Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Just Wild About Harry

It’s been nearly 14 years since the publication of the first Harry Potter book. The first generation of Potter fans has now likely completed college, having grown up alongside the books’ protagonists that they’ve grown to love. Although sales of the Harry Potter series have slowed since the publication of the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in 2007, a new crop of readers continue to discover the series each year. According to Scholastic, the American publisher of the Harry Potter series, there are currently 143 million copies of Potter books in print in the U.S., and 400 million copies worldwide. Kids in high school and middle school still tell me on a fairly regular basis that they are trying to wean themselves off the series, and ask for alternative book recommendations. If my town is a literary barometer of any kind, then the series is still in brisk demand: our public and school libraries regularly replace existing copies of the Potter series, due to constant use.

One of the beauties of the Potter books is that they speak to students without moralizing or condescension. There are many themes running throughout the series, but the ones that seem to resonate the most with students include power, survival, fitting in, good versus evil, and oppression. These themes reflect what many students – in the throes of adolescence – experience daily in their own lives to some degree. Students are naturally interested in situations that they can relate to, and are likely to be more vested in lessons where they feel some emotional or intellectual connection. While using the books in English Language Arts classes is a natural choice, there’s no reason to limit the use of the novels exclusively to these classrooms. Introducing Harry Potter-themed lessons across the curriculum can be a fun and interesting way to interject something unexpected in a seemingly straightforward lesson, and perhaps invigorate some of the topics that students often find less than interesting.

My picks this week all make innovative use of Harry Potter characters and events across the curriculum. I’ll be featuring many more Harry Potter-themed lessons, activities, and other resources for a variety of ages and subjects throughout the week on our Facebook and Twitter pages, so please be sure to visit those pages regularly. Lots of great ideas, and no wands necessary.

Harry Potter Math Stories
Subjects: Math
Grade: 1-3
These addition and simple multiplication word problems use characters and situations from the Harry Potter novels. An answer sheet is provided. This resource was produced by MathStories, a math site devoted to helping students in grades 1-6 boost their math critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Introduction to Primary and Secondary Sources
Subject: Research skills
Grade: 4-8
What if you had the scrap of paper on which J.K. Rowling wrote the beginnings of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? In this lesson, students pretend that they are doing research for a biography of the author J.K. Rowling. They will examine examples of sources of information and decide which are primary sources and which are secondary sources. This will give students an introduction to primary and secondary sources in a familiar context, and prepare them for further study. This lesson was published by Florida Memory, an online project of the State Library & Archives of Florida. In addition to lesson plans and other educational resources, the site also offers interactive exhibits, photo collections, and documents of Florida history.

Genetic Traits in Harry Potter
Subjects: Biology, Life Science
Grade: 7-11
In this lesson, students review or learn genetic terms and concepts, such as DNA, chromosome, gene, allele, homozygous, heterozygous, recessive and dominant genes, genotype, phenotype, complex traits, Mendelian inheritance, and Punnett Square; and apply them in identifying possible inheritance patterns and genotypes of magical ability demonstrated by several characters in the Harry Potter series. This lesson was produced by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health. NLM is the world’s largest medical library, and offers a plethora of materials, information, and research services in all areas of biomedicine and health care.

~Joann's Picks - 3/10/2011~

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