A Flurry of Owls…


“An unexplained flurry of owls have been reported in the area, ”  was reported on the Monday morning announcements.   Later that morning, students headed back to their lockers and discovered an unexpected delivery had been made while they were in class.

When they arrived in class, the following day, Diagon Alley was open for business.

Each student had been given a unique persona from the Harry Potter books and a unique budget that corresponded with that character (e.g., the Weasleys each had a budget of         250 Galleons, while Draco Malfoy had a budget of 1000 Galleons ).     Students had to analyze their budgets and determine which if any optional purchases they could or would make.   The use of individual characters and budget  makes the project a little harder to grade (each solution is unique), but I think it’s worth the effort.   I structure my solution to have two parts – the part common to everyone and the optional part.   So, I only have to work through the common solution once and then just check the optional part as the unique part of the solution for each student.

Students began at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occassions , where they could purchase their school uniform (robes, hat, cloak).    They also had to decide on a pair of protective gloves.   Scarves for the various houses were also available, if they wanted to purchase one and had sufficient funds.  After selecting their purchases, students had to record the purchase price for each item as a mixed number (Sickles are 1/17 of a Galleon) and then convert the mixed number into a decimal.   They found the subtotal (requiring decimal multiplication and addition).   Next they had to determine the tax for the items, after all the Ministry of Magic can’t operate on wishful thinking.   Finally, they calculated their total payment for Madam Malkin’s and adjusted their balance in their Gringotts’ account.



After wrapping up their purchases at Madam Malkin’s, students moved on to Flourish and Blotts to purchase their text books, telescope, cauldron, scales, and phials.   Luckily for them, there was a sale on all text books.   Thus, they had to calculate the discount on the textbooks and the actual sale price.   At this point, I taught students how to calculate a discount with a foldable summarizing the process.   Needing to know how to do something seems like a good time to learn how to do it.


They also had to decide which cauldron option and which set of phials would best serve their needs and their budget.  Once again, they determined a subtotal, the tax, and the final cost of their purchases.   Finally, they recalculated the balance in their account at Gringotts Bank.

Students then moved on to Olivanders to purchase a wand.   Since this was a single item, the calculations for tax, total, and account balance went fairly quickly.


If students had managed their money well, they were free to move on to Eyelop’s Owl Emporium and Quality Quidditch Supplies to purchase a pet and/or a broom.

Students spend about a day and a half in class working on the project and then complete the rest at home.   The total project time allocation is about three to four days.   I use a rubric to grade the final product.  This is a general rubric I have for problem solving tasks.   I will treat the table that they make for the project as their model.



A MarkUp/MarkDown Foldable for My Twice Exceptional Student


Most problems  have multiple solution paths.   Some solution paths are more efficient and some less so, but forcing a particular solution path down a student’s throat denies that student the chance to make sense of it in his or her own way.   I think that part of the power of exploring problems and different solution paths is the sense-making that is inherent therein.   I also think that some of the power lies in the chance to see how someone else thought about the problem, to have the chance to think about it another way.   In thinking about a problem more than one way and trying to make sense of these divergent paths, there is also a moment when one begins to grapple with the idea of the efficiency of one’s solution path.   At that point, after he or she has had the chance to make sense of something, the student can choose a path that is the most efficient for him or her (a supposedly efficient path is not efficient if a student can’t apply it correctly because it doesn’t make sense to him or her).

This idea of allowing students to find their own best path was one of the things in the forefront of my mind as I was putting together a foldable to summarize markups and markdowns this afternoon.    I like to use foldables as my summary for a lesson from time to time because they bring together a lot of the ideas addressed in class into a single coherent document that students can use to study.   Additionally, I have a twice-exceptional student who has difficulty with the physical act of writing.   Giving him a foldable to complete makes it possible for him to be more successful.

In planning the design of the foldable, I wanted something that would give a whole/part/whole picture of the concept.   This is really important to me because one of the students who will be using it this year is a twice-exceptional student who is pretty extreme on the conceptual end of the conceptual vs sequential continuum of thinking.   He needs to see the whole of a concept to make sense of it and gets lost in the parts if he doesn’t see the whole first  In order to give him the “whole”, I decided to start with the big idea.   Next, I decided to compare/contrast markups and markdowns at each stage in the foldable.   The use of this compare/contrast mechanism seems to really help him to make sense of things.   Marzano’s research in  Classroom Instruction That Works shows that it can have a big impact for all students (27% gain).   Finally, I included two different solution methods for a markup and a markdown.   These are the solution paths that I am anticipating students will have taken as they explored the problems.


MarkUp and MarkDown Foldable