Skip to main content

Teaching Tips from 'Harry Potter'

When I was at primary school, I liked Harry Potter. I wasn't really crazy about it like some of my classmates were, but I liked it. My sister and I used to act out what we thought should happen (not all the books had been released at this point) and we got parts of it startlingly correct. I've got lots of happy memories of playing in the bedroom or in the garden.

Now I'm a teacher, I am beginning to appreciate the series more and more as I see my pupils encouraged to read the books having enjoyed the films so much. We recently dressed up for World Book Day and (aside from myself - a proud Hufflepuff) there were plenty of Harrys and Hermiones.

But aside from being a great story for adults and children, the series can also give teachers some great tips. I recently sent a Harry Potter clip to a teacher friend to cheer her up, declaring that it was classic active learning!

(Active learning is one of those buzzwords that educationalists love. And it's a great teaching method. It basically means to learn by doing, not seeing or listening. The active learning lessons I've taught have been the most successful, and the most fun! They are the lessons the children talk about on Friday when we are reviewing our week.)

The clip was from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and is about one of my favourite characters - Professor Lupin:

In this scene, Prof. Lupin is teaching his class about a boggart and instead of asking them to get their textbooks out, he puts his class in the deep end and gets them face-to-face with a boggart. There would be no forgetting that lesson, and it gives them a great opportunity to practise what they are being taught. They learn by doing - classic active learning!
If I was evaluating that lesson, however, I would just say Lupin should have demonstrated it himself but I understand why he didn't! Those of you who don't, read the book!

You could compare this to another scene, when Prof. Snape is teaching the same class:

It's clear that Snape prefers the old-school-textbook approach which just doesn't have the same impact on the students. I'm not saying he should have introduced a werewolf to the class, but he could at least have actually taught about werewolves before demanding an essay on them. Tut tut!

And then, in the 5th book, Defence Against the Dark Arts is taught by Professor Umbridge, one of the most foul characters in the history of fiction. Her method of teaching, approved by the Ministry, is to hold back the class so they are not learning anything useful. I worry about this in my class as there is a huge range of abilities and I am constantly trying to think of ways to challenge all my pupils. In the book, they overcome Umbridge's incapability by rebelling and teaching each other, but in the real world there is rarely an opportunity for that - and we don't really want our class rebelling do we? So we have to keep our pupils challenged!

I could go into further detail about how Lockheart thinks of himself more than the pupils, or how McGonnagal is firm but fair, but this post is already long enough. I think the subject is definitely worth exploring more, however, and if I ever went into studying again I would seriously think about making this a focus of a research project or dissertation.


Popular posts from this blog

"First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts" Lesson Plan

Here is the first lesson plan I'm posting on this blog! Hopefully, it will be the first of many.

"First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts" by Lari Don

The Curriculum Experience and Outcome for this lesson is:

Inspired by a range of stimuli, and working on my own and/or with others, I can express and communicate my ideas, thoughts and feelings through musical activities. EXA 0-18a / EXA 1-18a / EXA 2-18a

For each topic, I try and do a composition lesson. The class have to create a piece of music in their group that is inspired by their topic. Why not do this with a book too?

Learning Intention:
To understand how to work in a group and create music for a book.

Success Criteria:
I can use my body to make 4 different sounds.I can talk about my feelings towards the book.I can listen to others in my group.I can create a 1 minute piece of music about the book.

Talk about different ways you can make sound with your body (clapping, clicking, vocalising, stamping) a…

"The Cunning Woman's Cup"

"When Alice McCleish’s gardener Brian unearths an object of great archaeological significance deep under the compost heap it is not only Alice who is affected. Her friendship with Margaret Allerton, retired Professor of Anthropology, as well as Alice's family, friends and neighbours are all touched. 

Alice and Margaret find themselves questioning long-held beliefs about the material and spiritual world that surrounds them. Both women find their lives transformed unalterably by their newfound companionship. Serendipity puts Alice’s nearest neighbour, the troubled Violet Turnbull, in touch with the enigmatic Avian Tyler, whose mystical ‘gift’ offers Violet a promise of liberation.

All the while an echoing voice from long, long ago hints at the history of the locality dominated by the standing stone circle that bestrides the skyline above the small community of Duddo. This harrowing story reveals the provenance of the artefacts found beneath that compost heap."

Amazon tells me…