Monday, 31 January 2011

Harry Potter Winter Camp 2010-11

We're deep into winter vacation here at the moment, it's extremely cold (-18°C on my way into work yesterday) and, because it's vacation time, and all the kids and most of the teachers are away, I'm sat in my classroom desk warming again. Oh, the many splendoured joys of desk warming, every Native English Teacher's favourite vacation activity. For those not in the know, 'desk warming' is a bizarre Korean educational concept that involves the Native English teacher coming in to school during the holidays to sit at (warm) their desk despite having no classes or any work to do - keeps us out of trouble I guess. We are given 4 weeks of vacation time in our contract so that's just what we get. Still, it's a good time to reply to all those emails, update the blog and watch all those movies you'd never thought you'd have time to see - all on someone else's heating bill!

The road my school is on was covered in a thick, undisturbed layer of snow for most of the duration of my camp.

Icicles hanging off the shelters next to the sports pitch at Rowan's school.

So, what have we been up to so far in the winter vacation period I hear you ask. Well, we've been away in Thailand for the last 2 weeks on holiday, hence the blogging silence (more on that later). But before that, Rowan and I were both running our Winter English camps at our respective schools. We both had to run English camps back in the summer ( so we knew what was required of us this time around and this time we were smart and worked on the camp preparation and materials together so we only had to do the half the workload! As with the summer camps, there is no actual 'camping' involved it's just an extra couple of weeks of 'fun' English classes that the students can sign up to for free if they want to (or if their parents force them too!).

The theme for our camps this year was Harry Potter as the new movie had just come out in Korea at the time and lots of our students seemed really into it. Also, there were loads of useful ESL materials and ideas available online (in particular a really big, helpful thread on,1026.0.html) related to Harry Potter which always helps. Both of our camps were scheduled to run over two weeks with us seeing 2 different groups of around 10 students for an hour and a half each in the morning, so 3 hours of teaching a day. This was much better than my Summer Camp set up where my school had made me teach all of the camp in one week in all day sessions (9am - 4pm solid teaching with an hour for lunch) with no help and no prep time - that nearly killed me. My camp started a week earlier than Rowan's so I got to be the trail blazer and test all the material first. We'd planned the camp along the lines of the classes that Harry and his magical chums take at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry so each day had a different theme. The subjects we covered included Shopping in Diagon Alley, Magical Creatures, Herbology, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts and Divination. We also had that old camp favourite, Movie Day, the day when the teacher gets a bit of a break!

If you happen to be an English teacher reading this and you want to use some (or all) of our ideas/materials for your camp, you can find the files online. Rowan has put the whole thing into a zip file which includes lesson plans, presentations, worksheets, fonts, and EVERYTHING else you need for a camp aimed at the first two grades of middle school. Obviously, it could also be adapted for other ages too. The zip file also includes Korean subs for the Deathly Hallows movie if you need them. Please feel free to use the materials how you want and have a look at the readme document as it contains some learning points and suggestions for ways to improve the camp based on our experience. Drop us a message if you have any questions about the camp. Here's the link -

On the first day of camp, we did the usual thing of getting the kids to choose English names, explaining the rules and splitting them into teams for the rest of the camp. We split the kids into four houses (teams) named after the Hogwarts Houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. Predictably enough, nobody wanted to be in Hufflepuff from either of our camps and Gryffindor was the most wanted out of all the team names. Weirdly, the Slytherin kids from both of our camps were actually really sweet and well behaved - not living up to their house name!

Each team had to draw a banner for their House name. This is my Slytherin team's effort.

This was perhaps my favourite house banner attempt as it was a hybrid of 3 of the houses - all except the evil Slytherin of course!

For the second day of camp, we covered shopping. This involved the students performing role plays where they had to return a faulty item (a cauldron or wand or something magical) and either ask for a refund or get a replacement. Getting them to write and perform the role plays was quite hard work but they did enjoy the part where we made wands out of air dry clay and chopsticks! Day 3 was Herbology, or the study of plants in muggle terminology. That involved learning some new vocabulary, playing a game and planting some fast growing little plants we had got from a pound shop (or dime store for you Americans out there) called Daiso. The plants were a mixture of basil and Winter rocket and they came as seeds with individual pots. The students loved this part of the lesson and had great fun getting dirt and water all over the place while planting the seeds. We took the plants home with us for a week or so to keep them warm as both our classrooms were extremely cold when there was no class on (i.e. without the heating on) and then brought them back once they had sprouted to give back to the students to take home with them. On day 4, we covered Mystical Creatures and made origami dragons as part of the lesson. I had been worried that making the dragons was too complicated and it would fall down flat in the class but I needn't have stressed about it. My kids were great at origami and most of them were racing ahead and adding their own personal touches to their creations.

Wands and origami dragons from Rowan's camp.

Clay wands from my camp including an unusual gun shaped wand made by one of my more violent students.

Luckily, all the little plants from my Herbology class sprouted and the kids actually seemed genuinely excited about taking them home with them mid way through week 2.

Amusing worksheet from Rowan's camp: the kids had to design their own magical plant. This is a wing tree, If you eat its seeds you will grow wings on your back and be able to fly.

