when classrooms come alive

if you follow this blog closely, you have read numerous posts about our teacher’s constant work to make their classrooms fun and innovative spaces for learning. this past week, 2nd grade teacher mr. tanner winters created a special experience for his students. i have asked mr. winters to write about this experience in the post below. once again, bbs students benefit from teachers who daily enact what we truly believe - which is that learning should be fun. it’s not an accident that the hashtag #learningisfunatbbs is used so often on our social media posts to highlight what is happening in our classrooms each day.

harry potter and the magic of reading

by 2nd grade teacher tanner winters

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when i was a student in elementary school, reading was not something that i viewed as a pleasure. i never felt the weight of books in my backpack, the joy of walking the aisles in a library, or most importantly, the rush of adventure that lay behind the covers of each book cover. looking back, i now consider the absence of reading in my early life a tragedy. in my current role now as a teacher, i refuse to let my students experience this same loss. it is with this mindset that i decided to read to my class the very books that finally opened my eyes and allowed me to view reading as boarding a train bound for a castle full of magic. 

 harry potter has found its story in the hearts and minds of my second graders. what began as a desire to fuel a love and passion for reading evolved into conversations about quidditch at recess, dreams where students were no longer at bbs but hogwarts, and even lately, inspired by our own house system at bbs for 4th and 5th graders, thoughts about which house they would be sorted into as “first-years” if they were students at hogwarts. so, instead of keeping the wizarding world inside their hearts and minds, i attempted to make the very conversations, dreams, and thoughts of my students come true by bringing it to life in my classroom. 

in the books, every first-year wizard at hogwarts is sorted into one of four houses: gryffindor, slytherin, hufflepuff, and ravenclaw. the houses are built upon the following core values and characteristics: 

gryffindor: courageous, brave, and chivalrous

slytherin: ambitious, leaders, resourceful

hufflepuff: hard-working, patient, loyal

ravenclaw: intelligent, creative, learners 

just like the students in the book, i sorted my students according to which houses i believed would best fit each of their own personalities. from there, the houses became teams that competed with each other, to earn points. the houses work together to gain those points by modeling the characteristics unique to their house, behavior, teamwork, and academic (listening, working hard, completing assignments, etc.). the students are to earn these points as a house and team, but can also lose them together. this is to foster a “it’s-not-about-me” mentality, which i believe is the heart of following jesus. it is easy to lose or gain points for oneself without much thought; however, if gained or lost for a team, the reward and accountability is far more disciplined and impactful. i am using the passage in proverbs 27 - “iron sharpens iron,” as my inspiration for this. i renamed the houses to glory, honor, sacred, and respect. i chose these names because each is a way to show love to our father in heaven, and since we owe him everything, it feels right to give him praise for the love of reading.

as my creativity (hint: i would be in ravenclaw) started flowing, sorting my students into hogwarts houses was a “brilliant” idea. however, i had to make the experience as detailed and real as possible! on the day of the sorting, i had students come to school wearing white button down shirts, and once placed in their houses, i gave them matching ties for them all to wear like the students do in the story. then, with a few spells (*cough, cough--parents), i transformed my classroom into hogwarts itself! from the house banners flowing in the great hall to the forbidden forest, my students not only got to imagine the wizarding world, but experience its magic every day.

who knew a story could leave the pages of a book and enter the life of a reader? such a truth is one i wish found me sooner, but it’s one i will not let escape my students. 

“it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” - albus dumbledore

click the pictures below to see the full gallery of pictures from this day

sean corcoran