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION FOR CHILDREN AGES 12 and up: Compare the outlines of the plot of "The Wizard of Oz" and The Odyssey. How are they alike? See also Discussion Question #2 for this question in relation to the movie "Star Wars."
Suggested Response: Each story is that of the return home of the hero. The hero did not voluntarily seek the quest. The hero is taken into an imaginary world. He/she has a protector (Athena for Odysseus and Glinda for Dorothy) who doesn't help him/her all the time, but only some of the time, particularly at the end. The hero slays several opponents and undergoes several ordeals. The hero is steadfast in his/her devotion to the desire to return home. There are probably more similarities. See TWM's Movie Lesson Plan for: The Wizard of Oz and the Hero's Journey — Teaching the Journey and Its Archetypes Through a Children's Classic
THE FILM AS FAIRY TALE -- DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES RAISED BY "THE WIZARD OF OZ"
Children love this film because it touches on important questions, fears, and desires. They include:
Home is the center of a child's life. But children know that somewhere beyond the safety of home there is a world that is exciting and colorful, yet sometimes dangerous. What will happen if the child must leave home before he or she has grown up? Will the child be able to meet the challenges? Will he or she ever be able to find the way back home?These are core developmental issues that children must work out for themselves. They intrigue young people and resonate with the child inside us all.
"The Wizard of Oz" also contains some important moral lessons and opportunities for social-emotional learning. Dorothy treats everyone with respect and courageously meets whatever challenges come her way. The film teaches that groups of diverse beings can respect one another, work together, and achieve a common goal. It tells us that often evil, in the form of powerful and malevolent beings, has power over us only to the extent that we permit, due to our own weakness, fear, and error. Supposedly powerful people may turn out to be masters of deception who are not formidable when unmasked.
Through this story we also see that if we want to go looking for greater purpose in our lives, we may want to avoid traveling "somewhere over the rainbow," and look instead in our own home community. For some of us, "there's no place like home," no matter what wonders and adventures might await us in the big, colorful world. "The Wizard of Oz" and "It's a Wonderful Life" are the major cinematic proponents of this view. There are many other movies that glorify the effort of young people to break out of the restrictions of their home environments and live in that brightly colored, exciting, and somewhat dangerous world beyond their home. These are collected in the Breaking Out section of the Social-Emotional Learning Index.
THE MOVIE AS A WORK OF LITERATURE
Dorothy's story has the essential features of the classic hero's journey of separation, descent, and return: Dorothy is carried away to the threshold of adventure (the cyclone takes her to Oz); she meets a helpful or protective figure (the good witch, Glinda); she is provided with talismans to aid and protect her on the journey (the ruby slippers and the mark on her forehead from Glinda's kiss); she meets helpers (the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion); she goes through a series of tests; she endures a supreme ordeal and triumphs (the episode with the Wicked Witch of the West); and she gains her reward (the trip back to Kansas). See Quick Discussion Question for Children 12 and Up, which compares Dorothy's journey to the "The Odyssey" and Discussion Question #2 which relates it to Luke Skywalker's journey in "Star Wars". This aspect of the story is more fully developed in TWM's Movie Lesson Plan for: The Wizard of Oz and the Hero's Journey — Teaching the Journey and Its Archetypes Through a Children's Classic.
The movie employs the device of a frame story. Events in Kansas, shown in black and white, come at the beginning and at the end of the film. They bracket and give meaning to the colorful, adventurous journey through Oz. The characters and occurrences in Kansas parallel and foreshadow the characters and occurrences in the main story. Dorothy's dream transformed the three farmhands into the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man. It made Miss Gulch into the Wicked Witch of the West and Professor Marvel into the Wizard of Oz. When Toto bites Miss Gulch, the advice given by the farmhands foreshadows the personality of their parallel characters in Oz. The conflict with Miss Gulch foreshadows and is converted into the conflict with the Wicked Witch of the West. The powerlessness of Auntie Em and Uncle Henry foreshadows the powerlessness of the Wizard to defeat the Wicked Witch of the West.
Irony plays an important role in the story. It is Dorothy, the innocent child who vanquishes the powerful Wicked Witches who terrorize Oz. It is Toto, the meekest creature of them all who exposes Oz, "the great and powerful." It is the charlatan Wizard who gives legitimacy to the Scarecrow's intelligence, the Tin Man's caring, and the Cowardly Lion's courage.
There are a number of symbols in the movie. The ruby slippers stand for the self-knowledge required to find happiness. The tornado is a symbol for the strong emotions felt by Dorothy when Auntie Em and Uncle Henry could not stop Miss Gulch from taking Toto. The storm abates with the death of one of the Witches.
For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.
Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.
For suggestions about using filmed adaptations of literary works in the ELA classroom, see Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories and Plays.
Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.
Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.
BUILDING VOCABULARY: allegory, amazement, anxious, aroused, astonished, aver, awkward, beneficent, bondage, bovine, caliginous, careworn, cataclysm, civilized, clumsy, companions, confidential, cruelty, curious, danger, dangerous, destroy, discouraged, dismal, earnest, enable, enchanted, fragrance, genuflect, hesitate, hob-nob, inconvenient, industrious, journey, kowtow, luscious, misfortune, monstrous, motionless, munchkin, muddle, oblige, prairie, pusillanimous, reflection, reproach, scarecrow, sorceress, spectacles, tedious, vernacular, weapons, whopper, witch, whippersnapper, whirlwind, wizard. See also Vocabulary List for the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and English Learner Movie Guide to "The Wizard of Oz" from ESLnotes.com.
ALLEGORY TO THE HISTORY OF POPULISM
IN THE U.S. -- LATE 1800S
Educators can use the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as an allegory for the history of the populist movement in U.S. politics in the late 1800s. The validity of the theory is disputed. See the Links to the Internet for sites reflecting the conflicting interpretations and The Annotated Wizard of Oz, Centennial Edition, Introduction, pages lxxxix and xc. Whether the theory is correct or not, it is an excellent way to teach: (1) the literary device of allegory and (2) the history of populism in the U.S. during the late 1800s.
A simplified analysis is that the populists championed a bimetal standard for the U.S. currency, i.e., one based on both gold and silver. With a gold standard, there was too little paper money in circulation. The bankers and industrialists of the day controlled gold and wanted a gold-based currency. This restricted the availability of money and hence, so the theory went, kept inflation and prices low. The populists believed that if a bimetal standard was adopted there would be more paper money and an increase in commerce, salaries, and prices benefitting farmers and workers.
The Quantity Theory of Money can be expressed as: MV = PQ where:
M = the quantity of money in circulation (M1).The Quantity of Money Theory of Price is a corollary to the Quantity Theory of Money and asserts that: P = MV/Q. This theory means that when the amount of money in circulation (M) rises, the average price level (P) will also rise.
The U.S. had been on the gold standard (i.e., all dollars issued had to be backed by gold and could be redeemed for gold) until the Civil War. After the Civil War, the issuance of currency was restricted and, in 1879, the gold standard was resumed. The U.S. economy throughout most of the late 1800s was expanding rapidly and there was a need for more currency. The 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act provided for increased purchase and coinage of silver. There were fears that the U.S. would switch from a gold to a silver standard and people began to hoard gold, depleting the Treasury's supply. The populists believed that more money (M) would result in an increased average price level. This was to be accomplished through "bimetalism," adding silver as a second metal on which the dollar was based.
The populists never came to power in the U.S. The most influential populist/bimetallist candidate for president was William Jennings Bryan. Nominated for president by the Democratic party on three occasions, Bryan never achieved the presidency, despite the fact that on one occasion he won the popular vote.
An allegory is "the representation of spiritual, moral, or other abstract meanings through the actions of fictional characters that serve as symbols." Random House Webster's College Dictionary, 1999. The analogies on which this allegorical interpretation is based (there are some variations among educators) are as follows:
Dorothy = the American people: plucky, good-natured, naive.
Toto = the Prohibition (Temperance) party. Prohibitionists favored the bimetallic standard but like any fringe group often pulled in the wrong direction. So they got to be a dog. (Toto is a play on "teetotalers.")
