Harry Potter Lesson
- Katherine Schulten,
The New York Times Learning Network
- Tanya Yasmin
Chin, The Bank Street College of Education in New York City
- Grades: 6-8, 9-12
- Subjects: Language Arts
|Overview of Lesson Plan: In this lesson, students first examine
the remarkable success of the "Harry Potter" books. In small groups they then
write and read aloud a scene in which they imagine what would happen if Potter's kind of
"wizardry" was part of an average day at their school.
Review the Academic Content Standards related to
Suggested Time Allowance: 1 hour
1. Discuss what they know about the "Harry Potter" series of children's books
and speculate on why they have been such a publishing success.
2. Explore a critic's reaction to the latest book in the series by reading and discussing
"At Last, the Wizard Gets Back to School."
3. Brainstorm what aspects of their own school day could use a dose of
"wizardry" to improve them.
4. Write, in small groups, a scene that shows what might happen on an average day at their
school if magic of some kind was suddenly injected.
5. React to peer critique by rewriting the scene to make it stronger.
- Resources / Materials:
- -student journals
- -classroom blackboard
- -copies of "At Last, the Wizard Gets Back to School" (one per student)
Activities / Procedures:
1. WARM-UP/DO-NOW: Write on the board prior to class the name "Harry Potter."
When students come in, ask them to list in their journals what they know, have heard, or
have read about this character and the book series. Students then share their answers. Why
do they think this series has been so successful?
2. As a class, read and discuss "At Last, the Wizard Gets Back to School,"
focusing on the following questions:
a. Is this a good review, a mixed review, or a bad review? Find lines to support your
answer. If you were in charge of choosing sentences from this review to put on the back
jacket of future editions of the book, which would you pick? Why?
b. Reread the second paragraph of this review. What does Maslin mean when she talks about
the "frenzy" that "would seem to go beyond any reasonable response to
fiction"? Why is Rowling in a "dicey position"? Why does the reviewer
address the marketing and publicity for this book before reviewing the novel as a work of
c. What, according to the reviewer, is Rowling's "only real Achilles' heel"?
d. Which details from the book described here seem most interesting, funny, or appealing
to you? Why? Do you think you'll want to read this book? Why or why not?
e. What are some of the challenges of writing a series of books with the same setting and
characters? How has Rowling managed to deal with these challenges?
f. How, according to Maslin, does this book compare with the previous Potter books? What
does she mean when she writes that the third book "might have fried the egg on the
forehead of anyone trying to sort out the book's climactic moves"?
g. What does it mean to say a book will be a "classic" in the future? What other
books have you read that already are, or might become, "classics"?
3. Ask students to brainstorm answers to the question, "What
aspects of a typical school day could use a dose of "wizardry" or magic to
improve them?" The teacher should take notes on the board.
4. Divide students into small groups and give them the following directions: "You
will have 15 minutes to choose some aspect of the school day listed on the board, then
write a scene in which you imagine magic of some kind intervening to improve it. You may
write about magic of any kind, and can choose or create any person or people in the school
to wield this magic. Your writing, however, should describe only one 'scene' by showing
how that magic affects just one place in the school at one specific time. Each group will
take turns reading their scene aloud to the class when we have finished."
5. WRAP-UP/HOMEWORK: After each group reads its scene aloud, the class should respond
by telling that group both what was strongest about their scene, what needs strengthening
and other ideas to consider. Each student should then rewrite his or her group's scene for
homework. On the following day, the teacher might allow the groups to meet again to hear
each student's rewritten version.
|Further Questions for Discussion:
--How is the basic outline of the Harry Potter tale--that of a young child who is orphaned
and who triumphs over evil--a common story? What other stories, films, television shows,
or songs tell of something similar?
--Why are people so interested in the supernatural? Why do children's stories, especially,
often employ magic or the supernatural?
--What is "hype"? How does some aspect of popular culture, like this series,
become so popular? To what other pop culture phenomenon might the "Harry Potter"
hype compare? Based on your comparison, what do you predict will happen in the future to
the popularity of the "Harry Potter" series?
|Evaluation / Assessment:
Students will be evaluated based on written journal entry, participation in class and
small group discussions, thoughtful participation in small group scene writing, and
individual rewriting of that scene.
lure, prophecy, fever pitch, kindred, fantasist, fertile, vibrant, radically, prologue,
cinematically, expeditiously, accessible, seductive, alluring, fanciful, whimsy, bedecked,
preening, tweak, ghastly, denouement, replete, lucid, ominous.
1. After reading this article, what would you like to ask J.K. Rowling? Make a list of
your questions, and then go to www.nytimes.com/library/books/071000rowling-interview.html
to see what the New York Times reporter asked her in an exclusive interview. What
impression of Rowling does the piece leave you with? The piece tells us "She
intimated that as the series progresses the mood may darken." If you have read all
the books, write her a letter in which you tell her your feelings about what the fifth
2. Interview young people in your community to discover what effect the
"Harry Potter" phenomenon has had on them as readers. Find two or three
"Harry Potter" fans and ask them how reading these books has changed their
reading habits, their feelings about reading, and the way they think about books. Are
these readers looking forward to the movie version? Why or why not?
3. Create a "reader's theater" piece to perform for your classmates in which
you bring a scene from one of the "Harry Potter" books to life through acting,
staging, costumes, props, lighting, sound effects, or any other dramatic techniques that
might enhance your storytelling.
4. Bookstores and libraries all over the country are trying to hook "Harry
Potter" readers on similar stories by creating displays that say, "If you like
'Harry Potter' you'll also like..." Pretend you are in charge of such a display. What
other books would you recommend?
Current Events- Some parents, schools, and communities have complained that the
"Harry Potter" series is dangerous for children. Why? Conduct research and
present an oral report to your class on this matter. Include research on other books for
children that have been banned in the past. How are such groups reacting to the latest
Fine Arts- A movie based on the first "Harry Potter" book will
begin production this fall. Create a poster that could promote the movie or a soundtrack
of songs that might accompany it. Try to capture in your poster or soundtrack the most
important themes, setting, conflicts, and characters of the novel.
Global Studies- Research the folk and fairy tales of other countries to find a story
that is similar in some important way to the "Harry Potter" series. Share the
story aloud by reading it to your classmates, or create a chart that shows the
similarities and differences between the two.
Media Studies- Study newspaper, magazine, television, and internet sources to compile a
timeline that traces the growing "hype" about the "Harry Potter"
series from its beginning to the current "fever pitch" Janet Maslin notes. To
what other pop culture phenomenon might you compare it?
Mathematics- Visit the National Institute for Literacy's website at www.nifl.gov to find statistics on literacy rates in
our country. Which statistics are most relevant to you and your peers? Devise a way to
chart or graph them so that they can be easily understood.
Language Arts Standard 1- Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of
the writing process. Benchmarks: Uses a variety of prewriting strategies; Uses a variety
of strategies to draft and revise written work; Evaluates own and others' writing; Uses
style and structure appropriate for specific audiences and purposes; Writes narrative
accounts; Writes in response to literature
Connect to State Standard
Language Arts Standard 6- Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies for
reading a variety of literary texts. Benchmarks: Knows the defining characteristics of a
variety of literary forms and genres; Identifies specific questions of personal importance
and seeks to answer them through literature; Understands the effects of the author's style
on a literary text; Understands that people respond differently to literature