Dahl Tadka – a creative carnival

Sonali Bhatia

I have always believed that left to themselves children are creative, enthusiastic, and hardworking. They love to learn, they love to try new things and they love to push the limits of their own inventiveness and abilities.

With this in mind, I got the students of class VII to independently work on and present what I called “Dahl Tadka!” – an event based on books by Roald Dahl. The event included creating and explaining various art and craft projects, and performing or speaking. Teachers did not interfere with any aspect of the preparation or presentation; it was all the students’ work.

I was completely amazed by the results. Students met my expectations – and exceeded them many, many times over. Their class teachers and subject teachers were flabbergasted at the unexpected talent and sheer commitment displayed by their youngsters.

I am happy to share the guidelines I gave the teachers, and the instructions and topics displayed for the students’ perusal, about six weeks before the event. Copies of the three Roald Dahl books mentioned were also made available to them at this time.

To the teachers who read this, I say – please try it out! Announce it, put the guidelines and topics up on the notice board, make the books available – and wait for six weeks. You’ll be surprised!

For the teachers

Aims of the event

  1. To encourage reading, and an in-depth, creative exploration of one author’s works.
  2. To give the children a chance to work independently on a long-term project. This involves social interaction and resourcefulness.
  3. To reduce the dependence on ‘passive’ forms of entertainment, especially electronic entertainment, and encourage the development of ‘active’ forms of entertainment like reading, thinking, creating and performing/presenting.
  4. To enable children to showcase their talents without (or with minimal) adult guidance.
  5. To have fun – in a constructive way.

Guidelines
All work to be done by the students independently.

It is tempting, when students approach you with a request or a grumble to sort the problem out for them. However, for the purposes of this event, one of the outcomes is peer-to-peer social interaction. Please allow them to outgrow running to ‘miss’ or ‘sir’ and handle issues on their own.

Please do not assume anything
Let the children’s talents bloom.
Once, during this event, a teacher enthusiastically stated that a particular child was ‘the best singer in class’. It turned out that, during that presentation, the child wasn’t going to sing, but exhibit a model she had made of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The teacher’s assumption probably made the child feel she was expected to stick to singing and not explore other avenues.

Do not assume roles.
Please do not refer to any member as the ‘group leader’. Activities like this bring out hidden talents, including latent leadership abilities, and a label put on a particular child in advance pre-empts others from taking on the role. When taking down names, I suggest you take down all the names, or a collective name the group coins for itself, not just the ‘group leader’s name’.

Adjusting the time-limits for the presentations
Generally, one section needs to fit their presentation into one period of the timetable.

According to the response, the time-limit for individual presentations may need to be adjusted, to bring the total presentation time to one period.

If creativity and enthusiasm are really flowing, a relaxation of time-limit is acceptable – in fact, desirable. It might work to have the event just before break time, to absorb a spill-over.

Topics may be repeated
If one group chooses to do a skit on a particular topic, another group may choose to do a skit on the same topic. If one student chooses to make a board game on a particular topic, another student may want to do the same. There is no limit to the number of times a topic is selected, as each individual/pair/group will interpret it differently. Rarely, there are accusations of ‘copying’, but this is not usually a problem during such an event.

No parent should have to spend an unreasonable amount of money
Students are encouraged to be creative and use materials already available to them, or procured at very low cost. Should students wish to have props/costumes for their skits, these can be made beautifully using old newspapers.

world-of-roald-dahl Changes
I expect that the students will ask for some changes in the topics, especially where the ‘games’ are concerned. They will probably want to create video games or other electronic-type games (instead of the board games or physical games mentioned). One of the aims of this event is to get them AWAY from electronic entertainment. Therefore – electronic games are NOT allowed. However, should they ask for changes within the area of board games or physical games (Scrabble instead of Monopoly, and so on) this could be granted at the discretion of the teacher who is in-charge.

As far as other changes go, again, the person in-charge could decide on this depending on the scale/nature of the change requested. Topics are meant to be interpreted creatively. Hence, every aspect of the topic may not be dealt with as is – some could be modified or left out, and students may add aspects that they think of. (For example – If I’ve mentioned five characters, and the students prefer to deal with the topic using three characters, this could be allowed.)

Language
The event should predominantly be in English. However, some scenes or characters may require Indian languages. Again, these could be permitted at the discretion of the teacher.

100 per cent participation
There should be no ‘selection’ of students. Hopefully, all students will participate. During one event, a group even included a boy on a wheelchair, and requested that the event be held in their classroom instead of in the library so that he could participate comfortably.

Also, please do not force anyone to include someone in a group, or call any child a ‘poor thing’ because he or she hasn’t found a group to join. Let students participate individually if they desire, or let them work out group dynamics on their own.

Overall note: This will probably be an unusual activity for the teachers and students of the school. Hence, some students (and even teachers) may feel a bit overwhelmed. Please don’t feel overwhelmed – the event is meant for fun! It is an activity, not an assignment or examination!

While it is happening it may seem that there could have been a shorter way of doing it (like giving readymade scripts and so on). This would mean less work for all concerned! However, if students pull off a creative event on their own, the elated feeling and the long-term lessons are well worth the extra effort!

