Monthly Archives: May 2013

Adapting a Chocolate Factory

“Can we have homework on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?” – This sentence shaped the last 3 months of my reading group. One of my students, who can be difficult to engage, actually requested a story and homework to go with it! I said yes immediately, and so began the adaptation phase of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Because this story is so incredible, yet very language heavy, I knew that it would require a lot of work, but that the outcome would be completely worth it. This is a magical story that can lend itself to so many goals I have for my group — inferencing, sequencing, predicting, vocabulary, making connections.

I’ll spare you the long and painful details of the hours I spent rewriting the text, taking pictures of the images on my phone, emailing the pictures to myself, copying and pasting into word, and rereading about a dozen times. Here’s a quick shot of what the final outcome looked like.

Sure it took a lot of time and effort, but adapting a story is a pretty interesting experience. I tried my best to capture the same magical and enticing storyline that Dahl provides, while making the language more accessible to my readers.


For students who benefit from specific language supports to best make connections to and understand a story, I was able to word the story around those adaptations. Let’s face it, parts of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are a bit scary. Imagining enormous Augustus Gloop getting sucked up into a pipe makes me a little anxious! Let alone Violet turning into a gigantic blueberry. So instead of having my readers dive into these scary moments, I put a little language to it that they are familiar with. Instead of the characters disappearing into the factory, Mr. Wonka would say the following:

“You did not follow my directions! That makes me frustrated. You must now leave my factory.”

As silly as that sounds to anyone who has read Dahl’s version of the text, this type of safe language really let them open up to these characters who were making bad choices.

In addition to just adapting the text and adding familiar language, I tried to make the miraculous and magical aspects of Willy Wonka’s factory truly come alive for them, as best as I could. For instance, we read about the giant inventing machine that swirls amazing colors together to produce Everlasting Gobstopper’s. Since I couldn’t get my hands on one of those machines, we did a little experiment. We mixed milk, food coloring, and liquid soap and here is what we saw:

Before the dish soap was added:

After the dish soap was added:

So it’s not exactly the same magic that Roald Dahl created in his story, but it wasn’t too shabby for a group of four children and their teacher sitting in a tiny classroom. The “oohs” and “aahs” they produced while they watched the magic happen gave me goosebumps – oh the joys of a reading teacher!

Here are some other snapshots of what the “Charlie” section in the classroom looks like:

**Spoiler alert!** 🙂




Keeping track of who found a Golden Ticket and who had to leave the factory:      Noteworthy, goose-bumpy, reading teacher moments:

  •  The color experiment (try it out!)
  • Riding our own school’s elevator before doing a compare / contrast to the magic elevator
  • When Charlie found the last golden ticket. Before breaking down the language and the situation, all four students jumped up, danced, sang, high-fived, giggled, and celebrated. Amazingness!
  • Upon finishing a section of the book and hearing -”But I wanna keep going! Please don’t make me stop!!!”
  • Spontaneously using our Charlie vocabulary – “My hobby is feeding the ducks in Central Park! I am going to do that after school today with my babysitter!”
  • Watching my students dig through fake candy bars, and then seeing their reactions as they all pulled out golden tickets!
  • After lots of context clue practice, hearing one student say “I can be a vocabulary detective! I am going to figure out what this word really means!”

Red and Green Moments

Teachers are expected to notice everything that’s going well as well as calm what isn’t going so well. In graduate school, I was presented with a ton of theory about behavior management or classroom management, but I never felt I truly understood how to achieve it before I became a full-time teacher.  I was warned about how easy it is to constantly correct and redirect students and how important reinforcing positive behaviors is. The idea behind positive reinforcement is so logical… but how do I do it without making myself crazy? Without providing a practical way to manage a classroom of different personalities, I was sent off into the world of being a teacher. The way it’s presented in graduate school is that if teachers constantly reinforce positive behavior, then they won’t feel frustrated, annoyed, confused, or have any kind of negative feeling– and if you do have those feelings, then you must not be doing it right. Trying to verbally praise every child for every positive moment is nearly impossible, unless that is your only duty. So, here’s my story of how I came to discover the idea of green and red moments in my classroom.

