Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry Potter and the Integrated Curriculum

Whether we call it integrated curriculum, interdisciplinary studies, or reading and writing across the curriculum, such projects ask students to look beyond the books they read and make personal and far-reaching connections to other aspects of their lives. The English Journal article “Taking Time: Harry Potter as a Context for Interdisciplinary Studies” describes a project that bridged language arts, math, and science as students explore a series of activities related to their reading of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In addition to these activities, there are many other curricular connections that can be explored:

  • Ask students to sketch out a hierarchical chart of the wizarding world’s government and compare it to the national U.S. and British governments.

  • Extend the discussion of one of the magical creatures in the series by writing scientific descriptions of their habits, habitats, and physical features. Model the descriptions on an encyclopedia entry of a well-known animal or use a Web-based description of a zoo animal like the Giant Panda.

  • Use Thinkfinity partner EconEdLink’s Lost Memo to have students to connect the details from the Harry Potter novels to the currency exchange rate that affects businesses everywhere.

  • Tap the exploration of race, class, sexuality, and gender in the English Journal article “Teaching English in the World: Playing with Critical Theory in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series to shape parallel discussions contrasting issues in social studies and history. For instance, invite comparisons of Hermione’s S.P.E.W. (Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare) with the labor and anti-slavery movements in the U.S.

  • Consider what Mona Lisa, James Weldon Johnson, or Sequoyah would say if they could talk and move around their portraits like the subjects of the paintings in the Harry Potter novels to explore art and history connections.

  • Explore the language of advertising by asking students to create print, audio, or video advertisements for items that wizards would buy, a store a wizard might shop at, or a service that a wizard might hire someone to perform.

  • Focus on technical and business writing by asking students to create resumes for characters in the book. Consult the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Book Report Alternative: Creating Careers for Characters for resources.

  • Write a letter to the editor for a character, using the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Book Report Alternative: A Character’s Letter to the Editor for materials. Students might write on the same topics that Harry takes up in the novels or choose another topic—arguing for a pardon for Buckbeak, supporting Hermione’s S.P.E.W. efforts, or responding to a news article included in one of the texts.
Have other suggestions? Please share them in the comments!

1 comment:

Lee Barrios said...

Thanks for the resurrection of Harry Potter in the classroom. In 2001 I received a Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities grant to participate in a graduate course in medieval studies titled King Arthur for Kids at Loyola University of New Orleans. Required readings were The Once and Future King and the first four Harry Potter novels. The next school year I integrated the Harry Potter series with my usual study of TOFK for my 7th grade gifted. It was challenging, engaging, exciting and educational for me and my students. The school system did not support my use of HP based on the excuse that it was used in 3rd grade. In seeking approval for the book I noted that in addition to meeting all the system criteria for selection of literature, it was a 2001 Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award. It explores themes about the human condition and issues of identity, destiny, free will and the ability to shape our own destinies, responsibility (to ourselves, others and society), betrayal, idealism, the price of standing up for principle, and, above all, the problem of human fallibility and failure in a world that does not always live up to our expectations. The fact that the story of Arthur is so recognizably familiar in Harry Potter is particularly important because it teaches young readers the most fundamental aspect of education, the making of connections, the relationship of what is introduced in the classroom to what they know and are enthusiastic about from outside the class.

You can still find a few tidbits of input from the Loyola class at where we attempted to integrate the study of Harry Potter into history, math, grammar, etc. studies. Since I'm close to retirement, I may try to use Harry Potter again with my favorite TOFK!!! Lee Barrios