School Quidditch as a Magical Learning Event
A MiddleWeb Blog
Every school is different and unique in its own special way. This twist on the old adage by Leo Tolstoy, who was writing about the tapestry of families, is particularly true when you start to examine some of the events that give any school community its character.
For us, at my school, in sixth grade, it is the game of Quidditch.
When I tell other educators that my sixth graders play the game of Quidditch — and that students have been playing the game since their early elementary grades — they often get a funny look on their face, as if they think I’m pulling their leg.
If they know of how Quidditch has been adapted at the university level as a club sport, they might nod in a knowing way instead. But they don’t know our game of Quidditch.
Now approaching its 15th year, this brand of Quidditch was originally designed by sixth graders who were in that initial wave of young readers who became completely and utterly immersed in the world of J.K. Rowling’s imagination when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out.
These were the readers who camped out at bookstores late into the night. These are the ones who ignored everything, everywhere, just to read the books as soon as they got their hands on them. And as these students learned more about the game that their hero Harry Potter played in the novel, they began to lobby our physical education teacher (flying brooms notwithstanding) to see if they could play Quidditch, too.
Precision, energy and teamwork
Over the many years, the rules of the game have been tinkered with by students and staff in an effort to make it an all-inclusive activity and a schoolwide event that takes place every spring in which all of the sixth grade classes play in an all-day Quidditch Championship before an audience of other students, family and friends.
On the field of play, which takes place in our gymnasium, students take on the roles of seekers, beaters, chasers and keepers. There is the snitch flying through the air. Bludgers knock opposing players out of the flow of the game and quaffles are tossed into a goal to score points.
From the outside, our game of Quidditch looks like near mayhem, but it is actually a finely tuned athletic activity that requires precision and grace and energy and teamwork.
Quidditch: The Video
A few years ago, our school’s physical education teacher — Jim Hallett — and I worked with some of our students to create a video tutorial on how to play our unique game of Quidditch. Our hope was to spread the word about our version of the game and get other schools to consider adopting it. But as far we know, we remain the only school to play our style of Quidditch.
A path into learning
Interestingly, Quidditch is not just the game itself. It’s also a path into learning. While each sixth grade class collaboratively determines a team name (this year, my class was “Cold Fusion”) and a logo, and engages in painting team t-shirts and huge wall posters with the art teacher, and crafting a class broom with the librarian, I bring the concept of Quidditch into the ELA classroom in many ways, using the excitement of the sport as engagement to write.
Through the course of a few weeks of Quidditch Season, my students:
- learn how to use Mozilla Popcorn Maker to remix Quidditch videos;
- do a close read of a critical chapter from the first Harry Potter book to remind students of the characters and the flow of the magical game that Rowling invented and which we have adapted;
- write creative stories as a sort of “fan fiction” activity;
- experiment with how to diagram plays, writing out instructions in expository writing;
- visit a local indoor sports soccer facility to play Quidditch and other collaborative games for an entire day;
- demonstrate their knowledge of the rules of the game with a “Permit to Play” quiz activity;
- and then after the day-long sixth grade championship event, the students play against teachers (our team name: Pink Fury) in what must be the most exhausting night of our teaching lives each year.
Budget cuts almost doomed Quidditch this year, which led to an outcry from students and families, and we don’t yet know what next year holds for us. What we do know is that this game of ours and its many curricular offshoots is part of our identity as a school, and losing that unique element would be a significant loss indeed. We’d just be another school, not the school that plays Quidditch each spring.