Troy teacher turns classroom into mini-Hogwarts


For the Miami Valley Today

TROY — Magical things are happening at Concord Elementary School.

Fourth-grade teacher Jasma Mercer has turned her classroom into a mini-Hogwarts, creating a fully immersive learning experience for her students as they read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” from the best-selling series by J.K. Rowling.

“When I plan a lesson I try to think of activities that are engaging,” Mercer said. “Teachers have to compete with video games, computer games, TikTok … so it can be difficult to get students’ attention. This is not the first time I have decorated my classroom in a theme and dressed in a costume.

“I also decorate my classroom like a cafe, ‘Starbooks Cafe,’ where kids read different genres. When we learn different text features, we dress up as doctors and nurses and do ‘surgery’ on a text, searching for different text features. Other teachers and my daughter, Nora, have always inspired me. My daughter is very creative and has always liked dressing up in different costumes.”

While reading the book, students also do a variety of activities in conjunction with the test, ranging from creating their own magical wands to researching the book on a deeper level. The classroom is decorated from top to bottom with Harry Potter-inspired ephemera and learning aids.

“I read aloud a chapter a day,” Mercer said. “There are so many standards that are taught using this book, such as character traits, character change and growth, vocabulary and text specific vocabulary, theme, setting, and point of view. Students will be writing a research paper as well. Those are just a few we are focusing on just in the first couple weeks.”

Mercer was able to keep her Potter plans secret from her students until the project was unveiled two weeks ago. She said the students, many of whom have read all the books and/or seen all the movies, were thrilled.

“Students are excited, even though some of them have read the book or seen the movie,” she said. “The first day was the most exciting because they had no idea I had this planned. I didn’t tell them we were reading the book. It was pretty magical seeing their reaction to the room and hearing we are reading ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone.’”

Being a Harry Potter fan herself has made the project that much more enjoyable for Mercer.

“Yes! I’ve read the entire series,” Mercer said. “When a book in the series came out, I immediately purchased it and read it within a few days.”

Mercer said it’s been a lot of work putting everything together, but she’s had plenty of help along the way and the end result has been worth it.

“This is the first year I’ve used ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone’ in Readers Workshop,” she said. “I knew that I would be a little over the top with some of the activities, so I waited until I was mentally ready to take on all of the work required to do it.

“I could not have decorated my classroom like it is or dress up in different costumes if it wasn’t for the support of my coworkers and the support and donations from the parents of students in my class. I think the parents are just as excited as I am to create this engaging learning environment.”

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