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Sploosh, Onions, and God's Thumb while teaching Holes by Louis Sachar

I recently posted about my Harry Potter unit and realized I never shared all the fun stuff I did with my class, when we did our Holes unit.
 My teaching partner introduced me to Literacy Studio with elements of the Socratic Seminar, and I have truly fallen in love with the whole model. All of my reading instruction is now done using 5th and 6th grade novels. Right away, I knew I wanted to do Holes. Besides Harry Potter, it is probably my favorite children's book of all time. 

When I make my units, I am very intentional in creating units that are aligned to the Common Core reading and writing standards, and that are also very rigorous every day. 
You can lick the image below to check out my Holes unit. 

After reading the Hope King's ebook all about student engagement, I knew I wanted to try and go all out for each reading unit we did. 

With that in mind, I set out to hook my students right away and keep the engaged the entire time. I want them to think reading is the coolest thing in the whole world, because I believe it is!

I always start by decorating the outside of my classroom, so they can wonder right away. This is what it looked like from the outside. 

At the end of the unit, we HAD to watch the movies (p.s. watching movies based on books are great for the common core RL.7 standard). We always talk about the mood, tones, beauty, and themes of the movie and books and how they are conveyed differently. We then write reading responses about this, making sure to make inferences about why they may have to make these changes for the movies :). 

When we watched the movie, we of course had to have onions and sploosh (spiced peaches). For the "onions" we just ate funyons and of for the spiced peaches, I just mixed peaches with cinnamon and cloves. They were begging for more of this weird combination :).




None of these activities took a lot of time or planning on my part, and my students still talk about it at the end of the year.

Who knows, next year, I might try to find some yellow spotted lizards :). 


Muah! 

Why you HAVE to teach with Harry Potter

***Update: I have pictures from two different years in this post. I did it last year when I taught 5th (at my old school) and again this year when I taught 6th (at my current school). Both times were magical :). The top is about 5th grade and if you scroll to the bottom you will see the 6th grade version of everything.

Harry Potter PART I

I have dreamed of doing a Harry Potter thematic unit with my class, pretty much ever since I knew I wanted to be a teacher.

I know some of you still have your doubts, but I have seen first hand the power of reading Harry Potter as a class. Read the post, and at the bottom I have lots of pictures and ideas of how to make this the best thing you will ever do in your whole entire life. Serious.

These are the things stopping you and why you should ignore them.

1.) Students say they don't like Harry Potter and/or they don't want to read it.

Obviously I am biased (I want to be Hermoine), but when people (whether kids or adults) tell me they don't like Harry Potter, I pretty much just call them liars, and move on with my life. I'm sorry, but if you actually make it all the way through all 7 books, you don't hate it. It is impossible. Or you're lying…. #sorrynotsorry

Many of my students complained when they heard we were going to read Harry Potter. Many of them said they "hated" it. I started to doubt my choice, but I had two students who I knew had read the books, and they were ecstatic about this, so I knew they would all come around.

…. anyways my point here is that your students don't know if they really like it, because they probably haven't read past the first chapter of the first book.

2.) They have seen the movies, so they don't want to read the books

I was actually blown away by how many of my kids hadn't seen the movies. I think kids in this age group were too young when the movies came out, so unless the parents are die hard Harry Potter fans (those are my favorite kind of parents), your students probably haven't seen the movies either.

3. Some parents don't want their children to read Harry Potter because it has "witchcraft." 

I know this can be tricky, and something you might not be able to work around, but if you think for an instant that you can get all parents on board, then you should try.

Also, I don't believe it's about "witchcraft," but I think that could be a philosophical debate.

My first piece of advice is to do a Harry Potter unit towards the end of the school year, when you have had a chance to build relationships and rapport with students and parents… That way they don't think you're some crazy die hard Harry Potter fan who is trying to teach their child witchcraft :).

But I found it was really best to wait towards the end of the year, because the parents really did trust my judgment and motives at the point.

On a more serious note, Harry Potter isn't just about magic. It is about friendship, life and death, love, good and evil, growing up, discovery, bravery, courage, and sooooooo much more. All of these are things that parents just can't argue with, so I encourage you find a way to show parents that Harry Potter teaches so much more than just waving a wand around.

