Teaching The Phantom Tollbooth

This is a wonderful book to share with your class. Teachers everywhere write to tell me how much their class enjoyed it. If you'd like to share your classroom ideas, there are plenty of people who would love to hear from you! Please email me at bcohen@lpl.arizona.edu.

There is a book called A Guide for Using The Phantom Tollbooth in the Classroom, by Kathleen L. Bulloch, being sold on Amazon.com. I haven't seen it in person, so I can't vouch for it, but if anyone has used it, please let us know whether you liked it!

From: Ruth Baize, American Teacher Award Honoree, Lodge Elementary School, Evansville, Indiana

I definitely am a phan! I taught this book (6 weeks) to my inner city kids in the 4th grade. My assistant and I had the most fun of all. The kids joined in with all the imagination abounding. We loved it! We followed the book with a "Welcome Home, Milo" party. Each child dressed as one of the characters with hilarious and imaginative results! My favorite was the orchestra leader: black suit coat with "tales" (stories pinned to the end of the suit coat). Our refreshments were cookies made using number cutouts, ice cubes from alphabet molds (purple Kool-Aide), grape Jello Jigglers from letter molds, Alpha-Bits cereal, etc. We played games representing the novel: musical chairs, charades, spelling bee. The prizes modeled the three gifts Milo was given. We had a ball! I have since held a Tollbooth workshop for the teachers in my large school system. I was so inspired throughout the book with bursts of creativity that I wanted to share all the corresponding lessons/ideas/projects with others. What a delightful book! Absolutely the best I have ever taught.

Here's a question sent in by a Phan that might make interesting classroom discussion:

When Milo leaves the lands of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, and the tollbooth vanishes, what happens? Does the adventure begin anew for each child? Or does it pick up where each child left off? The book doesn't say anything about this, so it might be fun for children to speculate on it.

This is a terrific set of activities sent in by Australian Phan/Teacher Mindi Sinha:

Subject: Teaching ideas for Phantom Tollbooth
As I browsed the net it was great to find so many people who remember this book so fondly. It was read to me by my grade 5/6 teacher way back in the late 60s and I had my own copy for many years until it fell apart. It has been out of print in Australia for a long time now but I was thrilled to see that it had finally been reprinted again by Collins in 1999. My colleagues and I were choosing novels to present and work with in our grade 5/6 level and I recalled just how much I had enjoyed this book at the same age. The library copy had long since "walked" and I was wondering how I could find another one which was when I discovered the reprint in the local bookshop! Oh Joy! At first I wondered if the modern child might find it too didactic and miss too many of the jokes but so far my grade seems to be enthralled with it and they are enjoying the challenges it presents. One bright child sits and listens with a dictionary on his lap to look up the more complex words! I have attached a copy of the activity page I wrote for class follow up. It's nothing much but I thought you might like to add it to your collection of ideas for the book.

Mindi Sinha

  1. Build a model of the Tollbooth based on the description in chapter 1. It may be a single model or part of a diorama.
  2. Draw a map showing Milo's journey and the different places he visited. Label it clearly. Places to include: Expectations; The Doldrums; Dictionopolis; Old City of Wisdom; Forest of Sight; Valley of Sound; Conclusions; Digitopolis; Sea of Knowledge; Castle in the Air; Mountains of Ignorance.
  3. Script an argument between King Azaz the Unabridged and The Mathemagician debating whether words or numbers are more important. Choose a partner and present your script to the class.
  4. Characters in Dictionopolis are very fond of sayings and similes. Compile a booklet of sayings, proverbs and similes and illustrate each one. (Teachers, parents, other adults, internet and books can help you find examples.)
  5. At the banquet in Dictionopolis the guests had to make a speech and "eat their own words". Use Publisher to present a "tasty speech". Decorate with border, graphics and interesting fonts.
  6. Construct a model of a Dodecahedron using the template provided. Draw a different expression on each face. Conduct some Chance experiments to see which face lands uppermost the most frequently when you roll it 12, 24 and 36 times. Tabulate and graph your results.
  7. Use the Portrait gallery worksheets to create a gallery of "Goodies", "Baddies" and "Main characters" from the novel.
  8. The Terrible Trivium gives Milo, Tock and Humbug several pointless tasks to complete. Make an illustrated booklet of ten other unimportant and time wasting tasks he could give his victims.
  9. The Threadbare Excuse spends his time making up excuses for not doing things or doing the wrong thing. Make a humorous illustrated booklet full of excuses for not doing your homework.
  10. The monsters who live in the Mountains of Ignorance are all creatures who demonstrate some form of ignorant and unpleasant behaviour and their names help describe them. Invent 5 more monsters of Ignorance, name them and describe their bad habits. Draw a picture of each one.
  11. Use Powerpoint to design a presentation based on an incident, chapter or the whole novel.
  12. Write a script a scene or chapter from the novel and get a small group of friends to help perform for the class.

Last Modified: August 18, 2002