Oz = the almighty ounce (oz) of gold.
The yellow brick road = a path paved with gold bricks that leads nowhere.
Dorothy's silver slippers = originally the property of the Wicked Witch of the East, until Dorothy drops the house on the Witch. Walking on the yellow brick road with the silver slippers represented the bimetallic standard. (MGM changed the silver slippers to the ruby slippers to exploit the technology of Technicolor.)
The Good Witch of the North = New England, a populist stronghold.
The Good Witch of the South = the South, another populist stronghold.
The Wicked Witch of the East = Eastern banking and industrial interests. She is killed by Dorothy's falling house because the populists expected that the Eastern industrial workers would vote populist, but this never really happened.
The Wicked Witch of the West = the West was where the populists were strongest. The only reason the West gets a Wicked Witch is: a) you need two bad guys to balance the two good guys, and especially, b) William McKinley was from Ohio, then thought of as a Western state. The Wicked Witch is sometimes identified directly with President McKinley.
The Munchkins = slaves of the Eastern banking and industrial interests, i.e., Eastern workers who didn't vote for Bryan.
The Scarecrow = Western farmers. They were populists.
The Tin Man = Eastern workers. Populist mythology always looked to this group for support, but never found it in reality. Baum realized this (most populists didn't) and shows the Tin Man as a victim of mechanization. He's so dehumanized he doesn't have a heart.
The Cowardly Lion = William Jennings Bryan.
The Emerald City = Washington, D.C. The color is suggestive of paper greenbacks.
The Wizard = President McKinley, but sometimes his advisor, Marcus Alonzo Hanna. McKinley and Hanna deceived the people. The Wizard promises Dorothy that he will be able to bring her back to Kansas with a balloon filled with a lot of "hot air." Instead, it is the slippers, which Dorothy had all the time, that took her home. The Wizard's gifts of courage, brains, and a heart are deceptions, although beneficial ones. Much of this section is quoted or derived from The Wizard of Oz as a Monetary Allegory by Robert F. Mulligan, Ph.D., Western Carolina University College of Business.
The state of Kansas is part of the Great Plains, which is a large plateau in the center of North America. The Great Plains extend for over 1500 miles from the Saskatchewan River in Canada, south to the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico. The East-West measure is about 400 miles beginning at the Rocky Mountains and extending east. The natural vegetation is buffalo grass. The climate is hot in summer and cold in winter. The average annual rainfall is only 20 inches. The landscape is famous for its undisturbed monotony.
Tornados are one of the most violent storms in nature. They can occur anywhere in the world but most often strike in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. The speeds of the wind in a tornado range from 200 to 500 miles per hour. Since tornados generally destroy any instruments which record wind velocities, we have no direct data on the speeds of winds inside a tornado. Tornados take the form of a funnel made up of water, dust, and debris sucked up into the storm. Where they touch the ground, tornados can be only a few meters wide or they can be up to a kilometer wide. Damage to property results from the wind and from the extremely reduced pressure in the center. Structures explode if the air can't get out of them fast enough. People are instructed to open windows and take cover if a tornado approaches.
There are significant differences between the book and the movie and they should be treated as separate works of art. The book is an excellent fairy tale that was very popular when it was published in 1900. The script for the film adds to and actually improves upon the story told in the book. For a description of differences between the book and the movie see Wikipedia article on "The Wizard of Oz"
The Wizard of Oz can be used as an introduction to the interpretation of dreams. Going to Oz is part of Dorothy's fulfillment of her wish to go "over the rainbow" but the events there and her strong desire to go home are the result of her fears of what will occur. The Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow are Dorothy's transmutation of characters from real life into the dream. The same is true of the Wizard. Dorothy knows that Professor Marvel is a charlatan when she meets him, but she is grasping at straws at that point. He is the false path, as the Wizard was the false path to get home. Miss Gulch is, of course, personified in the Wicked Witches. Glinda is probably Auntie Em, or rather the Auntie Em that Dorothy wishes she were. The death of the Wicked Witches is from Dorothy's wish that they would die.
