Instructors of the literature survey often struggle to help students see past a brisk syllabus toward deeper literary, historical, and cultural concerns. Moreover, surveys often discourage participation and assess more historical knowledge like dates and names. This essay invites instructors to consider creative literary approaches to the survey by way of a lesson plan featuring Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, from the world of Harry Potter. Students were tasked in small groups to develop new Hogwarts Houses that embodied literary concerns while connecting course readings to students’ own lives. Students drew from medieval texts and further research to develop a House name, slogan, core virtues, founding story, description of the residence, and famous graduates. By reviewing and rereading texts with an eye to their own designs, students used recall and analysis as steppingstones toward higher-order thinking, including synthesis of medieval and modern ideals and creation of new “texts.” This essay includes the lesson prompt, sample House designs, and analysis of the class discussion that followed student presentations on their collaborative work.
Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Brit Lit I: Using Hogwarts to Facilitate Effective Learning
Kyle Sebastian Vitale is assistant director for Faculty Teaching Initiatives at the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning, where he teaches workshops and roundtables on pedagogy. He earned his PhD in English at the University of Delaware, where he also taught literature and writing courses. He managed the Folger Shakespeare Library’s National Endowment for the Humanities grant program “Teaching Shakespeare to Undergraduates” and is published in Religion and Literature, Christianity and Literature, Notes and Queries, and the forthcoming Edinburgh History of Reading.