“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”: Mary Poppins Comes to Town

“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”: Mary Poppins Comes to Town
Hillary Clinton: Sports and Popular Culture

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Two weeks


When the original Walt Disney movie, Mary Poppins, was released in 1964, Hillary Rodham was 17 years old, a junior in high school, and busily campaigning for Republican presidential candidate, Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona.  We don't know whether she saw the movie, but chances are that she did: it was one of the most popular films of the year, nominated for 13 Academy Awards, and it made both Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke famous nearly overnight.   


Students who participate in this lesson will read P. L. Travers' book, Mary Poppins, see the Disney movie made from the book, and compare the story in different media. 

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet.  Access to the book, Mary Poppins.  Access to other Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers (optional).  Teachers may also wish to read some of the material about P. L. Travers listed below (both online and in print) as background for the lesson.


1.  Engage students in a discusson of their experiences with the following:

  • feeding the birds (perhaps at a park, or zoo)
  • drawing on the sidewalk with chalk
  • riding a Merry-Go-Round
  • picking up their rooms
  • taking medicine for an illness

2.  Then, ask if they are familiar with the idea of a "Nanny"--what kind of job is that; what would a person who is a Nanny do?

3.  Divide the class into two groups.  One group should read the P. L. Travers book, Mary Poppins.  The other group should see the 1964 film of the book. (Or, if it is possible to obtain enough copies of the book (which retails for about $5.95 in paperback), have the whole class read the book and then see the movie.

4.  In a class discussion, ask students to compare the book with the movie.

  • Was the events in the story the same?
  • Were the characters the same?
  • Did the story begin and end in the same way?
  • What were some differences between the book and the movie?

5.  After this discussion, divide students into five groups, and assign each group the task of comparing their own experiences with the activities above (# 1), with those same experiences in the book and movie. Each group should make a list of commonalities and differences.

6.  Ask each group to share its observations and experiences with the whole class.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended in several ways.  Students could, for example, learn some of the songs in the musical movie version of the story and perform for the school.  Or, students could engage in word inventing--figuring out exactly what "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" really means and inventing other words to describe other feelings or ideas. Or, they could write short stories about their own experiences with feeding the birds, cleaning up their rooms, etc.

Sources & Resources:


Walt Disney's Mary Poppins

P. L. Travers Biography


Travers, P. L. Mary Poppins. Odyssey Classics, Revised Edition, 1997.

Travers, P. L. Three Enchanting Classics: Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins Comes Back, and Mary Poppins Opens the Door. Boxed Set. Odyssey Classics, 2006.

Draper, Ellen Dooling. A Lively Oracle: A Centennial Celebration of P. L. Travers, Magical Creator of Mary Poppins. Larson Publications, 1999.



This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.