Harry Potter Classroom
Over the past couple of weeks my own kids at home have gotten very into the Harry Potter movies. I wish I could say they are now really excited to read the books, but unfortunately we are just not there yet.
Experiencing the Harry Potter phenomenon again reminds me of how much I was amazed by the world J.K. Rowling created. Her attention to detail made it possible to believe that the wizarding world really does exist. I like to live in a world with magic, and I think kids do too.
I started thinking about how the wizarding world could be brought into the classroom to engage students. I don't think this could be done all year long - that would be crazy, but a week would be so much fun. Perhaps the class could read a Harry Potter book together and then celebrate with a week at Hogwarts. Or, the class could have a reading or behavior challenge and the reward is the week at Hogwarts. Maybe the Hogwarts week is the week after state testing. There are so many options, but no matter how you choose to implement it, this will be an unforgettable week for your students.
A lot of my ideas here are adapted from www.SummerCampPro.com. This website has a blog all about how to create and run a Harry Potter summer camp. If you are running a summer camp, you should definitely check it out: Harry Potter Summer Camp
The Friday Before You Start Your Week:
Use the letter Harry got from Hogwarts as a guide to write your own letter to your students. You can put it on parchment paper and seal it up in an envelope. You could even address the letters to students based on their desk positions. For example: Miss Annie Green, Front Row, Third Desk, Mrs. Kyle's Classroom, Mountain View Elementary, Seattle, Washington.
Decorate your classroom to look like a castle. You don't have to go crazy, a few touches will make the kids feel like they are somewhere special. You can find props and wall decorations for your classroom at any party supply store. You can also order from Amazon. Here is one set that looks interesting:
To keep costs down you don't have to buy any decorations. Or you could be extra careful with them and share with another teacher or use them for several years. You could also have kids work on making the decorations with materials in the classroom.
Another fun decoration would be to have a collection of potions. You could use bottles from your kitchen with water and food coloring to create your potions. It would even be a great time to insert science. You could do demonstrations with vinegar and baking soda or other concoctions.
Finally, you will want to set up your house system. It has been pointed out that almost all of your students will want to be in Gryffindor, and little hearts might be broken if they are sorted into Slytherin. Summer Camp Pro has a great solution for this. Explain to the students that our Hogwarts is a different branch of Hogwarts in America, or your state, or your city. You can name your own Hogwarts school based on your location. Summer Camp Pro called their camp Hogwarts Americana. Your branch of Hogwarts has different houses than the Hogwarts in England.
You can come up with your own house names, but here are some suggestions. Since Hogwarts houses are named after the founders of Hogwarts, your houses could be named after the founders of the United States: Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson - there are so many names to choose from. You could also use the last names of teachers in your school or just make them up completely.
As far as colors for houses go - I wouldn't use the colors from the movies or books because everyone knows which houses the colors match. Instead, come up with your own combinations. You can prepare banners for the kids, or (even better) tell them their colors and have them design their own banners.
You will also want a way to keep track of house points. Old pickle jars would be great for collecting colored stones for points. This is part of the Hogwarts week that I wish I could keep all year. I love the idea of recognizing an individual student or a group of students by dropping a colored stone in a jar. It is tangible and beautiful. You can have the same colored stones for every house or match the colors to their houses. Here are some options from Amazon:
You don't have to have four houses either. You may choose to have more or fewer depending on the size and mix of your class.
The rest of the ideas will have to be prepped ahead of time, but I am describing them as they would occur in the week.
The First Day
Students come to school and see their letters. They are going to be pretty excited, so as quickly as possible assign wands and get them sorted. I looked online for affordable pencil wands, and I couldn't find any. So, I suggest getting a bunch of pencils with different decorations. Remind the students that the wand chooses the wizard. One idea for assigning pencils is to have students come up and write their names with a pencil. If it is nice and neat, then that is the pencil for that student. If it is messy, it isn't the right pencil. You may have to set a limit that students can only try three wands/pencils to make the time manageable.
Next, you will need a hat to sort the students. You will need a hat to place on each student's head. How you sort them depends on your class. You could have students pick a piece of paper out a container to be randomly sorted, or you could just announce the house if you need to keep certain students apart or together. The sorting hat is a place where I, personally, would splurge. I would want a high quality hat to make the experience more magical. Plus, I would be able to use it for many years and share with other teachers. Here is one from Warner Brothers that is about $30:
Once the students are sorted, you will be able to start giving and taking away points. Don't forget to remind students that at Hogwarts teachers are called Professor. This means that for the week you are Professor (Last Name). It is another fun touch that will make your week memorable.
The Middle of the Week
For the rest of the week, you will want to integrate Harry Potter activities into your school day. You can still have students complete their regular assignments, but add flair to them. For example, handwriting practice can become spell practice. Any history lessons can become "History of Magic." Science classes can be "Potions." If you are studying plants in science, you can go to "Herbology." Teachers have shared their ideas with Scholastic News. You can read about it at Scholastic News.
I would definitely take my class outside to play Quidditch. Of course, someone has already come up with instructions for Muggle Quidditch!
The Last Day
Just like the books, you may want to have a Voldemort attack on the last day of the week. Perhaps your class needs to defeat Voldemort by solving math equations or writing spelling words. Any weekly activity can be turned into a battle with Voldemort. If you are really into it, you could leave the classroom for an errand, and Voldemort could come back to your class for the battle. You would have to prep your class ahead of time about how to defeat Voldemort. Any black robe will do for the transformation, but you can also wear the full costume. This might be another thing you want to combine with other teachers on:
Finally, your last activity will be awarding the House Cup. I would definitely award this to the house that has the most stones. I know some teachers would want to give everyone a prize at the end of the week, but I think the kids that are always on task definitely deserve to be recognized. You can decorate anything you like to serve as the house cup. The kids in Harry Potter don't get to take the cup home, so your students won't either. They just get to have the cup at their table for the end of the day. I would resist putting any treats in the cup because that would cause hurt feelings, and I don't think the kids need a real prize. This whole week has been a huge prize for the entire class.
Instead, I would bring some Harry Potter treats for the entire class to try. Here is one option from Amazon:
I am sure there are more ideas that could be used to make this week memorable. If you have an idea, please help us all out by commenting!