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UNDERSTANDING THE STORY
Almost all children will need help in answering these questions. Ask these questions after children watch the movie and then let them watch the movie again.
1. Did you recognize someone in Oz who reminded you of Miss Gulch? Who was she? Was there someone in Oz who was like Professor Marvel, the man who told Dorothy's fortune with the crystal ball? Who was he? Were there people in Oz who were like the farmhands? Who were they? Suggested Responses: The dream transformed Miss Gulch to the Wicked Witch of the West; the three farmhands to the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man, and Professor Marvel into the Wizard of Oz.
2. Despite the courage of the Cowardly Lion, the intelligence of the Scarecrow, the compassion of the Tin Man, and the wisdom of the Wizard, Dorothy is the real hero of this story. Compare Dorothy's story to the story of another hero that you know and tell us some of the ways in which their stories are alike. Suggested Response: You can pick any story. What about Luke Skywalker of the first Star Wars movie? Both Dorothy and Luke are separated from their home and must undertake a journey. Her journey is to return home and Luke's journey is to find his father (although he doesn't know it at the time). They both find helpful and protective figures. Skywalker meets Obi-Wan Kenobi. Dorothy meets Glinda, her three friends, and later the Wizard. They both go through many ordeals and eventually gain their reward. Both Dorothy and Luke triumph because of the inner force of their characters which they carried with them from the beginning. Luke had "the Force" which ran strong and deep within him. Dorothy had her strength of character (symbolized by the ruby slippers). However, before either of them could complete their journey these inner strengths had to be developed and tested.
3. How does Dorothy change through the course of the story told by this movie? Suggested Response: There is no one right answer. A good answer would include that she came to know her own strength and resourcefulness or that she grew in self-confidence.
4. Did Oz really happen or was it just Dorothy's dream? Suggested Response: Most people say that in the movie, Oz was just Dorothy's dream populated by characters from Dorothy's life changed by her imagination. But then, at the end of the film Uncle Henry says that they do believe her. Was he just humoring her or was he being serious? In short, there are two sides to this argument.
5. In our dreams, our minds work out our wishes and our fears, especially in relation to what happened during the day before. Name two fears and one wish that Dorothy was working out in her dream about Oz. When thinking about Dorothy's wishes, remember that people's wishes often conflict so it is possible that Dorothy could want two different and opposite things. Suggested Response: See Helpful Background Section for a list of fears. Some of Dorothy's wishes were: to get rid of Miss Gulch (the Wicked Witch) so that she couldn't hurt Toto anymore; to experience the exciting life beyond the grayness of Kansas; to stay home with her aunt and uncle; to save Toto; for Auntie Em to be more like Glinda.
6. Why is the land of Oz green? Suggested Response: It is the land of hope. The color green is often associated with hope. (If the film is being used to study history, there is an additional analogy. Oz is the city of Washington, D.C., where money often holds sway according to the populist analogy theory.)
7. A symbol is something in a story that stands for something else. What does the tornado stand for? Suggested Response: There are at least two possibilities. The tornado is a symbol of the strong emotions felt by Dorothy when Auntie Em and Uncle Henry could not stop Miss Gulch from taking Toto. The tornado can also be interpreted as a symbol of the chance events that can happen in life that change our lives forever. It is really more an example of that than a symbol.
QUESTIONS RELATING TO THE HOPES AND FEARS OF CHILDREN AGES 5 - 12
Often the issues raised by this film are too disturbing to be discussed directly which, of course, is why we have fairy tales. Therefore, TWM suggests that teachers and parents ask questions which do not directly refer to how children feel about the issues described below. Have the children put themselves "in the ruby slippers", i.e., how would they feel if they were in Dorothy's shoes or how do they think Dorothy felt. Questions can also focus on how Dorothy successfully resolved these issues. Parents or teachers who are good storytellers can make up a story with some of the same thematic elements. Young children delight in stories about the characters they saw in a movie.
Make sure that each of the questions below is appropriate for the developmental level of your child or class.