4. If you are still doubting me…. even though I told you not to,  I know they will love it!

I started this unit two weeks ago and I have NEVER seen my students so in love with a story like they are now. EVERY SINGLE student is following along, is asking questions, is begging to read more every single day (sometimes after I have read for 30 minutes), and are writing beautiful reading responses that are digging so deep into EVERY SINGLE literature standard.

I did 4 other reading units with these kids, and no book has ever enraptured all my students like Harry Potter has. After the 2nd day, and I swear I am not making this up, 4 students came up to me and said, okay Harry Potter is actually really good.

I promise you, this book is worth it!

Fast fact: did you know that the Harry Potter Books are the best selling children's books of all time. I mean, that's pure math and data right there.

Okay, here are those pictures I promised :).

I put Platform 9 3/4 tickets on all of the their lockers so they had a ticket to get into my classroom. This really helped build up the excitement for students who weren't so excited about Harry Potter.

This is when I stared to realize how many of them really didn't know anything about Harry Potter, because they were all asking, "What is nine and three-fourths?" But it also shows they may have learned something from me during math :).

Here is the link to where I found the printable. I printed them in color and laminated them to make them look official.




This is what my classroom entrance looked like on the outside. This is what students saw when they came to their lockers in the morning.


Then when I opened the door, it was Platform 9 3/4. They had to give me their ticket to enter the classroom. Later, if they wanted to keep the ticket, I let them. 



When they walked in the classroom, each table (I have 6) had a colored tablecloth to match the houses, and then I had the house flags. I had to create two extra houses to work with my classroom. So I had a Ravenpuff table and Slytherdoor table. 




When they walked into the classroom, they each had their letter of acceptance to Hogwarts, with a school supply list, and a quill. You can get the acceptance letter here. 

I made the quills by taping feathers to pens. I got the feathers at Hobby Lobby. I printed their acceptance letters on just some fancy paper I found at Wal-Mart. 



Then I sorted my students into their houses, using a sorting hat I got off of Amazon.com. 




I created a unit to use with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. My teaching partner introduced me to Literacy Studio with elements of the Socratic Seminar, and I have truly fallen in love with the whole model. All of my reading instruction is now done using 5th and 6th grade novels. 

 We are both very intentional in creating units that are aligned to all of the Common Core reading and writing standards, and that are also very rigorous every day. 

Click the image below to check it out. 



6th Grade Update: Here are the pictures from when I did the unit with my 6th graders. 

I used my 6th grade reading unit for most of my essay and deeper thinking questions... We did about 2-3 Socratic Seminar and/or writing responses each week...



...but now that I had a year of reading the book under my belt I wanted to do more and really dive into the novel. For this I purchased Where the Wild Things Learn's Harry Potter Unit

It was filled with tons of engaging ideas to really bring Harry Potter to life and my 6th graders loved everything we did, despite the fact that her unit was made when she taught 4th grade.



I got the idea for the Hogwarts Express from Wilds Things Learn :). 
I did Prefects and a house cup challenge. For Prefects, I just drew a name each (from each class) and they got to pick a friend to be V.I.P. for the day. 

We did house points and the winning house got a JR's trip on me. JR's is the convenient store across the street from our school and this is like taking these kids to Disneyland (I am not kidding that they would rather have JR's than me buy them lunch ha! 
House tables. I still had my flags up, but I have a picture later on. 

A close up of their letters and quills this year. 


 I bought this brick thing on Amazon thinking it was door size and it turned out to be HUGE. It was perfect to hang above my hallway buddy and mine's door frame area. I just made the sign my projecting it on my overhead and tracing. 


We made wands and they LOVED it. Again, I got the idea from Wild Things Learn. 



When we read the sorting hat chapter I got my hat out, and I hung tea lights from the ceiling. I got the lights from Hobby Lobby, hot glued them to string, and then used push pins to hang them from the ceiling. 
We also did potions. Again, this is from Amelia's (Wild Things Learn) unit. This was an insane amount of work, but they really really loved it so I would say it's worth it. 




Of course we watched the movie after we finished, and had all the Harry Potter food. 




Click here for my Harry Potter Freebies. Or click the picture below.