Creative imagination flowed in a sweet, confection of swirling, chocolate streams through the hallways at Smith Middle School the day before Halloween.
Sixth-graders arrived at school Oct. 31 to find their hallways transformed into the strange, wonderfully magical world of Willy Wonka and his bizarrely brilliant chocolate factory.
The school’s sixth-grade language arts teachers dived into a learning unit inspired by the classic book by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
In addition to reading the book and screening the original 1971 movie, students came up with their own character and their own candy based on the story.
Teachers Ericka Bolden, Terra Rodriguez and Sarah Stone planned the lessons as a team. They said colleagues joined in, connecting the broad project to math, science, social studies and art.
It was challenging and fun and it was also, the teachers said, a welcomed, needed escape from this year’s uncertainties related to COVID-19.
The culmination came with the finished decorated hallways and teachers decked out as Oompa-Loompas, the golden ticket chasing children and the great Willy Wonka himself.
In the midst of the fun, teachers said they observed significant learning in terms of reading comprehension, character analysis and creation that pushed critical thinking skills.
“They had to write an ending for the story, and I think that helped them connect to the story deeper,” said Rodriguez, who said she loved reading the students’ creative thoughts flowing from the great work of literature.
Students assumed the roles of reporters and workers and interviewed one another for jobs in the factory.
“They dug deep into the text,” said Bolden. “They were able to get back to reading, not just interact with a device, but feel the pages in their hands.”
“It felt like candy land, like I was in the factory,” said sixth-grader Andre Allison. “I actually learned a lot. I love chocolate. That inspired me.”
“It was interactive,” said sixth-grader Richard Paulino. “I learn better that way. We worked in groups, so we had to rely on each other. We could read and draw, and we had different assignments. I could tell the teachers put a lot of work into it.”
Sixth-grader Gabriel Ortiz said he was familiar with Willy Wonka and enjoyed embracing the story.
“It was fun,” he said. “I had read the book and I like it because it’s so fun-loving and it gives a sense of nostalgia.”
“They loved it, every bit of it,” said Stone of the responsive students. “They watched it grow and today you could hear them say ‘wow’ when it was all done with the chocolate river and the factory gateway.”
“The characters are fun,” Ortiz said. “It was certainly creative and took a long time. I’m glad our teachers put the effort into making it fun. That’s one of the things I like best about this school.”