Amusing worksheet number 2: Eating this flower will cause you to become invisible.

Origami dragons made by my students in the Mystical Creatures class.

This boy was so good at origami he managed to make 2 dragons at once and produced a tiny one to sit on the back of his ordinary sized one - very cute!

Amusing worksheet no. 3: designing a magical creature this time. This is a "quill ray man walrus to the swordfish moose scorpion pig tail is the monkey is anteater hippopotamus rhinoceros the bison antelope is goose octopus..." and apparently it looks like an alien.

Another magical creature: This one is called a "masnaken" and it eats human food like pizza but sleeps and lives like a snake and can shoot poison from its mouth.

I think by far our most successful and popular lesson was Potions class on day 5. In fact, one of Rowan's students told him it was the craziest thing they’d ever done! The idea of the class was to teach them some vocab and get them following instructions in English whilst having fun and making something vaguely fit for human consumption. First, we got them to make two potions, a polyjuice potion (in the books/movies this potion allows the drinker to turn into somebody else) and a truth serum. Rowan did all the work on this and put his science bent to use, particularly for the polyjuice potion, which was made using red cabbage juice (mm mm!) as a base and then adding various acids and alkalis (such as baking soda and orange juice) to make it go through a series of colour changes which was pretty cool. Both the potions looked quite unusual when they were finished but the truth serum probably looked the least palatable. I think more of my students drank them than Rowan's but I still had one kid who dashed off to the toilets after "one-shotting" his brown, bubbling pint of truth serum!

Ingredients for the potions: Slug slime (pancake syrup), unicorn blood (cola), mandrake juice (lemonade), spider blood (orange juice), dragon blood (cabbage juice), dirt (cocoa powder) and fairy dust (baking soda). Delicious!

Making the colour changing polyjuice potion.

Mr "One shot" shortly before he made his speedy dash to the little boys room.

Some of my students actually liked their potions but Kevin clearly didn't.

Rowan's students wouldn't drink their potions apparently. Not surprising if they made them look like this!

The next stage of the Potions class was to get them to make ice cream in a bag - magic ice cream of course! The basic idea is that you put milk into a small freezer bag and then put that bag inside a larger freezer bag. Then put some ice in the larger bag and add salt to the ice. This creates a reaction which causes the temperature to be lowered and so freezes the milk and turns it into ice cream. Cool science! It was freezing outside so I wondered if they would actually be into this activity but it seems that winter is the time to eat ice cream in Korea as they believe that you should eat cold food when its cold and hot food when it's hot, weird but a bonus to our camps. We gave the kids recipe cards and used an online video to explain the instructions on how to make the ice cream. Then we cracked out the ingredients (cartons of flavoured milk, salt, ice cubes, sweets and candy to go in the ice cream) and the freezer bags for them to make it in and let them get started on it. It was messy but great fun.

Step 1 - Pour the flavoured milk into a small plastic freezer bag and seal it carefully.
Step 2 - Add four cups of ice to the large plastic bag

Step 3 - Put the small bag inside a large plastic bag and seal it.

Step 4 - Add five spoons of magic freezing powder (salt) to the ice, not the milk, as one of Rowan's students did - it doesn't taste good if you do that!

Step 5 - Shake the bag for about five minutes or until the ice cream is frozen.

Step 6 - Take the small bag out of the big bag. Open the small bag and eat the ice cream.

Step 7 (optional) - Teacher should try to steal ice cream and/or candy from the students.

We kicked off week 2 with a Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson, which was really just an excuse to play silly games. We played a couple of pretty amusing games, Goblin, Goblin, Draw and the Dragon Egg Relay Race. the first game was set up like a duel but instead of shooting bullets at each other the two participants had to shout out the vocabulary word associated with the picture that was taped to their opponent. The dragon egg race was just like a good old fashioned egg and spoon race but with ping pong balls instead of eggs as we didn't want our classrooms to be splattered in raw chicken ovulations. We also played Harry Potter Top Trumps using the beautiful cards that Rowan had painstakingly made. The kids loved the top trumps, even the girls got stuck into it and at the end of every class that week they would ask me if they could get the top trumps cards out to play a few games before they went home. It became hard work getting rid of the students at the end of the morning!

One of my students from Ravenclaw House running with the dragon egg (ping pong ball) balanced on his spoon.

The teams had to race to the white board with their "egg" and spoon. I'd written VOLDEMORT on the board and the idea was that the kids had to write a word beginning with each letter, taking it in turns to write one word at a time and then race back so their next team mate could write the next word.

Playing Harry Potter Top Trumps.

The next day we did a class on Divination (talking about the future) which was mainly about practicing future tense and completing a few worksheets but we kept it pretty light and fun too and played a video clips prediction game, where each house had to make predictions about what they thought would happen next in a series of different videos incl. sports and science experiment clips. The video clips game went down well and the students seemed to particularly enjoy the science experiment clips. The next day was a lesson on Muggle Studies (to the uninitiated, muggles are people who don't have any magical powers) where we looked at muggle vs magic transport. That was quite a fun class and we played some more card games to round it off, this time Go Fish with transport flashcards. Then it was my favourite day (only joking!), Movie Day. We let our students vote for what film they wanted as we had copies of all of them with Korean subs. Both mine and Rowan's students voted to watch the latest Harry Potter movies, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". On the last day, we did a camp review class. This involved sending the kids off on a crazy scavenger hunt, playing some games to review what we'd learnt, giving out certificates to the students for "graduating" from Hogwarts and declaring and rewarding the winning teams.

