Founder and Executive Director, LitWorld & LitLife; author; literacy and education expert and advocate
Young Muggles around the world hold their breath before opening their mailboxes, waiting for the day a snow-flecked owl will deliver their acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The Hogwarts School of J.K. Rowling’s classic Harry Potter series is filled with magic – the students attend Potions and Dark Arts classes, the school is defended by spells and charms – but it’s the culture within the walls that is truly magical. And while we may not be able to promise our children mastery of charms (wingardium leviosa!), we should be able to ensure that school is a place where friendships are forged, adventures experienced, and memories made through the power of learning.
So, what can we as educators and parents learn from the Hogwarts magic to build the ideal learning environment? Let’s take a look.
1. The Magic of a Multi-Age Community
After a successful sprint onto platform 9 ¾, children arrive in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts to be sorted into their houses. From the moment the sorting hat screams out their destiny, kids are welcomed by older students into an incredible community that will mentor, guide, support, and champion them as fellow housemates. The students live together, eat together, triumph and face challenges in collaboration.
The benefits of multi-age learning environments are real. Research finds that interacting with mixed ages improves students’ sense of self, social awareness and responsibility, and cultivates a more positive attitude towards school. Creating structures for younger and older children to support each other is particularly helpful for English learners who receive special assistance from their multi-age classmates. We can encourage interactions between ages by embracing reading buddy structures, a kind of “LitCorps” where older children get matched to younger children as readers. We can create cross-school or neighborhood blogs so that older and younger children can share favorite book titles and chat about what they are reading. We can create whole school or neighborhood celebrations where children of all ages come together to give a book talk, or to share what they are most excited about in their math, science, or reading classes.