Teaching resources round-up: Victorian classic Alice in Wonderland

By Rachel Hayward | 18 February 2010
Showing Alice and the White Rabbit conversing in the hand made book of Alice's Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll

Alice and the White Rabbit conversing in the hand made book of Alice's Adventures Under Ground by Lewis Carroll. Courtesy the British Library

Movie adaptations are a great way to engage your pupils with old classics and Tim Burton's adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland looks set to give this children's favourite a revival in the classroom too. So, we've gathered together some useful Alice resources from museums and related cultural websites for you that are perfect for literacy activities and your Victorian project. Did you know, for example, you can view the original film of Alice for free?

See the first Alice for free on the BFI website
Alice in Wonderland (1903), the first-ever film version of Lewis Carroll's tale, has recently been restored by the BFI National Archive. Made only 37 years after Lewis Carroll wrote his story, the film is based on Sir John Tenniel's original illustrations. This version, at 12 minutes, was the longest film produced in England at that time and was the Avatar of its day. The only surviving print, held in the BFI National Archive, is severely damaged and only eight minutes of footage have survived. Luckily, the Archive has preserved this film and restored its original colour tints. It will be available to view on the BFI website and in the BFI Mediatheques, free of charge, from early March 2010.

Showing two pages with illustrations of an enormous Alice from the hand made book of Alice's Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll

With the British Library's Virtual Book of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, you can rotate the book in order to see the illustrations more clearly. Screenshot courtesy the British Library

At the time of writing, we weren't able to view the BFI Alice film yet, so we have to say our current favourite Alice resource is the British Library's virtual book of Alice's Adventures Under Ground. You can turn the pages of the story, listen to it read aloud and there are other handy tools, including the ability to zoom in and view relevant background information.

Showing a cartoon drawing of Alice in Wonderland with blonde hair and wearing a blue dress. Alice is falling down the rabbit hole.

A screenshot from the Create Yours section of Journeys to Wonderland. Courtesy Alice in Oxford website

A nice resource to accompany the virtual book of Alice's Adventures Under Ground is on the Alice in Oxford website. In the Teach Me section on the site, you'll find a link to the interactive Journeys to Wonderland, a project that saw the Museum of Oxford working together with the British Library and SEMLAC the South East Museums Libraries and Archives Council.

The Stories section of Journeys to Wonderland takes chapters from Alice's Adventures Under Ground - the original title of Alice in Wonderland - and these are read aloud. Adding value to this resource are the accompanying illustrations from different publications of the story.

Activity idea: why not ask your class to continue an extract or compare and contrast illustrations by discussing which one 'tells' the story better?

We liked the Discover section on Journeys to Wonderland, particularly extracts 1, 2, 5 and 6 of the boat journey. 1 and 2 are good for Victorian contextual information for Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson. 5 and 6 give useful detail for you and the class about how the book came to be written and what happened to Alice.

Activity idea: if your pupils are studying the Victorian era, they could use the Discovery section to help them write a fact file about Charles Dodgson or Alice Liddell.

We also recommend the Create Yours section of Journeys to Wonderland. Here pupils can select backdrops from the story and characters and then add text.

Activity idea: why not use Create Yours for literacy activities, including writing dialogue?

Useful Charles Dodgson background info
On July 4 1862, mathematics don Charles Dodgson (who wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll), made up a 'fairy tale' for the three daughters of his college's Dean - Lorina, Alice and Edith Liddell whilst out on the river near Oxford. Alice then asked Dodgson to write down the story in which she was the heroine.

The result, which Dodgson gave to Alice as a Christmas present in 1864, was Alice's Adventures Under Ground. A sequel Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There followed in 1872.

The original manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, 1862 is bound in green morocco leather. It took Charles Dodgson more than two years to complete. He first wrote the text in sepia-coloured ink, leaving spaces for the 37 illustrations which he himself drew even though he was an untrained artist. He later explained that the story was 'at the request of Miss Alice Liddell, written out for her in manuscript print, with pen-and-ink pictures … of my own devising; without the least idea, at the time, that it would ever be published.'

From February 2010, the original manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground will be on display at the British Library in London. You'll find it in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library. Please contact the British Library for more details.

Culture24 also has an Alice in Wonderland: on the trail of Lewis Carroll feature dedicated to places you can visit that have an Alice connection.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned: