Horton Hears a Who!

Horton Hears a Who!

In Horton Hears a Who! we meet Horton, a kind-hearted elephant who lives in the Jungle of Nool.

Always open to the world around him, Horton hears the tiny voices of the microscopic Whos and promises to look after them.

This proves to be quite a challenge, but Horton and the Whos work together to make themselves heard.

Horton Hears a Who! is based on the picture book classic written by Dr Seuss and published in 1954.

Positive Start 2022 program

This program is eligible for a Positive Start application. Positive Start is a Victorian Government initiative designed to assist schools to engage in an ACMI program.

If applying to have the cost of this program covered via Positive Start, please ensure all the school information is correct and up to date when booking. In the ‘Additional Information’ field, please add ‘Positive Start 2022 Funding Request’. 

Recommended Year levels: F-4

Learning areas: English, Media Arts

1. Analysing the book

These exercises will help you to get a deeper understanding of the book.

Read the book, and then answer the questions that follow either in your book or together with your class.

First responses

  1. If you had to choose one word to describe how you feel about the story, what would it be?
  2. Make a list of adjectives that describe Horton.
  3. Make a list of adjectives that describe the Whos.
  4. What do you think of The Wickersham Brothers, Vlad Vlad-i-koff and the Sour Kangaroo?

Explore narrative features

  1. What are some of the unexpected things that happen to Horton?
  2. How does he respond?

Stories involve a beginning where we are introduced to important elements of the story.

  1. Describe the beginning of Horton Hears a Who! What important things do we learn in the first few lines?
  2. What is the message of this book? Explain.

Without Horton, the Whos would be in serious trouble.

  1. Is this a serious book? Explain with examples.

Dr Seuss

Find some other books by Dr Seuss in the school or local library.

  1. Does he have a recognisable style?
  2. Are there elements that all of his books share? (Consider drawing style as well as rhythm, rhyme and nonsense words.)
  3. Create your own Dr Seuss-inspired character. Describe the character in words and draw its picture.

A fresh look at our world

For this exercise you need a magnifying glasses. It's time to explore the world 'up close'!

Take the magnifying glass and look around, either inside your classroom or outside in the playground.

  1. What did you discover that they haven’t seen or noticed before?
  2. What familiar things look quite different from up close?

If you have a microscope or a telescope, you could also look at things very close and far away...


You have completed this section. Now it's time to watch the film...

2. Analysing the film


The following module is designed to help you get a deeper understanding of the film.

Watch the film, then answer the following questions in sentences in your book, or together as a class.

Respond to the film

Share single word responses to the film.

  1. Do these match the words you chose to describe the book?
  2. Why or why not? Explain.
  3. Which aspects of the film stand out?

Think about the music, animation and use of colour.

  1. Which images or moments are particularly memorable?
  2. Share your favourite scene with the person next to you. Use the following prompts to get the discussion started:
  3. How did the story make you feel?
  4. Did it make you happy, laugh, angry, upset or sad? Why?
  5. Give examples of moments in the film that made you feel that way.

In groups, discuss the main message of the film.

  1. What is it?
  2. Is there more than one message?
  3. Is it the same as the message communicated in the book? Explain your answer.
  4. What story elements are added to the film that are not in Dr. Seuss’s book?
  5. What do they add to the story?
  6. How effective are these added story elements? Explain.

Mise-en-scene (everything you see in the frame)

In Horton Hears a Who!, we see two different worlds: the world of the jungle and the world of the Whos.

  1. Describe each of these different worlds focusing on colour, shape and detail. Freeze-frame an image of Whoville and discuss what you see. Focus on specific elements such as the use of colour, lighting, the setting and location, objects and furniture, the appearance and clothing of the characters, the way the characters relate to the setting.
  2. How do the things you have noticed add to the story?

Horton can hear the creatures of Whoville but cannot see them or their world. He is a creature of the jungle and has no idea, for instance, what a bathroom is.

  1. Write a letter to Horton explaining what Whoville is like and how it is different from the jungle.

Animators talk about ‘shots’ as if an animated film has been filmed with a camera and, in fact, Horton Hears a Who! uses a lot of techniques we associate with live-action such as close-ups, wideshots, different angles etc.

  1. Explore some of the choices made and think about the effect of these choices.

Exploring characters

Working in pairs, write two character lists:

  1. List the main characters we meet in the Jungle of Nool.
  2. List the main characters in Whoville.

Choose a favourite character from each of these lists.

  1. What is the role of these characters in the story?
  2. Describe them. Why are they your favourite characters?
  3. Who is your least favourite character? Why?

Dr Seuss has created some wonderful nonsense characters and animals for his story.

  1. How are these crazy creatures brought to life in the film?
  2. Are they very different from the way they are described in the book?

Exploring themes

Living Responsibly

"A person is a person, no matter how small."

  1. Discuss this statement with a friend and explain what it means.
  2. What do we learn about Horton from this statement?
  3. How does Horton demonstrate his sense of responsibility towards others?
  4. With your class, discuss what you and other students have done to care for something (environment, school community, suburb) or someone (friend, family) who needs their help. What did they do? How did they help?

Kangaroo tells Horton ‘If you can’t see, hear or feel something then it doesn’t exist’.

  1. Do you think this is true?
  2. In a small group, brainstorm all the things we know about even though we cannot see, hear or feel them. (Think about really small things, places you haven’t been to, things that are really far away and people you haven’t met.)

Speaking out and speaking up

  1. Why does it take courage and determination for Horton to speak up for the members of Whoville?
  2. Why is it so hard for an individual to speak up and speak out?
  3. Why doesn’t the kangaroo believe Horton about the existence of the microscopic inhabitants of Whoville?
  4. How does Horton try to convince the kangaroo?
  5. If you were Horton what would you say to convince the kangaroo?

Respect and Tolerance

  1. Brainstorm words that describe Horton’s response to the Whos.
  2. What does this tell us about him?
  3. Brainstorm words that describe the response of the animals in the jungle to Horton’s discovery.
  4. What does this tell us about them? How does the kangaroo behave?
  5. Why do the other animals do what she tells them to do?
  6. What could the other creatures in the jungle do to help Horton?
  7. Why don’t they do this?
  8. What would you do to help Horton?

Caring for the World

  1. Choose two characters from the film and draw a Venn diagram to explore similarities and differences.


You've finished this module. Time to explore the next module...

3. Creative activities


Now that you've explored the book and the film, it's time to get creative!

Explore the following activities and choose some that sound interesting to you.


Save the whos

  1. Design a device that Horton can use to protect the Whos. Stay environmentally friendly by making your device out of recycled material.

Mapping the two worlds

  1. As a class, make a map of the Jungle of Nool, the clover patch and other locations featured in Horton’s world. (You could use an interactive whiteboard or sheets of butchers’ paper.)
  2. Draw your own map of Whoville adding memorable features. You can then compare your Whoville maps with other students and discuss the decisions you made.

Create a miniature garden!

Horton Hears a Who

Have you ever seen a miniature garden like this? It's called a terrarium.

Horton Hears a Who! encourages us to think more carefully about the world we live in and to take care of vulnerable creatures and places. You can explore this idea by learning how to care for your own miniature garden, known as a terrarium.

Working in groups you can build terrariums out of recycled plastic bottles. Each group will need:

  • a large plastic drink bottle (2Lor 1.25L) with a lid
  • gravel
  • charcoal
  • potting mix
  • small house plants or seedlings (ask your local nursery for plant ideas)
  • a Stanley knife (to be used by a responsible adult)
  • tape
  • water

NOTE: This activity is best run over a number of weeks to allow the seeds time to germinate and grow.

Putting the Terrarium Together

  1. Cut the top off the bottle and set aside. 
  2. Place a 2 cm layer of gravel or pebbles on the bottom of the terrarium, followed by a thin layer of charcoal to help filter the terrarium water.
  3. Next, add a 5 cm layer of soil. Plant the seeds, leaving space for them to grow.
  4. Place the top back on and seal with sticking tape.
  5. Poke a few vent holes into the bottles lid to allow airflow.

Caring for your Miniature Garden

  • Water the soil when you first assemble the terrarium, place the lid on the terrarium and place it in a well-lit area, avoiding direct sunlight.
  • Only water the soil when it looks dry. Time between watering can be several weeks to over a month.
  • The mist you sometimes see is water vapour, and the water on the glass is condensation. As the plants grow they cover the soil, and less water evaporates.
  • Care should be taken handling potting mix.  Wear gloves and wash your hands when finished.

Source: Water Corporation West Australia

Prepared for ACMI Education by Susan Bye with contributions from Jonathan Baird


You have finished exploring Horton Hears a Who!