Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Activities Inspired by Harry Potter

Posted by Brian McCabe,

Today, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opens in theatres everywhere. Regardless of your opinions of the films or books, it's undeniable what they have done to re-instill a love of reading in our nation's kids. In the spirit of Harry Potter, I'd like to propose a few summer activities for reading and language arts:

The Importance of Names:
One of the great things about the Harry Potter series is the ubiquitous presence of names that have some deeper significance or reference: Argus Filch, Minerva McGonagall, etc. See these sites for more information on the names and possible references:
Challenge your students to pay attention to names in the other books, movies, and pop culture they take in. Names carry a lot of meaning and can be in homage to many things, and can give rich, though subtle, contour to an oeuvre.

Summer Reading Contests:
Summer is traditionally a time for lots of pleasure reading. Challenge your students to read as much as they can over the summer months. You may want to have a reward system for them. Or, you can have them set their own goals. Or, you can contact your local library or school district to see what kinds of competitions they have in place for the students.

Mythology and Personification:
Throughout the Harry Potter series, many mythological creatures and characters are referred to. We have werewolves, giants, vampires, references to Minerva and Argus, etc. How about giving a lesson on the popular myths (Greco-Roman, Norse, Native American, fables, fairy tales) that are pervasive in our culture? Knowledge of these myths is important for the understanding of much classical literature as they are referred to time and time again.

Manytimes, mythological characters are the personified forms of inanimate objects or abstractions (love, war, hearth, wind, fate, etc.) It's interesting to see how different cultures have personified these different abstractions. You can challenge your student to compare various abstractions across different cultures' mythology or even create their own mythological characters personifying an abstraction of their choice. These can make great art projects or creative writing projects. You can also challenge your students to think of a "creation myth" for some object, event, place, etc. This is especially common in the Native American mythologies (e.g., the creation of the Sleeping Bear dunes in Michigan).

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