First, I had a card system with four levels (green, yellow, orange, red). Each level had a meaning, and each child started off with green each day. Green meant best behavior, yellow meant first warning, orange meant second warning, and red meant a phone call home or the principal’s office. We would try to remember to switch it back to green if the day got turned around– not surprisingly, that never really happened. What this system missed was the times between the hard times when children were kind to each other or made an effort to try something that might be particularly hard. Worst of all, the children became color-coded, the behaviors escalated, and there was no room to fully understand the child or the root of the behavior. Obviously, it needed to be tossed– it needed a replacement.

Using what I have learned from the wonderful children, speech pathologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and other professionals I have worked with, my co-teacher and I developed a green moments versus red moments system.

How we presented it:

In the beginning of the year, there was a lesson where we taught the children the definitions of red and green moments. A red moment is a negative thought about a peer or a negative behavior that might upset someone– all people think these thoughts all the time, but we don’t say them out loud. A green moment is something said or done that makes someone feel great. Once the categories were taught, students wrote down red moments and green moments. We walked around the classroom with the large red construction paper and had the children place their red moments inside. We folded it in half like a hamburger, and each child stapled the paper closed. We recognized that the thoughts are there, and they need to be talked about– just not to the whole group. We gave them options like quietly talking to a teacher or talking about their red moments during private social work or speech appointments. The green moments are, of course, out in the open and on display.

Red and Green Moments

How to maintain it:

This year, my co-teacher and I decided to add another layer… Now, the children have individual charts so they can visualize the green moments they dish out all the time. The classroom community is quite amazing and they love giving each other green moments.

Individual Green Moments Chart

I’ve gone through a few behavior systems in my years of teaching, and I feel I’ve found the best one yet. Even so, it gets tweaked a little each year. This is a simple solution to reinforcing positive behaviors in class and putting the power in the child’s hands. Each year, it has changed slightly to make it more concrete, more accessible, and more exciting for the children in the class. To be completely honest, it also makes my job so much easier– I hope that writing about this will be helpful to someone else!

What I told the conference group…

The session was meant to be an hour long, but we ended up discussing classroom management, behaviors in children, adaptive tools, ways to organize, and the importance of understanding children, for nearly two hours. It was an incredible conversation that came down to the fact that kids are people, we can’t expect them to be the same all the time, and we have to understand who they are. My co-teacher and I bounced off of each other when talking about the simple systems we have in place for the daunting idea of classroom management.

I felt like I told them so much, but I wanted to make sure they got the messages I was trying to deliver. As a follow-up, I sent out a Google Form to gather reflections and reactions to the time spent in the classroom. I left it to be anonymous, so they could really talk about how they experienced the time spent in the room.

Here are some of the responses:

What was the most interesting takeaway? 

classroom management materials all around the room!  it was great to see how you set up the classroom, explained strategies that worked, I’ve already used some in my second grade classroom and plan to implement many things in my kindergarten classroom next year as my first year head teaching (especially green and red moments)

Brainstorming ways that some behavioral tools and ot tools could be incorporated into any type of classroom or for certain students.

Does classroom management sound more or less intimidating now? Why?

less! still intimidating, but knowing that all teachers need to try out all different things, and that you are not alone in the process helps ease my mind a lot.

It sounds less intimidating because validating the feelings students have and giving them a time and space to express them really makes a difference. Witnessing differentiation for each student with universal design and language makes me realize how important not only class community is, but also how crucial the school community is; when the entire school follows the same procedures and language set there is an incredible difference.

What do you recommend we address next time?

I definitely think going through your classroom management tools, strategies for specific things, and materials used in the classroom would be helpful. i sometimes find myself worrying about not having the right tools, books, etc. and where to find them! thanks again!

Maybe select two specific case studies of students from the past who have a range of needs and address your classroom/teaching style benefited or didn’t benefit that specific case. Possibly include a list of goals they are working on and how you are helping them. What might their report home look like?

Having these reflections is so helpful to me. I also realized that the longer I teach, the easier it is to reflect. I’m looking forward to having more opportunities to talk to new teachers and continue to demystify behavior management.

A Slight Digression..

I was going to keep this blog all about education, but then Becoming Whole threw an amazingly friendly and exciting wrench in my plan (Thanks!). Those of you who know me or have read my first few posts will know that going away from my plans is not usually my thing… Well, let me just keep breaking away!

