Swashboggling activities for a creative Roald Dahl Day


Thursday 13th September is Roald Dahl Day: a celebration of the author and his wondercrump stories on what would have been his 102nd birthday.

At the Artis Foundation, we love Roald Dahl, particularly because of his creative use of language in all of his books. All of our Artis Specialists have onomatopoeic names that we use in schools; we’ve got a Giggle, a Chuckle, a Chime, and hundreds more (find out why here)…

Dahl created a whole dictionary worth of magical words (8,000 in fact) with many using onomatopoeia. He knew how much children love them, not only because they sound fun but because they can work them out as they often sound like a word they know. Some of our favourites are below:

  • Wondercrump: “Wonderful or splendiferous”
  • Scrumdiddlyumptious: “Food that is utterly delicious”
  • Flushbunking: “Makes no sense whatsoever”
  • Gobblefunk: To “play around with [words] and invent new words or meanings”
  • Swashboggling: “Very special”
  • Squishous: “Very easy to squish”


We want to share with you some activities to help you bring to life Roald Dahl’s magical world to your classroom, and explore texts using the performing arts. Many of the techniques described below could be easily adapted to explore any texts you are discovering with your classes.

1) Lead In

Enter the room with children following behind in single file. Chant each line of the Ingredients poem from George’s Marvellous Medicine with children repeating each line as a call and response. Once children are all in a circle and repeating the chant, add mixing and pouring actions.

You could also mix this up by changing the pace or dynamics of the chant.

Fiery broth and witches brew.
Foamy froth and riches blue.
Fume and spume and spoondrift spray.
Fizzle swizzle shout hooray.
Watch it sloshing, swashing, sploshing.
Hear it hissing, squishing, spissing.
Grandma better start to pray.

2) Roald Dahl Brainstorm

  • Let the children discuss for 1 minute with a partner – how many Roald Dahl stories can you think of?
  • Write down a brainstorm of the children’s ideas.
  • In groups of four, choose one of those Dahl’s stories and create a tableau of that story.
  • Share some of these tableaux to the rest of the class and see if they can guess the story.
  • Discuss how the answer was guessed and what made it a successful tableau.


3) The BFG

Ask the class if anyone knows what that the BFG stands for? Which are the two adjectives?

With music, ask children to walk round the room slowly like Big Friendly Giants. Explain that when you tap someone on the shoulder they should give two adjectives to describe a giant. You can give some words as examples. Using the different adjectives, get the children to continue walking down the room as describe, for example Humungous Sad Giants or Little Silly Giants.

It’s a nice idea to write on a flipchart some of the adjectives that come out of this activity.

The Giants in the BFG have some magnificent names:

The Fleshlumpeater, Manhugger, Bonecruncher, Childchewer, Meatdripper, Gizzardgulper, Maidmasher, Bloodbottler and The Butcherboy

Ask the children to come up with their own giant name!

4) The Witches

Read the ‘How To Recognise A Witch’ part of ‘The Witches’ story, mentioning that the boy’s knowledge of witches comes from his grandma.

The Witches Revealed:

  • In the role of The Grand High Witch, and treating the children as if they are witches in the scenario, get them mime removing their wigs, shoes and gloves to show themselves for what they really look like
  • With suggestions from the class, turn this into a short movement sequence to be performed as a whole group to music


Stealing Formula 86 from the Grand High Witch:

Play the ‘Stealing Formula 86 from the Grand High Witch’ game as follows

  • Sit the children in a circle with one child blindfolded sitting in the middle of the circle on a chair. The blindfolded student is the Grand High Witch, as if she is asleep.
  • Place a bunch of keys under the chair to signify the bottle of Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse Maker.
  • Secretly pick out a child from the circle to try to get up very quietly and tiptoe round the circle, as a mouse, and break in to steal the keys from under the chair before the Grand High Witch can point to where she is accurately.
  • The Grand High Witch must make clear pointing signals to where she thinks the other child is and not sweep her arm round to take in a big area. The rest of the class can contribute by saying yes or no to her guesses.
  • When the mouse is caught, she becomes the Grand High Witch, if she wins, she goes back to her place.


5) Roald Dahl Characters

Talk Show Host: This variant on hot-seating allows children to explore characters and interrogate their motivations. Go into role as the host of a talk show, and welcome different Roald Dahl characters onto the ‘sofa’ to be interviewed.

i.e. Charlie Bucket, Miss Trunchbull, Red Riding Hood.

You can add drama to this by gradually increasing the number of characters on the ‘sofa’, in the style of Jeremy Kyle, and stoke disputes between them! When the children are comfortable with the format, they can try this independently, in small groups.


Find out more about Roald Dahl Day and the Roald Dahl Marvellous Charity here. Images © Quentin Blake

For more ideas for bringing the curriculum to life in the classroom, click here to read more of our free teaching resources. We’ve also got lots of video resources available here.

To find out how Artis could support creativity at your school, click here to contact us.

13 Sep 2018

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