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Exploring India with Kim in the English classroom

August 05, 2019 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

We are all aware of the benefits of extensive reading, but some of us may feel unsure about how to approach longer texts in class. How should we scaffold the reading for our students and how much time should we dedicate to talking about the book in class? How will the students benefit from their reading experience? How can we link the book to our syllabus? These are just some of the questions a teacher might have to consider when thinking about teaching through literature.

In this series of posts, we would like to encourage you to take extensive reading seriously and take a novel into class. We will look at how you can prepare your students for the text and expand it beyond the frame of the story. It is important to prepare the students so they are aware of what they are doing. Some of them may feel intimidated by the idea of reading a book in English, others may not see the benefits. These fears and preconceptions can be easily addressed and thereby make the reading process much more beneficial and all-importantly FUN for the students. It is always a good idea for students to keep a WORD BOOK where they can jot down new words and expressions. We also recommend getting your students to read slightly below level (‘I’ minus 1) so they are at ease with the language and consolidating language while learning new words in context. We also encourage you to offer projects for students individually or in groups so that they can connect with the novel through many pathways. These projects place the story in a wider cultural, historical, and scientific context. Our next story is Kim, written by Rudyard Kipling.

Exploring India with Kim - Cover Blog

The book was adapted by Janet Borsbey and Ruth Swan and illustrated by Gianluca Garofalo for pre-intermediate level learners (from pre-teen to adult) of English (CEFR A2).

Our aims are to:

  • raise interest in the story,
  • become familiar with the reader,
  • find pathways into the story through projects,
  • expand the social, cultural and historical setting of the story,
  • explore the scientific topics in the story,
  • make personal links,
  • have fun.

CLIL links:

  • Biology
  • Geography
  • History
  • Religion


1 Talk about the title. What kind of name is Kim? Is it a boy's or a girl's name? Where do you think Kim comes from?

2 Look at the cover and the characters. Simply ask your students what the characters in the novel are like based on these images. Here the setting might become obvious based on the characters' clothes. You can also show a picture (from the Helbling reader, a film adaptation or another illustrated book) to give some help if needed.

The characters in Kim
The characters in Kim. © Helbling Languages

3 Make predictions from the illustrations. 

Ask your students to browse the book and write some words/short sentences about what might be going on in the pictures. They can write them in their notebooks and then go back to their predictions as they are reading the book.

4 Before you start discussing the projects, share this Wordle image with your class.

It shows the fifty most frequently used words in the readers (the bigger the word the more it is used). What do these words tell us about the story? Get the class to ask questions and make statements based on the words.

Exploring India with Kim - Most Used Words
Wordle image of the top 50 words in the reader


When you have become familiar with the book, offer a series of projects for your students to explore on their own or in pairs/groups. We recommend that your students choose their topic whenever they feel best prepared to do so (before, during or after reading). Some students might not be comfortable reflecting on the story from a personal point of view and they might not have the linguistic toolkit to analyze it critically. Projects can provide friendly pathways into the stories and they can also provide the basis for cross-curricular projects.

1 Biology: Animals in India

First, ask students about animals in India. How many can they list? How many of them are endangered? Why? Then, read pages 8 and 9 in the reader about India's endangered animals. Then, encourage students to search for stories in the news about the current statues of these animals.

2 Geography: India

Ask your students if they have ever been to India and what they know about the country. Then, divide them into groups or pairs and ask them to pick one of the following topics and prepare a small info chart or poster. When they bring them to the next lesson, these posters can form a big India information wall.

  • Geography: Where is the country located? What is the landcape like?
  • Largest cities: The capital, the largest cities and their population
  • Transportation in India: How do people travel between and in cities?
  • Main industries: What products come from India?
  • Climate: What's the climate in India like?

Another interesting question for students to explain is connected to Geography. Kim’s journey begins in Lahore, which is now in Pakistan. How is it possible? Also, ask students to find out more about Simla, an important city in Northern India.

3 Culture: India

Another fascinating topic is Indian culture. If your students are not familiar with the country's cultural heritage, ask them to do some research and prepare a presentation about one of the following; the legends, myths and religions, the architecture, the cuisine and the clothes people wear.

4 History: the British in India

The history of Great Britain and India became linked. Talk about British India and discuss its history. The story is set in British India between 1893 and 1898, after the Second Anglo-Afghan War.

Here is a detailed BBC webpage about the history of India on the BBC website (for teachers to study):

It is also important to talk about the Great Game, the important political confrontation between the British Empire and the Russian Empire over Afghanistan in the 19th century. The term was coined by Arthur Conolly, a British intelligence officer.

5 Spies and secret agents

Kim takes part in the Great Game. He trains to be a secret agent through a series of tasks. What training exercises do spies and secret agents do to become better at their jobs? Ask your students if they know any famous spies or secret agents from other stories (novels, comics or films).

Tell your students to learn about the game called Kim's Game, which originates from the novel, where it's also called Jewel Game. What is this game about? Then, the students can design their own version of Kim's Game in class.

6 Languages in India

What languages are spoken in India? How many people speak them? What are the official languages of the country?

Learn more about the country's languages here:

You can also learn about the words that came to the English language from India:

Then, go to Exercise 2 on page 12 in the reader, and do the exercise about the English words that come from the Hindu or Urdu languages.

7 Religions in India

During his adventures, Kim meets a Buddhist lama and Buddhism and its teachings are a central theme in the story. Find out more about Buddhism. What other religions are practised in India? Choose one and find out more about it.

8 Rudyard Kipling, the author

Rudyard Kipling was born in India 1865. His early works were deeply influenced by Indian culture and history. Ask your students to collect information about Kipling's life and his other famous work, The Jungle Book.

Read more about The Jungle Book here:

DOWNLOAD our Kim Project Planner (.pdf) to use for keeping notes and organizing your ideas.

Exploring India with Kim Project Planner