CONCEPT: Home is the center of a child's life. But children know that somewhere beyond the safety of home there is a world that is exciting and colorful, yet uncertain and in some ways, dangerous. This both attracts and frightens them. What if home is destroyed or the child is suddenly taken away from home before he or she has had a chance to grow up? Will the child survive? Will he or she ever be able to find the way back?
8. At the beginning of the movie, Dorothy was singing about wanting to be "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". By the end of the movie she realized that "There's no place like home". What happened to change her mind? Suggested Response: Before the tornado, Dorothy didn't realize that going away from home meant leaving the people she loved. When she landed in Oz, Dorothy realized that she was alone and suddenly Kansas didn't seem so bad. In fact, all she wanted to do while she was in Oz was to get back home. A parent or teacher can also comment that this often happens to people; that they want something very badly but they don't think about the consequences of getting what they want.
9. How do you think Dorothy felt when she woke up from the tornado and found that the farm and Auntie Em and Uncle Henry were gone and that everything was different? Suggested Response: If the child is reluctant to answer the adult can volunteer "Well, I would have been terrified and excited at the same time. Where was my home? Where were my relatives? But Oz was so beautiful and exciting." This is the indirect approach. You can follow it up with -- "How would you have felt if you had been there instead of Dorothy?" or the reassuring question: "How do you think Dorothy felt when she got home?"
10. Do you know any children who have had to leave their homes in real life? What happened to them? Comment: If a child knows of a situation like this, the question will permit them to express their feelings about it. Whatever the child's answer the adult should stress the fact that this situation is very unusual and provide reassurance that it is not something the child needs to worry about.
CONCEPT: What about relationships with grownups? Mothers and fathers are all-powerful to a young child but a child soon learns that this power has limits, as when Auntie Em and Uncle Henry couldn't prevent Miss Gulch from taking Toto.
11. Just before the storm, why didn't Auntie Em and Uncle Henry stop Miss Gulch from taking Toto? How do you think Dorothy felt about this? Comment: The answer to the first question is that there was an order from the sheriff. An answer to the second question allows a child to talk about his or her fears triggered by this incident. These are very strong emotions. The tornado is a symbol of the strength of Dorothy's emotions. There are a number of words to describe what Dorothy's feelings could have been. They include frustration, betrayal, and hurt. Dorothy may have felt that her world was changing in ways she didn't like, since before this she had thought Uncle Henry and Auntie Em to be all-powerful. But it does happen sometimes that parents cannot protect their children.
CONCEPT: How does a child learn what he or she needs to know to get through tough situations?
The following three questions should be asked in a group.
12. How did Dorothy make it through all those dangerous situations in Oz? Suggested Response: There is no one correct answer. Good answers will contain some of the following concepts: She took things one at a time. She was respectful and kind to people and tried to help them. She chose her friends well. She met each challenge with courage and determination. She never lost sight of her goal.
13. What does this movie tell us about the solutions to some of our own problems? Suggested Response: This movie tells us that many times solutions to our problems lie within ourselves. All the time that Dorothy was in Oz searching for a way home, the solution (the ruby slippers) were right there on her feet. She just didn't know how to make them work. The filmmakers were trying to tell us that the key to our heart's desire is often within ourselves, we just have to discover how to unlock our own potential.
14. Did Dorothy change as a result of her experiences in Oz? Suggested Response: Yes. The experiences in Oz forced Dorothy to call upon her own strengths. She learned that she could fight for herself and overcome obstacles and evil forces.
15. Why couldn't Dorothy use the ruby slippers to get home at the beginning of the film, right after they appeared on her feet? Suggested Response: Dorothy needed to be ready. She needed the growth and the knowledge of her own strength and power that came from the experiences that she had in Oz.
CONCEPT: Can children ever triumph over evil adults?
16. What would you have done to the Wicked Witches that Dorothy met in Oz? Suggested Response: It is possible for children to triumph over evil adults but sometimes it is hard. Adults should point out that Dorothy is a very strong and resourceful girl. She meets every challenge with determination and intelligence. Eventually, she triumphs.
