Tag Archives: books

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!”

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.

Big Brother or Teacher?

For me, reading books side-by-side encourages some really interesting discoveries of connections and parallels– I’m sure it does for most readers. The last few books I’ve read for professional and personal reasons are 1984 by George Orwell, Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon, and Why School? by Will Richardson. You might think that there isn’t much in common, but I’ve applied what I’ve read to my teaching… a little from each book, and it’s quite critical.

All three books discuss teaching the next generation. Solomon interviews families who have children with different identities than their parents (homosexuality, deafness, dwarfism, autism, schizophrenia, etc.). In his search for the answer about whether or not he should have children, he discovers families who have embraced their children’s differences and found communities to foster healthy growth, independence, and comfort in their identities. The communities are mostly centered around who the child is versus who the parents are (the way it should be, right?). This got me thinking about teaching. We are constantly listing out skills that all children must have or teaching from a list, and we won’t leave any child behind. Why aren’t we embracing their strengths– even those who aren’t exceptional?

In 1984, I found a similar theme– an organization designed to squash out the individuals and their independent thoughts (presented in a different light, of course). Isn’t that what we do when we try to teach every child the same thing? The other thing to reflect is how the Party disseminated all of the information– whoever controls the present, controls the past. When I think about my classroom and how I’ve been teaching, I know that everything has been filtered through me– scarily Orwellian. The plethora of information I digest comes out in a smaller portion for my class to understand, but after reading these books, I’m uneasy delivering information the way I so comfortably did before.

I do work hard to find factual information to present, yet was I really able to describe the horrors of slavery? I also presented it as the past– what about now? How do we get our fruits and vegetables to market? These are thoughts I’ve had, but there seems to be a piece missing if I’m not talking about the whole picture of human history from multiple perspectives. How can just one person do this?

This is where Will Richardson’s book played a part. The problem is how I present– Am I teaching in a way that leads my students to these questions or am I teaching in a way that only leads them to the questions I can answer? Considering what’s developmentally appropriate has a role, as well… Filtering and breaking down information into digestible chunks has primarily been done on a group basis. How can I open my students up to all of the information I can without scaring them? Do I teach more controversial topics as fact and open the exploration to less controversial or safe topics?

These are just some of the thoughts racing through my mind this morning. What are your thoughts?

A Glimpse into My Classroom

I started this blog with a big change. Five years of tweaking my teaching has led me to this point. There are so many practical ways to keep a classroom organized, which were never presented to me in graduate school. I hope this helps some new teachers looking for ways to keep organized.

I wish I had recorded my ups and downs in my beginning years– but I didn’t. New teachers: start writing now! It will be really valuable for you, even if it sounds impossible now. Find the five minutes to talk into your voice recorder, send yourself a reflective email, or write a journal or blog entry. It’s at the top of my should have list, and I hate that list.

I figured I should probably dedicate a few posts to what I have discovered that works and ways I have saved both my sanity and time.

Children should always know what they’re learning about. It is embarrassing and upsetting when kids can’t verbalize the topic they’re learning. Here’s my classroom solution:

I used Boardmaker, backed it, laminated it, and it’s a neat way to show what has been learned, what is being learned, and what will be learned– it also puts the year into perspective. They reference it for conversation, sharing with visitors, and it truly grounds them.

On an organized scale of 1 to 10, I would like my classroom to be at an 11. To do this, I have some structures in place that take me a lot less time than they did when I first started teaching. One of the major projects I took on was organizing the classroom library, so that the students were in control of maintaining it, rather than frustratingly reorganizing the library each week. Before school started, I made circle labels using Boardmaker images on Microsoft Word. It’s really easy. I sorted the books by category (science books, social studies book, history books, feelings books, friendship books, etc.). Each category has a bin (or two) with a matching picture label on the front of the bin. Now one of the class jobs is class librarian, whose job it is to organize the books.

More to come soon!