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Using Popular Books Like Harry Potter to Teach Context-Based Language Skills

by Kali Cika
Stack of Harry Potter books with a wand

In a “Language Development and Disorders” course I recently took at Gallaudet University with Professor Karen Garrido-Nag, we learned how to integrate the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into sessions through context-based intervention (CBI). Our tools for captivating and motivating older children are popular books like the Harry Potter series or the book “Holes.”

Garrido-Nag taught us to address a child’s language needs in the classroom by blending a standards-based approach with a context-based approach. We developed goals and activities by considering how the student will need to access the general curriculum—based on CCSS—while working with a text appropriate for the student’s language level and interests.

This type of hybrid approach can benefit students who might achieve their annual goals but still not exhibit language skills at their expected grade level. To build our treatment approach of combining standards with popular literature, we first assessed the points where a child fails to access the curriculum. Next, we worked together as a class to generate a detailed profile of a student eligible to receive speech-language services in a school setting.

For example, my class created “Emma,” a 10-year-old fourth-grader with a specific language impairment. We then determined areas of language we needed to target with Emma, such as vocabulary, figurative language and text comprehension. Next, we selected an age- and skill-appropriate book. In our case, we chose “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Breaking into groups of two or three, we used assigned sections of the book to devise language goals that adhere to appropriate sections of the CCSS. Our groups gave weekly presentations on our treatment plans. We included a synopsis of our assigned chapters, a projected service-delivery model, excerpts from the text, activities, language-stimulation techniques, and a summary of specific standards we addressed.

Our group targeted fourth-grade vocabulary using an excerpt from Harry Potter. We designed a hypothetical treatment plan, which included two pull-out and one in-classroom session for the week. Using semantic maps and a Venn diagram as visual aids, we scheduled pre- and post-reading sessions for anticipated text breakdowns. We also identified Common Core standards that coincided with the language area of concern and found several evidence-based sources to support our service-delivery approaches.

We also identified intervention scaffolding to determine how the child can progress at the same rate as the class. This case study allowed us to establish predicted text breakdowns and other challenges, as well as how to move beyond them. The age-appropriate book served as material to derive treatment goals and activities using the context-based intervention model.

Not only did this approach make learning the CCSS and CBI more tangible, but it also eased the transition for those of us proceeding to externships in a school setting.

Kali Cika is a speech-language pathology graduate student at Gallaudet University. Her former classmate, Conception Segismundo, now a clinical fellow SLP, contributed to the article. kali.cika@gallaudet.edu

 

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