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award!

Here are the blogging world’s rules:

The Liebster Award is an award that helps us all discover new blogs that we enjoy. This award is given to upcoming bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers (Umm… yep!). Liebster is German and means dearest or favorite.  The closest I came to finding the origins was here. Clearly, the numbers have shifted quite a bit, but this is still great. These are the non-compulsory rules to follow for this award:

1. Thank the Liebster-winning blogger who nominated you, and link back to their blog. (This one is done!)

2. Post 11 facts about yourself. (About me? Not education? I can do this. Breathe.)

3. Answer the 11 questions your nominator asked. (Sure, why not?)

4. Create 11 questions for your nominees. (I love asking questions.)

5. Nominate 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (Here’s my challenge!)

6. Display the Liebster Award logo. (So easily done.)

Liebster Award1

My 11 facts:

1. I do most of my reading on my subway commute to work. I like to listen to audiobooks because I get to experience more in less time. I also listen to the books on double speed– try it!

2. I speak German, but I wish I could speak it better. I’ve lost a lot of the vocabulary, but the grammar and syntax are still fully intact (that’s the hardest part with German, I think).

3. I love the smell of fresh, warm laundry. It’s my favorite.

4. I met my husband when we were in high school on a random trip to Washington DC. We’re from different places. We now live in Brooklyn and have two wonderful, shaggy, professor-looking dogs and a Hemingway cat.

5. I understand people.

6. My favorite author is John Steinbeck, and my favorite book is East of Eden.

7. I have several places I call home: Battle Creek, MI; Wiesbaden, Germany; Lawrence, KS; Montville, ME; Brooklyn, NY; and San Francisco, CA (only because I go there so much and see close family).

8. I have seven siblings. I love all of them.

9. I love to learn and ask questions.

10. I like to make my classroom and apartment look like a magazine or catalogue (a spunky one, of course!).

11. I’m in love with the apostrophe and every arbitrary mark we use to communicate in written language.

Now for the eleven questions that Becoming Whole asked:

  • Why did you start blogging? What keeps you blogging?

I started blogging because I read some inspirational material that made me think I have something to offer the community by writing about my work. I hope to reach classrooms and families around the world with my experience to help make the lives of children better.

  • Who influences the way that you write the most?

My audience– I want to make a difference on a larger scale. That’s why I’m writing.

  • What is your favorite movie that you have seen in the past year?  All time?

I don’t really watch many movies. I prefer shows; each episode is a chapter, and they don’t end too fast. My favorite movies, however, include Temple Grandin, Back to the Furture, and Annie.

  • What is your favorite book? Why?

East of Eden. The message in this story is so powerful to me. The translation (or understanding) of one word can change the meaning of the message completely. Choice can be a powerful thing, and this book really highlights that. The other thing I really like about this book is that Steinbeck knows people. He can create vivid characters; characters I feel like I know now.

  • If you had a day where you had no internet, no work, and yet you could be anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds, where would you go, what would you do, and what one person would you take with you?

I would go back to Berlin with my husband. I would walk the whole city and soak up the creative energy.

  • In what ways do you relax?

I relax by putting in my earphones, turning on an audiobook, and walking my dogs through the neighborhood.

  • What is your favorite food?

I love artichokes.

  • Is your living space clean or messy right now?

Clean… or as clean as a New York apartment can be

  • Salt or Pepper?


  • What is the best job you have ever had?

The one I have now– I love to teach.

  • Other than salt or pepper, what is one spice that you never go without in your kitchen?

Garlic… and the other is cumin.

Now, for my 11 questions:

  1. Where is your favorite place in the world? Why?
  2. What’s your favorite app? Why?
  3. What’s the one device you wouldn’t want to be without?
  4. What are your favorite pizza toppings?
  5. What’s the most prominent color in your wardrobe?
  6. Who is your favorite author? Why?
  7. Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
  8. Who was your worst teacher? Why?
  9. Did you (or do you) like school?
  10. Bing or Google?
  11. What book are you reading (or listening to) right now?

And now, for my 11 nominees:


brooklyn house love.

The Unique Classroom

Teach Advocacy – Parent Advocacy Team


Ms. Chanel Moon’s Teaching Blog

This is the part I’m working on right now! Updates to come!