17. Is there anyone that you know who seems be like Miss Gulch? Comment: The purpose of this question is to allow children to talk about their own fears. If a child says that he or she doesn't know anyone like that, then the child should be reassured. If the child does name someone, an adult asking this question must decide what to do about it. Either to reassure the child, to take some action to reconcile the child with the person, or to take some action to protect the child from the person.
CONCEPT: What about misleading appearances? How do you tell appearance from reality?
18. Are things always what they seem? Suggested Response: The obvious answer is that they aren't. Children should be reassured that as they get older it will get easier to tell what is real and what is not. However, it should be acknowledged that everyone, no matter what their age, must deal with this question. As people get older and wiser, it gets easier to separate appearance from reality, but adults still have to work at it. Sometimes its hard to tell and you have to look very carefully. Sometimes most everyone is fooled, like in the Emerald City.
19. How do you determine which appearances to trust and which not to trust? Suggested Response: You use common sense and all of the information that is available. You keep your eyes and ears open. That's why being older helps, because you've had more experiences and more chances to see how the world really works.
20. What appearances in this movie are misleading? Suggested Response: There are many: the power of the Wizard of Oz; the ability of Professor Marvel to see into the future; the idea that Dorothy is a powerless little girl; the Scarecrow's stupidity; the Tin Man's lack of heart; and the Lion's cowardice.
CONCEPT: What is the nature of power? How do people get other people to do what they want? (This is a very complex question but it isn't bad for kids to start thinking about it.)
21. How did the Wizard come to power in the city of Oz and become renowned as a great and powerful wizard? Suggested Response: The people of Oz wanted to believe that he was a great and powerful man. It is people's agreement that allows others to hold power.
CONCEPT: How can a child ever meet the challenge of learning what a person needs to know to be an adult (the Scarecrow)?
22. How does a child learn what he or she needs to be an adult? Suggested Response: There is no one right answer. A good response will include going to school, learning a trade, becoming mature, listening to their parents, and watching how others behave. The adult asking this question should assure the child that there are many ways to get this knowledge and that he or she will succeed.
CONCEPT: How can a child ever learn to have courage even when he or she is very scared?
23. Do courageous people feel fear? Suggested Response: Yes, absolutely.
24. How does a person who is afraid act with courage? Suggested Response: Courageous people know what they must do and they do it, even though they may be very much afraid. If a child is interested in this question, it might be a good idea to read to them or have them read The Red Badge of Courage. See Learning Guide to "The Red Badge of Courage".
OTHER DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
25. See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.
26. Why was Dorothy so happy to return home to a drab existence in Kansas when the land of Oz was so beautiful and colorful? Suggested Response: Kansas was home and the people that she loved were there.
27. Some people contend that the story is driven by the inadequacy of adults and shows that Dorothy must make her own way. Analyze the story from this perspective and give some examples of the inadequacy of adults that had to be overcome by Dorothy. Suggested Response: When Dorothy runs away the first time, she is trying to protect Toto from Miss Gultch. Auntie Em and Uncle Henry had been powerless to stop Miss Gulch from taking Toto. The Wizard could not stop the Wicked Witch of the West nor could he control the balloon.
Select questions that are appropriate for your students.
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For a comparison of Dorothy's quest with that of Odysseus, see Quick Discussion Question For Children 12 and up
1. Was the Scarecrow any smarter after he got his diploma [or did he just think he was]? Suggested Response: No. He thought he was wiser and his belief in himself allowed him to give expression to his wisdom.
2. Was the Lion any more courageous after he received his medal [or did he just think he was]? Suggested Response: No. But since he thought he was courageous, he would act courageously.
3. Was the Tin Man any more compassionate after he got his heart [or did he just think he was]? Suggested Response: No. But since he thought he was kind, he would act in a kindly manner.
4. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion were all very different. Did that stop them from being friends? Does this lesson apply to real life? Why would people want to be friends with others who were different from themselves? Suggested Response: Each of Dorothy's friends, and Dorothy herself, brought skills and talents that were necessary for the group to survive and reach the Land of Oz. If they had all been the same, they would not have managed to meet all of the challenges that confronted them.
