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The Jungle Book in the cinemas and your classroom

July 24, 2018 by cymaster

Disney's recent (2016) version of The Jungle Book Disney film has been praised for its stunning visuals and vocal cast. The story of Mowgli is a beloved children’s classic since its public in 1894, and there have been numerous film, TV and comic book adaptations of the stories.

Mowgli page 43
Mowgli, Baloo and Bagheera in the jungle. Full page illustration from the level 2 Helbling Reader Mowgli’s Brothers, illustrated by Roberto Tomei. © Helbling Languages

Disney's most recent version is a complete CGI masterwork shot in a studio in Los Angeles. While Warner Bros’ live-action film Jungle Book: Origins featuring stars like Christian Bale, Benedict Cumberbatch and Cate Blanchett was released to rave reviews the following year. Film adaptations of classic literary works are great ways of introducing the works  in your classrooms. The Disney film may be more suitable for younger learners and young teenagers but older students will still enjoy the story and the visual effects, while teens and young adults will enjoy Jungle Book: Origins. But how can you approach the book (either the original or an adaptation for language learners) after watching the fast-paced visuals .

The answer seems simple. Since this classic (like many others) has been entertaining us for over a century, it has one important characteristic of all classics: we love hearing it time and time again. You can build on the visually exciting film trailer to raise interest (your students probably already know the story very well) and start reading the book this month. We have collected some reading tips and classroom projects to learn more about the story, its setting, theme and author.

The Helbling Reader adaptation of Mowgli's Brothers

If you cannot read the story in its original version, read the graded reader adaptation for elementary and pre-intermediate level (level 2 in the Helbling Readers series) students published in the Helbling Readers series. The story was adapted by Maria Cleary and illustrated by Roberto Tomei.

Mowgli's brothers_cover.jpg

Read the story, use the illustrations, do the before and after reading activities, use the discussion questions in the reflection boxes. Remember to listen to the audio recording of the story for a more complete experience.

Tips for reading The Jungle Book 

1 Organise a Jungle Book reading club and read it together during weekly sessions. Ask your students to express their feelings and opinions about the story. Film adaptations often offer interpretations which might be different from the reader’s ideas about the story.

2 Read it in class, chapter by chapter (and see how many of the students read on). Focus on the discussion questions in the reflection boxes in each chapter.

3 If they watch the film first, or have already seen it, you can

  • find the relevant parts for each chapter in the film and compare them with the text,
  • or ask your students to do so by choosing their favourite scene in the film and finding the relevant part in the text,
  • watch a scene and then read the relevant passage in class together,
  • retell the story using the illustrations and then find the relevant passages in the text.

4 If they have not watched the film yet, you can

  • look at the illustrations and predict what they story is about,
  • watch the trailer to raise interest and encourage the students to read the book,
  • read the book in class chapter by chapter.
Mowgli sample page
Sample page from Mowgli’s Brothers with discussion questions. © Helbling Languages

Projects to build around the story

1 Find out about Rudyard Kipling

Click on this link and explore the map which shows where Kipling was born and spent the first six years of his life.

  • How much do you know about India?
  • What is the natural environment like there? (Geography link)
  • Why did Kipling’s family live there? (History link)
  • How did people travel from India to England when Kipling was a child?
  • How long did the journey take?

Kipling was sent to England for his studies and lived with a foster family before going to boarding school. Find Bideford on the map of England.

  • What is a foster family?
  • What is a boarding school?
  • Where did he live?

After his studies he moved back to India and worked as a journalist.

  • When and where did he move?
  • Why was he famous?

He then got married and had children.

He was the youngest author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

  • Why is this prize important?
  • How old was Kipling when he won the prize?
  • Are there any authors you know who won the Nobel Prize for Literature?

Kipling wrote many famous stories, for example Kim and the Just So The Jungle Book contains fourteen stories.

  • What are these other stories about?

He is buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey in London.

  • When did he die?
  • Why is Poet’s Corner an important place?
  • Who else is buried there?

2 Find out more about India and jungles

 5 questions about India

  • What is the geography of India like?
  • What the most famous places in India?
  • What are the cultural traditions in India?
  • Why was India important for the British Empire in the 19th century?
  • What products come from India?

5 questions about jungles

  • What are jungles like?
  • What kind of animals live there?
  • What plants grow in jungles?
  • Where are the biggest jungles in the world?
  • Why are jungles in danger?

3 Other feral children in mythology and literature 

Who are feral children? They are children who are isolated from human contact, just like Mowgli. Children who live outside society have been portrayed in various literary works. Can you name some of them? Think about Peter Pan, Tarzan, Romulus and Remus. What are their stories?

4 Fables

The Jungle Book stories can be read as fables.

  • What is a fable?
  • Who was the first famous author of fables?
  • Do you have any favourite fables?

Learn more about the Helbling Reader adaptation: