Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Lesson 1 (April 12, 2018)

Welcome to the world of Harry Potter! My name is John R. Yamamoto-Wilson. You can call me John if you want to be friendly or Mr/Prof Wilson if you want to be formal. Some people call me Mr/Prof Yamamoto; that's OK too! Please email me when asked to or if you have any questions or difficulties.

To enjoy this course fully, you need access to the following materials:

1. The original text. You will need to have this in three forms, as a printed book, as a digital text and as an audiobook. Please buy the printed text yourself. You can download the digital text here. Here is the audiobook:


You may find other audiobook versions using Google or another search engine. Use the original text together with the audiobook for best results. Do not pause the audio until you reach the end of each chapter. After reading the chapter, write a short explanation (100-200 words) of what you have understood; don't worry about things you don't understand! Bring your summaries to class (with no name) each week. I recommend you not to use a dictionary until you have finished reading each chapter.

2. The movie. We will be watching this in class, but you can also view it here, broken down into short scenes:


3. Study guides. There are several study guides available online. You can find quite good chapter summaries and analyses in Wikibooks. Another useful site is SparkNotes, which also gives a list of characters, in case you forget who people are! There are other student guides which you can find easily enough through Google. Warning: Do not copy the summaries or other material from these websites when doing your homework! That is plagiarism and you will be penalized. Persistent offenders will fail the course. Changing a few words or copying phrases from several different sources is also plagiarism. Your written work must be your own work!

Homework for week 1: Read chapters 1 & 2, using the audiobook to help you if you need it. You can check words in the dictionary after you finish reading, but try to use a dictionary as little as possible. Write a short explanation of what you have understood (by hand or typed) and bring it to the class on Thursday with   I recommend a thythm of reading/listening for about 10-15 minutes, then writing about what you understood for 5-10 minutes. Try to do this every day!

Lesson 2 (April 19, 2018)

(Sorry to be slow posting this!) First students reviewed each other's homework, then we watched the video version of the first two chapters and did the split watching exercise for the part of the video corresponding to chapters 3 & 4. Finally, we watched that part of the video together (we didn't have time to watch the part corresponding to chapter 4).

Homework for week 2: Read chapters 3 & 4, using the same method as last week. Again, write an account of what you understood and bring it to the next class with no name on it.

Lesson 3 (April 26, 2018)

I returned students' homework and we looked at the difference between "a" and "the".  Remember, these two words mean something different! When we say "a book", for example, it could be any boy ("aru hon"). We usually use it the first time we mention something. But when we say "the book" we mean one particular book ("ano hon" or "sono hon").

Then we watched the part of the video corresponding to chapter 4 and students reviewed this week's homework. After that we watched the video version of chapter 5 as a split viewing exercise and all together as a class, finally, then we watched chapter 6  as a split viewing exercise.

Homework for week 3: Read chapters 5 and 6. This time, instead of writing a commentary, compile 20 quiz questions about the first 6 chapters to challenge other members of the class with. Keep a record of the question, the answer and the page on which the answer is to be found, and bring it to class on May 10. There is no class on May 3 (national holiday).

Have a good Golden Week!

Lesson 4 (May 10, 2018)

This week's grammar point was the "-s" on third-person verbs ("he likes", not "he like") and nouns ("two boys", not "two boy"). As I said in class, there are two kinds of mistakes - the ones you know if you think about it and the ones you just don't know. I think everyone knows about "-s", so the aim now is to check for that mistake before handing your work in!

Then we had a class quiz on chapters 1-6. This was good - lots of good questions, lots of right answers and fairly fast-paced.

Finally we watched the section of the video corresponding to chapter 6 in the book.

Homework for week 4: No extra reading is necessary this week! Use this time to catch up and make sure you are really comfortable with chapters 1-6 before we carry on and read about what happens to Harry at Hogwarts School.

Email me and tell me what it's like for you reading the book. Do you use the audiobook? Do you read it in Japanese as well as English? Do you use study guides, like SparkNotes? Tell me your strategies for reading Rowling's work and let me know if you feel you are making progress. Is it getting easier to understand the story? Are your English abilities starting to improve? Tell me what you think!

Lesson 5 (May 17, 2018)

First, I gave students a print of their comments about Harry Potter and they discussed these in groups. I talked a little bit about the difficulties of learning a challenge (babies are working on learning their mother tongue even before they are born!).

Then we did the split watching exercise for the section of the video corresponding with chapter 7, followed by a check on the names of the main characters, etc.

Finally, students spent a bit of time discussing possible topics for a class presentation. Presentations will be on some topic connected with British culture, with the aim of providing useful background for understanding Harry Potter. Possible topics include: The history of witches in England, Magical creatures in English folklore, English education and the class system.  These are just examples; many other topics are possible.

Homework for week 5: Read chapters 7 & 8. You don't need to write a summary this time! Email me and tell me (1) your strategy for learning English and (2) your idea for a PowerPoint presentation (you don't have to stick to this; you an change it later if you want to).

Lesson 6 (May 24, 2018)

We began by looking (in groups) at students' strategies for learning English, followed by a short group discussion of chapters 7 and 8 of Harry Potter. Then we did the split viewing video exercise for the sections corresponding to chapters 8 and 9 in the book, before watching those sections in plenary. Finally, students formed presentation groups as follows:


Rimi - school

Hana - station

Minori - house

Koki - movie locations

Yui - castle

Yuto - town


Mana - centaur

Moka - three-headed dog


Itsuki - the history of tead

Mone - comparison with other countries

Rina - recent teatime style


Nanae - dormitory

Erimo - uniform

Akari - club activity

Maho - subjects

Erika - events


Kyohei - history of magic

Masahiro - origin of spells

Tasuku - effect of magic

Homework for week 6: Read chapters 9 & 10. Write about 300 words on the topic of "Harry Potter at Hogwarts". Don't write in Japanese and then translate; just write directly in English. Write as quickly as possible and don't worry about mistakes! Bring to class next week. Finally, send me an email with about half a dozen questions about things you don't understand in Harry Potter (vocabulary, details of the plot - anything!).

