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Education: Higher Education

Boggart and Fear in Harry Potter

  • Grade level: 7–10
  • subject: history and social studies

Time Needed

two 40-minute class periods


Students examine two text selections that feature a boggart—a shape-shifter that turns into whatever one fears most—from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, books three and five of the series. In Class 1, students interpret and evaluate the two excerpts to consider the symbolic value of the boggart, its connection to character development, and similarities between the text and their own lives. In Class 2, students use their literary analyses from Class 1 and engage in a writing workshop to produce short essays. Students prepare drafts, obtain feedback from their peers, consider the feedback, and then rewrite the draft to produce final essays.

  • learning outcomes

    Students will be able to:
    • demonstrate close reading and comprehension skills
    • compare and contrast characters
    • draw inferences about the characters and the author’s intent based on the text
    • identify critical details in the text and apply them in literary analysis to develop new insights or ideas
    • build connections between fictional events and the reality of their own lives
    • use spoken, written, and visual language to communicate their ideas effectively
    • practice different stages of the writing process—brainstorming, focusing on a topic, and making connections between fiction and real world
  • background information

    The “boggart” in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a shape-shifter that frightens people by turning into what they fear most. The boggart reveals some of the characters’ fears, allowing readers to examine the relationship between fear and monsters, and further consider how fear may affect the characters’, as well as readers’ behavior.

    The following are web sites that provide annotated lists of characters and events from the Harry Potter series that may be useful for gathering additional data or materials for classroom activities:

  • vocabulary

    The following terms may be introduced or incorporated during class activities, as needed:

    • fear, literary analysis, thesis, essay, draft, boggart, werewolf, dementor, banshee, and other terms or characters unique to the Harry Potter series, such as Muggles
  • materials

    Print All Materials
    Other materials and set-ups:
    • A display set-up for class—e.g., interactive whiteboard, computer connected projector, blackboard, whiteboard, or overhead projector
    • Paper and pen/pencils
    • Excerpt 1, from Chapter 9 in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which starts from “Harry tiptoed up the stairs in the hall…”, and ends with “All the t-t-time! I d-d-dream about it…”
    • Excerpt 2, from Chapter 7 in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which starts from “Neville’s face went, if possible, even redder.”, and ends with “A piece of homework that only got nine out of ten?”
    • (Optional) DVD or VHS version of the movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, cued to the corresponding Excerpt 2, and a monitor with DVD or VHS player
  • class 1 procedures

    1. Conduct a brief survey of the students’ prior knowledge of the Harry Potter series—either in reading the books or watching the movies. The survey can also serve to provide all students with some basic information about the series—e.g., what the story is about; who the protagonists are; which literary genre(s) is represented by the series (detective novels, boarding school narratives, adventure stories, quest tales, and fantasy novels)
    2. Display the following questions for all students to see.
      • Who are the characters?
      • What happens?
      • What are some key details?
    3. Ask students to take notes that address these questions as they listen closely to your reading aloud the scene from Excerpt 1. (Mrs. Weasley’s encounter with a boggart in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.)
    4. Have a couple of students answer each question using their notes from the read-aloud. Guide the discussion to include key details, such as what a boggart is and does, what Mrs. Weasley fears most and why, and what charm defeats the boggart.
    5. Distribute a copy of the Boggart Chart to each student, and fill out the first row using Mrs. Weasley’s case as a class. See Teacher’s Boggart Chart for suggested discussion guide.
    6. (Optional) Show students the scene from the movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where Professor Lupin is teaching students about boggarts in the Defense Against the Dark Arts class.
    7. Have students work in pairs to read Excerpt 2 (Lupin uses a boggart to teach students what it does and how to use a charm to defeat it) in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and complete the Boggart Chart based on the text.
      [Note: If there aren’t enough copies of the book available, you may read aloud the excerpt while the students complete the Boggart Chart.]
    8. Conduct a discussion based on students’ completed Boggart Chart. See Teacher’s Boggart Chart for suggested discussion guide.
    9. Display the Boggart Chart Questions to the class and distribute a copy to each student.
    10. Pair students to work together to answer the five questions on the handout then have student pairs share their responses.
    11. Class 1 Evaluation: Teachers may use class discussions and completed handouts for evaluation of students’ understanding of the text and analysis of how characters deal with a boggart—i.e., their fears.
  • class 2 procedures

    1. Return the Boggart Chart and Boggart Chart Questions handouts students completed in Class 1.
    2. Summarize the discussions from Class 1 by reviewing both handouts briefly as a class.
    3. Distribute a copy of the Boggart Essay Draft to each student, and read aloud the instruction on the top of the handout.
    4. Have students work on their draft for 10-15 minutes, then ask them to exchange their draft essay with another student.
    5. Ask students to read their partner’s draft essay and mark the sections that represent the following:
      • underline their favorite sentence
      • circle the sentence that includes an idea they want to know more about
      • draw a squiggly box around a sentence that may be true in real life
    6. Have a couple of students volunteer to write on the board or to share verbally the three sentences they chose from their peer’s writing. Ask other students to share similar or different sentences they chose from their peers.
    7. Guide a discussion on the sentences now written on the board and help students consider where the ideas come from—e.g., their own experiences. Promote discussions about how a fear may develop, ways in which a fear is fed and strengthened, how a fear may be overcome, etc.
    8. Distribute the Boggart Essay Final handout to students, and allow time for them to revise and finalize their essays.
    9. Class 2 Evaluation: Teachers may collect the finished essays and use the guidelines on the handout for evaluation.
  • evaluations

    Students’ completed handouts and classroom discussions are designed to provide teachers a way to assess students’ comprehension, communication, and literary analysis skills. The culminating evaluations for Classes 1 and 2 are specified in step 11 and step 9, respectively.

  • extension activity

    1. Provide students with the following web links where they can learn about historical elements incorporated in the Harry Potter series.
    2. Have students select one or more characters/creatures that appear both in Harry Potter and in historical accounts based on the Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine in Harry Potter’s World online exhibition.
    3. Have students conduct additional research (3 additional sources), prepare a bibliography, and create a poster that informs others about the historical depiction and understanding of the character/creature. Provide students with the following guidelines for creating a poster:
      • The bibliography is attached to each poster.
      • All text is free of spelling errors.
      • The graphics are used to support the content on the poster.
      The presentation of the chosen character/creature includes:
      • identification of the character/creature
      • a description of the chosen character/creature, including what they do and key concepts associated with them
      • time period(s) or geography associated with the character/creature in real life
      • common practices or concerns of that time period and place
    4. Hold a poster presentation session where students show and view the posters and engage in discussions.
  • common core standards

    Reading Literature
    • Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text; and provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
    • Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
    Speaking and Listening
    • Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade appropriate topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
    Literacy in History/Social Studies
    • Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
    • Integrate visual information with other information in print and digital texts.
    • Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
    • Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
    • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
    • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.