5. Can you see a benefit to yourself in having friends who are very different than you? Suggested Response: It would be really boring if everyone was the same. We have something to learn from everyone, especially people who are different than we are.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
6. If Dorothy had not had the ability to face all of the challenges presented to her in the land of Oz, what would have happened to her? Suggested Response: She wouldn't have been able to return home.
See Discussion questions 8 - 9 above.
7. At the beginning of the movie, Dorothy lived in Kansas. She yearned to leave home and go "somewhere over the rainbow." What did she learn about lands over the rainbow when she got there? Is this a realistic lesson or should children, at least when they are grown, seek their destiny away from home? Suggested Response: There are several good responses to this question. One is that she finds that she is not happy because it is not her home and the people that she loves are not there. Another is that she finds that there are problems in the world over the rainbow that are just as bad or worse than what she faced at home. When children are grown, sometimes it is their destiny to move away from home. But that is a decision made only when they are adults and young children don't have to think about that question for many, many years.
8. Is this movie telling us that children should never leave home? Suggested Response: No. This only refers to a child as young as Dorothy was. Whether a child who is mature, who has gone through school, and who is an adult should leave home is another question. Fortunately, it doesn't need to be answered now.
Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
(Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)
1. The Wizard, as Professor Marvel in Kansas, and in Oz, makes things appear different from what they really are. He lies to Dorothy in both places. In the movie, these lies are either harmless or for Dorothy's benefit (as when he sends her home after looking into the crystal ball). Is this true of most lies people tell in real life? Suggested Response: No. Most lies are to get something the liar wants or to avoid something unpleasant. The lie hurts the liar, even if it goes undetected, because it separates the liar from other people (often from people whom he or she loves) and makes the liar feel alone. It also lowers his or her sense of self-esteem. It puts the liar in the emotionally draining position of having to be vigilant about guarding the lie in future speech and action. Not only does a lie separate us from other people, the lie undermines our sense of unity with the Universe. All good moral or ethical codes have a spiritual component. This does not have to be religious in the sense of belief in a Supreme Being, but it must contain a sense of a relationship to others and to the Universal good. Acting in an immoral manner separates us from the Universal good and denies us the strength that comes from being in harmony with our sense of the Universe.
(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)
2. Dorothy met many different kinds of beings when she was in The Land of Oz. Other than the Wicked Witches, how did she treat them? We'll give you a hint. It's one of the Six Pillars. Suggested Response: Dorothy treated everyone with respect: the Munchkins, the Witches' minions, the Scarecrow, the Lion, and the Tin Man. Even after Dorothy knew the Wizard was a fraud, she treated him with respect. Even when Dorothy killed the Wicked Witches, it was by accident.
3. If Dorothy had not treated others with respect would she have ever made it home? Suggested Response: She needed the help of strangers in Oz (and in Kansas, too). Dorothy would have had a much more difficult time getting home without their help. She might have never made it.
(Additional questions are set out in the "Friendship" section above.)
(Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)
4. Why is home so important to Dorothy? Suggested Response: Home is where the people who love her live.
(Additional questions are set out in the "Friendship" section above.)
Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.
Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.
Bridges to Reading: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a great book to read to a younger child or for children 8 - 12 to read on their own. L. Frank Baum wrote a total of 14 books with Oz characters. Their complete texts can all be found on the web at various places, including The Wonderful Website of Oz! Purchase these books at Amazon.com. -->
MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: None.
Links To The Internet:
Websites and articles claiming that the story is an allegory about the history of populism:
Websites and articles disputing the idea that Baum intended the story as a parable of the history of populism:
Links relating to the story as a classic hero adventure:
OTHER LESSON PLANS:
PHOTOGRAPHS, DIAGRAMS AND OTHER VISUALS:
Projects And Activities: See Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories and Plays and Assignments, Projects and Activities for Use With Any Film that is a Work of Fiction. For U.S. history classes, ask students to write an essay agreeing or disagreeing with the theory that the book The Wizard of Oz is an allegory for the history of populism and bimetalism in the U.S. in the late 1800s.
Bibliography: In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:
Last updated July 21, 2011.
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