I’ll admit it. I don’t like wizards, and I didn’t read the Harry Potter books, at least not at first. Like many students, I fell in love with the Harry Potter movies. It wasn’t until after the sixth movie that a friend threatened to disown me if I didn’t brush the dust off the set she knew was on my bookcase and get reading. About five days later, I emerged from the final chapter with tears in my eyes and a love for characters that don’t even really exist.
Several years ago I started reading the books aloud, one a year, to my oldest child at home. It is fun to watch him grow with Harry, the way many children have. However, it wasn’t until I saw the Harry Potter Reading Club this year that I considered reading Harry in the classroom. It’s an exciting prospect to bring the characters and magical world alive inside my inner-city classroom where magic rarely seems real.
The books are not easy reads for most of my kids. That’s why the book club idea spoke to me. I love working with smaller groups of children who are excited about a topic. We used our beginning-of-the-year reading inventory to decide which children had the ability to go the full distance with these books. Those students will be pulled each Friday afternoon to discuss chapters and participate in mini-activities that guide their reading. The students infect each other with their passion, and even students outside the club feel encouraged to pick up weightier books.
Once a month our club will meet to take on a fun Wizarding World activity. My sons inspired my favorite activity, creating our own wands. The process is simple: take a chopstick, hot-glue items to it to create unique lumps and bumps, coat the handle with even more glue, and paint it in a wood tone. VoilÃÂ ! Instant unique wands! Even my younger son has been creating spells to cast on the dog and his brother.
Some other brainstorm ideas we’ve had include getting students to design their own house logo, breaking into houses and awarding points for finished assignments, creating spells, having a potions “taste test” with unidentified baby foods, and recreating an end-of-year feast. On Read for America day, I have my entire class enter a Triwizard Tournament with three different areas such as "most words read," "most Accelerated Reader points earned," and "highest reading test average." Each child gets their picture taken with a sorting hat and has their stats on display outside the room while we use math to create class graphs of our progress. I hope to add this to our book club this year, too! The online Harry Potter site has extensions, notes from author J. K. Rowling, and even a Wizard’s Challenge that we will use—plus, it just looks cool!
Right now, we are excited to “meet” J. K. Rowling through next week's live webcast. We’ve registered our club and are looking forward to hearing from the author herself. Rowling goes above and beyond for her young readers, just this month opening Pottermore, a website with a unique online and e-reader experience. She lends her comments and talents to the Scholastic Harry Potter site as well. Our club will be receiving stickers, bookmarks, name tags, and more to help get us started. What’s even better is that many of our teachers are "Potterphiles" and the buzz among the staff is apparent to the students.
Whether you are a first-time reader or have loved Harry, Ron, and Hermione for years, I encourage you to join in the live webcast, grab your newly created wand, and start a club that encourages a love of reading in a way only J. K. Rowling books can. Share your clubs and ideas here. I’m anxious to hear how Harry is working in other classrooms and what suggestions you have for tried-and-true teaching tips. As we go, I’ll be posting comments to follow up and let you know how our club is rolling along. Other great teachers are using the online community to share ideas. Just solemnly swear you are up to no good!