To be displayed for the students

List of Books
1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox
3. Matilda

Guidelines for the students

  1. Each section gets one period for presentation.
  2. All work to be done by the students in advance.
    The one period allocated is purely for the various presentations.
    During that time, final skits are to be enacted, final speeches are to be delivered, and completed art-oriented work is to be held up and explained.
    Students are to bring everything they need with them on this day.
    Tip – please rehearse and time EVERY aspect of your presentation.
    For example, if you’re going to be holding up a picture and talking about it, please practise this in advance and time it – know exactly how you’ll hold it up and what you’ll say. If you’re doing a skit, please plan and rehearse all dialogues, moves, scene-changes and so on very well. Please don’t leave ANY aspect for the last minute.
  3. The students will work on any topic(s) of their choice, either
    A. individually
    B. in pairs or
    C. in groups (three or more, no maximum number).

    Any topic in any category could be individual, pair, or group – it’s the students’ choice.

  4. The time-limit for the presentations (speech, skit, display/explanation) are as follows:
    A. Individual presentation: One minute maximum.
    B. Presentation in pairs: Two minutes maximum.
    C. Presentation in groups: Three minutes maximum.

    (Note – once all the names and topics are given, if the total time exceeds that allotted to a section, some adjustments can be made.)

  5. The students are to give in their names and topics to ________________ before ________________.
    (Please mention topic numbers.)

    Any changes to be mentioned on or before ___________________.
    Final dates: _________________

  6. One student can participate twice.
  7. Topics may be repeated (if one individual/pair/group chooses a particular topic, another individual/pair/group may also choose the same topic.)
  8. Students need to use their creativity – use the resources available to you in an imaginative way – please don’t spend a lot of money on your presentations! Use the things you have at home like old newspapers to make props or costumes!
  9. You are expected to be independent. You need to allocate responsibilities and carry them out on your own, with either NO help or minimal help from any adult.
  10. Creativity is encouraged. The topics are guidelines for you to start thinking. You may interpret them as you wish. Where it is not specifically mentioned whether the topic is ‘art’ or ‘acting’ or ‘speaking’ or ‘singing’, it means you may choose whichever of these you think is most suitable for the topic.

Above all – have a lot of fun!

TOPICS – to be displayed for the students to choose from.
They may choose one or more topic(s) from one or more book(s).

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

chocolate-factory Board games/physical games

  1. Make a board game based on snakes and ladders, depicting feelings of the various characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
    A good event/feeling causes a rise (like a ladder) and a bad event/feeling causes a drop (like a snake). The extent of the rise or fall depends on the intensity of the feeling.
  2. Make a board game based on MONOPOLY containing the different areas and rooms of the chocolate factory. You could include aspects like the chocolate river, the great glass elevator and so on. How would these rooms be traded? What would give them additional value?
  3. Make a physical game like MUSICAL CHAIRS where various children get eliminated as they behave badly at the Chocolate Factory.
  4. Art/poster/greeting card – Creative words and drawings, to be held up and explained

  5. Imagine that Mr. Wonka had not gone to Loompaland, but instead put up a poster to ask for workers who were not spies, who loved chocolate and who were willing to learn from him and work with him. What would the poster have been like?
  6. Make greeting cards for those who did not find a golden ticket to convey the message ‘Sorry for your disappointment.’ Use your own creative words and pictures.
    Make a greeting card to OompaLoompa who needed a lawn mower to cut his beard.
  7. Speaking

  8. If you were a sports commentator how would you describe each of the four children and their parents’ plight? You could have expert commentators also.
  9. Do you think Veruca Salt got the golden ticket in an unfair manner? Discuss why or why not.
  10. General (interpret in any way)

  11. Imagine your favourite festival. Now imagine that your family has ordered sweets for this festival from Mr. Willy Wonka. These sweets should be based on the traditional sweets, but have Mr.Willy Wonka’s clever ideas added to them. You may take the help of any adults to work on them.
  12. Imagine that you are a chocolate bar, and have just been packed – and a Golden Ticket has been packed along with you. What conversation do you have with the Golden Ticket? What do both of you feel? Show in the form of a speech or act or by a cartoon or a song or a poem.
  13. OompaLoompa Songs
    (COMBINED WITH OTHER BOOKS)

  14. What song would the OompaLoompas sing about any of the following:
    a. Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood, Matilda’s parents
    b. Mrs. Trunchbull, Matilda’s Headmistress

mr-fox-maze

Fantastic Mr. Fox

  1. Draw a maze or a map depicting the fox’s hole, the three farms and the homes of the other animals mentioned.
  2. How does the story bring out the importance of determination?
  3. Draw the various expressions of the fox, as the story progresses and he goes through various situations and responds to them. The challenge is to get AS MANY expressions as you can.
  4. There are adults who think that Roald Dahl’s books are not good for children. What would you say to these adults?

matilda-book

Matilda

  1. What do you think about Roald Dahl’s opening remarks, about parents and teachers, and their views of children?
  2. What if your neighbour was about to buy a car from Mr. Wormwood? What would you do in such a situation?
  3. Make a poster of ‘rules’ for the students of Crunchem Hall.
  4. Draw two cartoons of Amanda Thripp – one before her haircut, and the other after. (Remember, she probably cut her hair herself.)
  5. What really happened with Miss Trunchbull’s cake? Did Bruce take it or was he being framed? What if there had been a courtroom scene about this?
  6. Matilda’s parents favoured their son and neglected Matilda. Discuss this with reference to Indian girls.

If more schools wish to replicate this event and require more topics based on other books by Roald Dahl, please email sonaliarun@gmail.com.

The author conducts workshops for students in various literary topics, public speaking and creative writing. She also conducts workshops for parents and teachers on how to encourage the reading habit and creativity in students.