Using Harry Potter in the classroom

14-Jul-2011

As Eva wrote last week, the English love to queue. A fortnight ago it was for Wimbledon; last week it was for the best-selling book and film franchise, Harry Potter. Last Thursday, London’s Trafalgar Square was awash with children and adults of all ages, queuing to see the première of the series’ final instalment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. The stars and fans united, possibly for the final time, to celebrate ten years of friendship, wizadry and quidditch.

The universal popularity of Harry Potter makes it a wonderful resource for teaching English to students of any age. More importantly for ELT, the imaginative quality of JK Rowling’s language in the Harry Potter books provides a fantastic opportunity for language students of any level.

Activity Village has some really interesting language activities for the more dedicated Potter fans in your class (http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/harry_potter_puzzles.htm). The word searches and word scrambles would make excellent warmers, but they would require knowledge of the main terminology from the series in order to deliver results. However, a guaranteed success in any class would be the ‘Make Your Own Spells’ worksheet (PDF found here: http://tinyurl.com/5txxuvz). This is a fantastic activity that requires no prior knowledge of Harry Potter whatsoever, and is guaranteed to make learning English fun! Ask students to spend ten to fifteen minutes coming up with some invented words, and then ask them to read them out, writing them on the board. Maybe pick some out, and ask them why they chose that word: did they like the pronunciation? What does the word remind them of? Were they influenced by any other similar sounding English words? Can they think of any other words that contain the same phonemes etc? This could spark an enjoyable discussion on the English language in general, works really well for pronunciation and spelling, and is adaptable to all proficiency levels.

To continue the pronunciation theme, Scholastic has a great audio resource that shows the definitions and the pronunciation of a huge range of Harry Potter terminology from all seven books (http://harrypotter.scholastic.com/). Click on whichever book you want to focus on, and use the ‘Glossary’ to find definitions of specific words, and the ‘Pronunciation’ section to listen to audio samples of the same words, and phonetic spellings that show stress placement. All in all, a great little Potter-themed resource to really get your students talking, and having fun!

Finally, MEC has some great resources for the older student, with two Web Projects in particular offering some longer, more research-based activities dealing with Harry Potter, and films and literature in general: these provide a great segue from your Potter activities into more general language activities for the rest of the lesson. ‘Children’s literature’ is a simple Web Project that asks your students to find out some basic information about both the Harry Potter franchise, and C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. Perhaps as a final exercise, to keep in line with the fantasy literature theme, you could ask your students to write the first chapter or blurb of their own fantasy novel, and then ask several students to read them out to the class. ‘Shot on location in Britain’ is another Web Project that directs your students to a website listing some famous films, including Harry Potter, and where in Britain they were filmed. It starts with some simple short-answer questions, before moving on to some deeper questions about filming for the cinema, and a role-play activity to get your students actively producing spoken English. Simply search in the ‘Word and Phrase Search’ on the MEC platform, either by ID or by title, to access the resources.

Becca

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