The scavenger hunt involved students working in groups to follow instructions such as taking photos of certain things on their phones, finding items around the school and other random challenges such as singing a song in English or, in this case, drawing a picture of Harry Potter riding a giraffe.

One of the award certificates we gave students for graduating from Hogwarts school (our camps!)

One of my students' had their birthday on the last day of camp so I got her a cake to celebrate.

Rowan's boys with their graduation certificates.

Overall, I think our camps were both pretty successful. I enjoyed this one much more than the summer camp as I knew better what I was doing and I wasn't so exhausted as I was doing it over 2 weeks instead of one. English camp is the best time to get to know at least a few students better as in ordinary day-to-day teaching in a public middle school it's very hard to get to know the students as individuals as you see a class of 30 - 40 students once a week for 45 mins and that's it. I prefer camps mainly for that reason. Also, camps give the teacher a lot more freedom as you're on your own usually and you teach what you want to, no textbooks, which is much more fun, though more preparation work of course. Not everything went to plan as is usually the case with teaching. There seemed to be a higher student dropout rate for the winter camp than there had been for the summer one, perhaps because of the harsher weather. This meant that there weren't enough students to have two separate groups so both Rowan and I put our 2 groups together and ran the sessions for 2 hours instead of 2 x 1.5 hours classes. This was good for us as there was less teaching time and good for the students as the classes were bigger, more lively and we had more time for activities. We both found that the first few lessons were a little weaker than the later stuff but maybe some of that was because of the awkward atmosphere which can exist in the first few days of a camp. In general though, it was a good camp and the kids were cheerful and enthusiastic. I was actually a little saddened when it was over - not too much you understand - just a little.


  1. Your post was what I was looking for. Without a doubt I think this is well worth a bookmark, thanks.

  2. found this link on the Harry Potter thread on Waygook. thanks for all the materials you and Rowan contributed to the thread. i just saw the last movie last night, and am so excited to share my love of HP with my kids during Summer English Camp.

    keep on setting the bar high for interesting and fun English lessons~

    - Alex

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Glad people are finding this stuff useful We'll put our latest summer camp stuff up soon!

  5. I actually found your lesson post on and that led me to this, which was soooo helpful to see and hear about your actual classes! It also made me more excited to teach the camp lol. My school has the megaupload site blocked, so I'll download your materials when I get home tonight, but thank you, thank you, thank you so much for doing this!!! I will have to cut it down a bit as I only have 1 week of 3 hour classes to do it in, but it's great to have so much to choose from!

  6. Glad to hear the materials are useful for you! Hope your camp went well and you had fun!

  7. Hi, your camp material looks great! Is there any way you can post your materials in a different location since there is currently a problem with megaupload?

  8. Sorry I know it would be a lot of work to ask you to reupload. Is there any way you could just post the recipes for the potions? That was the part I don't think I could re-create on my own. I didn't mean to post as anonymous yesterday.

  9. Hi Theresa

    Sad to hear that there are problems with mega upload. Unfortunately we're travelling at the moment and don't have access to our camp materials as they're on the computer at home. There's a whole thread on waygook about the hp camp so perhaps you can find similar or better recipes on there.

    From what I can remember the main recoie was a colour changing one. You started with cabbage juice made with the water used from boiling red cabbage then add lemonade to make it turn red then baking soda to make it turn blue. Not sure if that was def eight order but u can find recipes for that science wxperiment online. Good luck with your camp!

  10. Wow, this reminds me of my first winter camping, but it was real winter camping with woods, ice fishing and our motorhome. All the same, yours seem as fun as what we had. I remember how lucky we were that my Dad bought some RV heat generating accessories from ToyHauler Parts. Without it the winter camping experience would have turned out to be a trauma than a good memory.

  11. Well...I really like all the activities.Must say everything was full of fun...Thanks for sharing such a wonderful blog with us..

    winter camps switzerland
    winter camp

  12. Hello! This is a fantastic blog post with so much information!
    Is there any chance you could upload the .zip file again? The links here and on Waygook aren't working :(

  13. This camp looks awesome! Could you upload the files again please?

  14. Kids aged 6 to 12 will explore the “Science laboratory” of the Winter Camp in Edison. It teaches topics in STEM science technology, engineering and math. Do lots of all activities in camp. So, join Winter camp at Mindsahead Academy and receive 20%/discount to early bird!!! Hurry Up !!!!
    Direct Registration for Winter Camp Click Here

  15. I am glad to be here and read your very interesting article, it was very informative and helpful information for me. keep it up. sons of anarchy vest

  16. provides the quality service of customized fiber connections in the case of large businesses and government entities. Charlie Hunnam Last Looks Leather Jacket