Some time ago, I suddenly realised what would be my dream job: I’d like to be Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. After Voldemort’s fall, if possible. Or before his rise — basically, I intend to keep the charge more than one year. Alas, it seems that few schools (if any) are looking for such a teacher, so I’m afraid I’ll have to content myself with my current job of literature teacher.
However, another more attainable dream would be to edit a collection of “Teaching with Harry Potter” schoolbooks in France. The world created by J.K. Rowling can be used to teach almost every subject to almost any age. British and American websites already offer many resources for various ages and subjects.
You may check online educational resources for teachers (and homeschooling parents) on Fabulous Classroom, Midge Frazel’s Page, and Web English Teacher, among many others. Here are a few of my favorite ideas.
English / Literature / Creative writing
As the books grow longer and more complex, use them to study any aspect of narratives, descriptions, and argumentation. You can also study genres (i.e. how the first chapters of the books, in the Dursley’s world, enhance the magic of the other parts in a very Todorovian definition of fantastic). You can imagine a trial and ask the children to play prosecution and defense: Sirius Black’s trial while reading The Prisoner of Azkaban, Draco Malfoy’s turn-around at the end of The Deathly Hallows, etc.
You can study J.K. Rowlings’s criticism of our actual world (the newspapers, the government interfering in the educational system, and so on). Even if I’m essentially a Gryffindor personality, I once wrote (for fun) an essay about House Slytherin’s positive qualities and achievements. It’s in French, but I can translate it if someone’s interested.
I really think fan fiction is an excellent writing exercise. It’s perfect to help our young writers-to-be to understand that writing cannot be conceived without reading.
And of course, you can make your kids write fiction. I really think fan fiction is an excellent writing exercise. It’s perfect to help our young writers-to-be to understand that writing cannot be conceived without reading.
It’s not by chance that Harry Potter is one of the largest sources of fan fiction. The books offer all the range of fan fiction possibilities: inventing a past, developing events or characters from J.K. Rowling’s hints, pairing almost anyone with anyone, deepening characters’ emotions, or even creating the Wizarding World outside Britain from its very rare appearances in the books.
You probably all know that the first two books were translated into Latin under the titles Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis and Harrius Potter et Camera Secretorum — there’s even an Ancient Greek edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
If your kids aren’t advanced enough to read these, you can begin with working on the spell names and their Latin origins.
You can find on TES Connect a game exploring the Latin roots of the magic spells in the Harry Potter books. Pupils have to find the Latin words from which the spells were created, and use the meanings of these words to work out what each spell would do.
If you’re brave enough, you can design your own activities from the list of Harry Potter’s spells. Of course, you can also teach mythology using Harry Potter’s bestiary, but everyone knows about that, don’t they? If you aren’t a mythology geek, you can learn more about these references by reading David Colbert’s The Magical Worlds of Harry Potter.
I haven’t read The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works by Roger Highfield, and the book received contrasted reviews because some readers found it too complex for the average student and regretted that Harry Potter’s references seem to be a mere pretext. Anyway, I’m sure every science geek among you could make good use of it. Otherwise, the easiest ways to associate scientific lessons with the Potterverse are Astronomy and Potions. I dream of a Potions version of chemistry kits for kids!
Use the Hogwarts Express and the Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia to work on speed and distances.
One of the great things with math is that you can design exercises and problems from every universe! Have a look at the (very easy) questions on Math Stories to help you write your own activities. Use the Hogwarts Express and the Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia to work on speed and distances. Use the wizarding word currencies and their change values (one Galleon is equal to 17 Sickles or 493 Knuts). Work on Quidditch balls and brooms’ trajectories with older kids. And so on.
Of course, Harry Potter’s history is an alternate one. But to successfully conceive any alternate history, you have to do research on the actual one. You may try, by example, to write Harry’s essay in The Prisoner of Azkaban: “Witch Burning in the Fourteenth Century Was Completely Pointless — discuss.” Your kids would have to read about many historical questions about witch-burning in the Middle Ages, the Inquisition, and so on. Why not Jules Michelet’s founding essay La Sorciere: The Witch of the Middle Ages? Why not Umberto Eco’s wonderful novel The Name of the Rose? I see there’s even a book about Teaching Medieval Studies Through Umberto Eco’s the Name of the Rose. That sounds wonderful!
You can use the timeline provided by the Harry Potter Lexicon to conceive researches and activities on various historical periods, from Ancient Egypt to World War II. I always wondered if the actual situation of the Ministry of Magic (underground) was a consequence of the Blitz.
As you see, that could be an endless list! Feel free to share your own ideas and activities, or to ask me for a detailed activity in literature.