Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
When we recently read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for our young girls book club, I couldn’t believe how many plot summaries and multiple choice questions I found online! The internet abounds with chapter summaries, spark notes (boo) and honestly, rather boring questions. Call me crazy, but why ruin such a fun, interesting book with multiple choice and fill in the blank questions? Surely there are some better discussion topics and ideas for Roald Dahl’s fabulous novel of candy and children and life lessons!?!?!?! Of course there are some great resources out there that will help you teach the story of Charlie Bucket and learn all about Roald Dahl in the process!
Right away, I knew this classic book was a hit because the girls were so excited to start talking. They were already sharing and talking with each other before everyone was seated! A teacher’s dream come true!
An obvious discussion starter is “what did you like?” and I found that the girls had plenty to say about this! Everyone shared at least one (but sometimes five or six) scenes, or candies, or just silly events in the book that they loved! Watching one idea spark another was fun – just when one girl shared a moment she loved, someone else had another to share! Brilliant.
Our discussion kept going for a long time – definitely our longest discussion of the year. The topics ranged from candy to characters to the “moral” of the story to predictions for the future. The girls were on a roll with this book – one of our best discussions! They loved Charlie Bucket! And all of the candy!
Possible Ideas for Teaching and Exploration
This book is all about imagination. (Of course there is the Pure Imagination song from the 1971 film – you can easily find the clip of Gene Wilder singing on youtube) Imagination is one of the great qualities of Willy Wonka, and so imagination is an excellent topic for your students. How is imagination part of Willy Wonka’s factory? Why is it so important for his business? Who has more imagination – kids or adults? Why? Who do you know with the craziest, wildest imagination? What candy would you want to create? What room would you want to visit at the factory and why? Can you create a new invention that the Oompa-Loompahs could use in the factory?
Quentin Blake is a British illustrator and cartoonist who brought Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to life with amazing illustrations. You can find out more about Quentin Blake and see his artwork (from Charlie as well as many other children’s book) at www.quentinblake.com Even better, when you go to the Quentin Blake website, you will also find a “fun and free” tab that will take to some great pages to download for the kids – and COLOR! What could be better?!?! Go HERE for the link to download and color. Quentin Blake’s illustrations for Charlie & the Chocolate Factory are now iconic – and perfect for discussion. The illustrations can be a great starting point for the kids’ own illustrations or “one-pager” assignment.
My requirements for a fabulous one-pager:
- color or shading
- use the entire page
- create a border
- use at least one meaningful illustration (but hopefully several!)
- at least one important quotation from the novel
- on the back, write the important quotation again and then explain why it is important (depending on grade level, you may want to require one full paragraph or more)
One of the reasons that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can work so well with a one-pager is the great visuals found throughout the book. Guiding your students through the process of a one-pager will also be an opportunity to discuss descriptive writing!
This is a great starting point for questions. What if Charlie did not find the golden ticket? What would have happened to Charlie and his family? What do you think of how Charlie handled the money that he found? Did he do the right thing? What would you have done? Guiding the discussion carefully, this is an excellent opportunity for character analysis. What traits does Charlie have that may help him be successful? What kind of candy factory owner would Charlie be? What will the factory be like in the future? What if Charlie did something else – if he didn’t get the golden ticket? What would he do in the future?
Kids are quick to point out the faults of some of the characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. One girl told me right away, “the parents didn’t do a very good job with Veruca Salt – they should have given her more rules! And made her do some chores instead of giving her everything she wants!” This was an excellent chance to talk about why sometimes we need rules and chores. Yes, the children have their flaws, and the readers can’t help but share in the amusement of some of the interesting things that happen to Augustus, Violet, Veruca, and Mike. Why doesn’t Willy Wonka select one of the other children at the end of the book? What character traits are less than ideal for running a big chocolate factory? What is Roald Dahl telling us about the characteristics he likes to see in children?
Have you taught Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or read the book with your children? What are your ideas? Please share!