Friday, August 28, 2015

Reading Harry Potter Raises Standardized Test Scores!

A Tale of a Title I Classroom: The correlation between High Standardized Test scores and reading Harry Potter with Title I students. 

Growing students that love to read and thrive academically is the goal of every classroom teacher. Reading Harry Potter with a group of 34 Title I, 4th graders may not make senses to many teachers in our COMMON Core era. The test and punish mentality has many teachers struggling with meeting the more rigorous reading demands. My theses is "Reading Harry Potter with students is how and why my students have a 95% proficient or highly proficient passing rate!

Reading Harry Potter in 4th grade is not new. Reading Harry Potter, with 34 fourth graders, and asking them to participate in the collaborative readings as advanced, gifted and talented readers is not the norm. I treat all my students as gifted and talented, ready to rise to the high expectations of advanced literature! The secret is turning the struggles with unknown words, phrases, ideas, themes into real questions based on curiosity. The risks vs. rewards of reading advanced literature is turned into a rewarding environment where students learn problem solving, critical thinking and academic curiosity. Students gain the knowledge that they are truly adroit, and the ability to thrive in school with real success is in their hands. 

"J. K. Rowling 2010" by Daniel Ogren. 
Reading great literature is the air we breathe deep in our minds, hearts and souls at school, Harry Potter is the sweet swirling wind that sweeps over our class and stirs our curious spirits and makes us better learners. 

My students come to school with the burdens of poverty, no or low expectations of real academic success, and living in conditions that would make most adults withdraw and shutdown. Many of my students have learned resiliency and coping skills yet they struggle to thrive academically. 

You may ask how does reading Harry Potter and student success equate? The past 12 years my Title I students have read Harry Potter with me as the keystone of our literacy program. I use the word keystone when describing Harry Potter because it opens the doors to a million teachable moments. Harry Potter is a formative lesson on resiliency, friendship, cooperation, sacrifice, and hundreds of ideas and themes that transform students lives. 

"In all 12 years of NWEA MAP test data comparisons involving standardized test scores in reading school-wide, state-wide and nation-wide norms, the Title I students reading Harry Potter as a primary reading source outperformed significantly the children reading from traditional or basal reading programs. It can not be concluded that the Reading of Harry Potter was the only factor of success but was highly effective in raising the performance of these elementary students in Mr, Taylor's Reading class."

Why Every Teacher Should Read Harry Potter with their Class! 
  • The writing structure and style is exemplary
  • Exposure to all literary elements 
  • In si·tu Latin and Greek Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes 
  • Rigorous and challenging prose with expansive vocabulary
  • Complex plots that include (peripeteia) “reversal of intention, a reversal of circumstances, or turning point” and (anagnorisis) "a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined for good or bad fortune"
  • Building social and emotional intelligence with 100s of teachable themes
  • Characters that are compelling to all children 
  • Laugh out-loud humor and dialog great for readers theater
  • Compelling topics for Socratic seminars 
  • Peer pressure, prejudice, exclusion, bullying and the unspoken truth about schools brought home
I use great literature like Harry Potter as the cornerstone and keystone of my literacy program to build a love of reading also to teach the ins and outs of literary elements in a kid friendly way. WHY Harry Potter! Students that need to make the greatest gains in reading have a limited reading vocabulary, and they are under exposed to quality literature like Harry Potter. Using Harry Potter for core literacy planning and book clubs gives my students access to challenging books, but also the great movie clips and inspirational theme music that can assist with lessons. The HP characters have a special appeal for kids that face daily adversity if taught in an enriching way. In short Harry Potter helps to make reading fun! I tell my kids, “If the don't like reading Harry Potter, you are doing it wrong.”

Students always have a stronger auditory or spoken vocabulary due in part to exposure to Tv and Movies. Using the student's strengths to build connections to literary elements, in a format kids love, watching movies clips and listening to music makes building background knowledge fast, easy and fun for students. Using auditory knowledge to develop areas of vocabulary weakness is one method that helps my students become fluent, excited, erudite readers. Students will quickly transition from the cinematic elements to the literary elements using Harry Potter.

Students will understand settings, characters, plot, theme, mood, antagonist, and protagonist faster when you have a movie clip, or theme music to tie in or build background knowledge and understanding of literary elements.


Have your students stand up, or sit on their desk so they are facing the teacher. Start at either end of room and give a random Harry Potter trivia question to a student (Reading Comprehension question). If they answer correctly they stay standing until all students have a chance to answer a question. The game can be played as a lightning round with just one quick round or many rounds until you have two kids standing for a few Harry Potter HOT (Higher Order Thinking) questions. When students cannot give an answer to a question they have to say "GOBSMACKED" (Brit slang for dumbfounded) and must sit down. Students that answer correctly get a Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean if you are playing the lighting round, if playing for a Gobsmacked champion the game continues until you have a winner. The student that wins usually gets Harry Potter popcorn. Extensions: Students can ask for a challenge question that relates to a literary element, HOT questions, or a Tier 3 academic word that relates to HP, and every child that answers a hard vocabulary question correctly gets a nice small sample of jelly beans or pretzels, stamp, or a sticker. Anytime students' answers any question correctly all students including those that are out have to buddy buzz with a partner the question and the answer. Students love this activity and it's a great review (Formative Test) of Harry Potter, and a great opportunity to teach complex literary concepts. We start with a mix of easy and hard questions to get the kids excited and motivated to keep the Harry Potter reading fresh and exciting. I ask my students if they want a hard, medium or easy question to give every child a real chance at answering correctly! Background information: We read all Harry Potter chapters twice before we jumping into games like Gobsmacked.

HARRY POTTER: Latin Spells

We explore all of the Harry Potter books for magic spells, potions, charms, and incantations to teach and introduce prefixes, suffixes and Latin root words. Students use a basic Latin glossary or collegiate dictionary to decode the spells from Harry Potter and make their own.

A sample of my students invented spells using Latin Roots
*Comphotoposhous: It blinds your opponent for 10 minutes.
*Donamorbrev: To make someone fall in love for a short time.
*Liverphill: It gives a person forever love.
*Creadecadem: To create 10 clones of yourself.
*Cosmdokeineiv: To teach people to be wise.
*Viviodeca: It makes people live for 10 more years.
*Chronacide: It kills very slowly.
*Creacosmatic: You can make your own world.
*Filaendo: Gives someone faith-belief.
*Dynamgen: It makes you more powerful.
*Anthropamor: Makes you fall in love with the first person you see.
*Domindynam: Gives power over all you command.
*Pathymor: Suffer death instantly.
*Zodynam: A spell that can give animal power.

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