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How Teachers Are Using Harry Potter Books in School

Few books in modern history have captured children’s imaginations like the Harry Potter series. Together, the seven books that comprise the series have sold more than 500 million copies, which means J.K. Rowling’s anthology is the bestselling book series ever.

According to some educators, the Harry Potter series has provided a gold mine of classroom opportunities. With its good versus evil dynamic and its schoolroom setting, the Harry Potter books touch on some of the struggles of childhood many kids can relate to. Whether the plot involves bullying, athletic/scholastic competition, or everyday classroom challenges, the incidences detailed in the Harry Potter books resonate strongly with millions of children. Within those pages, many educators feel they’re mining solid-gold nuggets of real-life wisdom that kids can easily comprehend.

Parents’ Views

According to many parents, the Harry Potter books have offered their kids a lifeline back to the world of literature. Since the publication of the first book, studies have shown that kids are reading longer books (with a 37 percent increase in page lengths from 1996–2006, and a 115 percent increase from 2006–2016). However, owing primarily to their religious beliefs, some parents want Harry Potter banned from the classroom because they feel the books promote, and even glorify, witchcraft and sorcery. They’d prefer their kids stay away from such topics. While some child psychologists argue that the books can provide some valuable life lessons for kids, many parents are simply uncomfortable with the themes of witchcraft and the violence within the stories, and they would prefer the books not be part of the classroom.

Harry Potter Books in School

Nevertheless, many teachers are using the Harry Potter books to teach a wide range of lessons in literary structure, metaphor, imagery, and plot planning. For English classes, the imaginative language of the books can provide an eye-opening exploration into the roots and development of language.

Teachers are even using the Harry Potter books to teach STEM courses. For instance, one middle school math teacher uses potion formulas from the books to teach mathematical equations. The exploration of various potions in the series can also serve as the basis for a variety of chemistry lessons. Likewise, other magical feats detailed in the books—including the many games of Quidditch—can be used to illustrate various components in geometry and physics classes.

Sites such as Varsity Tutors and Teach Hub offer detailed lesson plans that incorporate the Harry Potter books—and even the National Education Association (NEA) has a Harry Potter teaching tools page. Here’s a look at some of the ways school lessons are incorporating Harry Potter books:

  • Students in grades 3–5 can create an alphabet book using Harry Potter themes and imagery
  • Students in grades 6–8 can make short films comparing the concepts in the Harry Potter books to present day pop culture and ideology
  • Students in grades 9–11 can learn the basics of chemistry using Snape’s potion formulas
  • Social studies students can write essays comparing the fictional wars in the Harry Potter books with real wars in world history
  • Language arts students can explore the development of new words by referencing some of the magical incantations in the Harry Potter books
  • Social studies and political science students can discuss human rights issues based on the social injustices inflicted on Harry and his child wizard friends
  • Science and history students can explore the links between Harry Potter and the early development of scientific experimentation

According to many parents and educators, the Harry Potter books have provided ways to make learning not only more entertaining but also more relevant to today’s kids.

What do you think? Should the Harry Potter books be used as a teaching tool? Or do you feel that this sets a dangerous precedent, or oversteps the boundaries between literature and learning? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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