Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is a fun book for elementary students to read. They love the characters, especially Charlie, and the adventure through Willy Wonka's factory. You can use this novel to teach character education lessons as well as comprehension skills.
The Story of Charlie
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the story of an everyday, common boy who gets to live a wonderful adventure in Willy Wonka's factory. From the moment he finds his golden ticket to the end of the novel when he is the last child standing, children love this book. Besides the regular lessons you do on character development, setting, climax, and so on, you can do a character education lesson with the five children who find golden tickets and visit Wonka's factory. This Charlie and the Chocolate Factory lesson can be conducted while reading the novel or when finished with it.
Students will identify the main characteristics of each child in the novel who received a golden ticket.
Students will discuss the inappropriate character traits of the four child characters and create solutions to improve the children's behavior, based on discussions from character education lessons.
Students will write a paragraph explaining why Charlie has the desirable characteristics Willy Wonka is looking for.
Students will compare and contrast themselves with Charlie.
Introducing the Child Characters
The five main child characters in the story are: Charlie (Bucket), Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Mike Teavee, and Violet Beauregarde. As students read about each of these characters, they should start a list of characteristics in their reading response journals. After reading a section about a certain character and students take notes on this character, discuss their findings and revelations as a class. The following character education lesson should be done after a few good discussions have been conducted about each character.
You will also want the students to have some background in the character education concepts, such as responsibility, trustworthiness, respect, caring, citizenship, and fairness.
Character Education with These Wacky Characters
Once students have an understanding of each character and a general understanding of the character education words, you can focus on this lesson by writing the six words on chart paper (one word on each paper) and posting them around the room. Then draw a line, dividing the paper in half (horizontally). On the top of each paper, write examples of when Charlie displayed the character education trait. On the bottom of each paper, you will write examples of when one of the other child characters did not display the trait.
Do a few examples to show students what you are expecting. So, under RESPECT, you can write: Charlie respects Willy Wonka and his factory because he follows the rules and listens to Wonka's directions. For a negative example, you can write: Violet does not respect Willy Wonka because she tries some of the gum even after he tells her not to. Another example would be under fairness. Willy Wonka is fair--in spite of the misbehavior of the other guests, he still gives everyone their reward that he promised--a truck full of Wonka chocolate. A negative example under citizenship would be Augustus Gloop didn't follow the rules given to him in the factory, and he falls into a chocolate lake, getting sucked up afterwards.
Once students understand the examples, do a think-pair-share activity. Students think of examples like the ones above, and then they suggest what events from the story go under which character education word. When you are finished, students can add examples from their own lives to extend this activity as a book-to-personal connection.
To extend these ideas further and to give students a chance to think and express how they feel, give them the following writing prompts/assignments:
- Using the charts created in class, what are some ways the children in the novel could improve their behavior? For example, how could Augustus Gloop become a good citizen? If you were their friend/parent, how could you help their behavior in Willy Wonka's factory?
- Write a paragraph about Charlie. Why is he the type of person Willy Wonka is looking for? What good characteristics does Charlie have? Does he have any flaws?
- Create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast yourself to Charlie. Remember, traits, hobbies, or other things you have in common should go in the space where the circles intersect. Differences go in the two outer rings of the circles. When you are finished with the Venn diagram, write two paragraphs about your comparison to Charlie--one paragraph for how you are alike and one paragraph for how you are different.
To close this lesson, you can ask students to read their ideas out loud and/or draw illustrations to go with them and post writings and pictures on a bulletin board. Students can also continue to add ideas or events from the story or their own lives to the character education charts created during this lesson. Students will understand the characters in this story and have a better understanding of themselves at the end of the lesson.
My experience as a third and fourth grade teacher.
Dahl, Roald Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Puffin: 1988.