See you next week!

Lesson 7 (May 31, 2018)

I gave students a handout of their questions about the book, and they worked on answering them in groups, while I monitored and gave help where necessary. Then we did the split watching exercise with the video up to the point where Hermione meets the troll, followed by a plenary viewing of that section. Finally, students got together in their presentation groups and decided the date of their presentationk.. All groups will present on June 7, except for the "Buildings" group, which will present on June 14. No other homework this week.

Lesson 8 (June 07, 2018)

I returned students' work on "Harry at Hogwarts" and commented on verb tense, direct and indirect speech (Harry thinks, "Snape hates me" vs. Harry thinks Snape hates him), and conjunctions in formal writing (especially "and", "but" and "because").

All four groups presented as planned (well done!) and answered questions about their topic from other students. The Buildings group will present next week.

For homework, please read chapter 11 and make  a start on chapter 12. and make corrections to your "Harry at Hogwarts" composition. Type this, print it out with no name and bring it to class for peer reading next week.

Lesson 9 (June 14, 2018)

Students reviewed their corrected homework on "Harry at Hogwarts" and the Buildings group gave its presentation. Then we watched the Quidditch game on video (split watching and plenary). We strated thinking about the term paper, and I explained that an academic paper was not a summary or a reaction, but an argument, backed up with research and reference to the text.

For homework, please read chapters 12 and 13, and send me an email telling me what topic you would like to write about for your term paper.

Lesson 10 (June 21, 2018)

We dedicated most of today's class to catching up on the video. We watched the sections corresponding mainly to chapters 12, 13 and 14 (some scenes are sequenced a bit differently in the book). At the end of the class, we talked a bit more about academic writing and the term paper. At this stage, the most important thing to remember is that an academic paper presents an argument, and uses research to support the argument. The first step is to decide what the general topic of your argument will be.

For homework, please read chapters 14 and 15, and email me again about your term paper. Keep emailing me frequently about your term paper from now on!

About the term paper

Asking why something is famous, or popular, is not usually a good way to write an academic paper. There is a Latin saying, "De gustibus non est disputandum", which means, "You can't argue about taste".

Academic writing is all about presenting a persuasive argument, but
you can't persaude people to like something! People like things because they like them; you can't persuade people to like something if they don't like it.

So trying to explain why something is famous or popular is not usually a good topic.

You need something that you can research, something that is debatable, and something that shows your skill at persuading people to accept your argument.

Here are a few examples:

- You could explain why it is important that Harry is an orphan.

- Squirrel says, "There is no good and evil and evil, there is only power and those too weak to seek it." What are the moral implications of this statement, and how does Rowling show her feelings about it?

=What differences are there between the Muggle world and the wizard world? Why do you think Rowling shows these two worlds as different?

- What is the basic difference between Harry and Voldemort, and why does this matter?

- Why does Rowling seem to encourage the breaking rules?

- Is Harry Potter a bad influence on children? Why/Why not?

- Rowling seems to use stereotypes (for example, Hagrid fits the stereotype of a slow-witted person from the West Country), but at the same time she challenges stereotypes (for example, we normally think of witches as evil). You could examine her use of stereotypes and explain what you think is her purpose.

- Why does Rowling model Hogwarts on the English public school system of schools like Eton, Harrow and Rugby?

Lesson 11 (June 28, 2018)

We started with an explanation of the blog (which you can find here). Please post there regularly and comment on other students' posts. If you  use it properly, this can be a useful way to help each other to write a good term paper. I explained how to use Google in English. Basically, you enter google.com/ncr in the URL field. If you are still getting results in Japanese, go to "settings" (ݒ) and make sure English is selected. Try to have an "English only" experience!

I also showed Google Advanced Search, which is useful for exact phrase searches, etc., and Google Scholar, where you can find academic papers on your topic. Again, if it shows results in Japanese, change the settings to English.

Please try to finish reading the book this week!

Lesson 12 (July 5, 2018)

We watched and described the video up to the point where Harry sees Professor Quirrell standing in front of the Mirror of Erised. Then I talked about the blog and the term paper. Please check my videos on writing a term paper here. You can find other tips on academic writing here.

Here is a summary of the things you need to know for these last two weeks of the course:




Video lessons

Computer skills

Writing skills

Speaking skills

Study skills


Global Issues

Web links

Further Reading

Model essays


Site map

Lesson 13 (July 12, 2018)

Lots of good posts and comments on the blog this week. Well done! Please keep on posting and commenting - and emailing me. I am very happy to see people putting so much thought into their term papers!

I thought the presentations about the topic of your paper were also mostly very good. We found some useful connections, too, between different topics. Discrimination and social class, for example, can be connected with attitudes towards witches, and the whole question of whether witches and witchcraft are "real" is very important when we look at Christian attitudes towards Harry Potter.

In the second part of the class we did the split watching exercise for the scenes of Harry with Quirrell and Voldemort, and then watched it again in plenary.

Please type your term paper and bring it to class next week. Good luck!

Remember to check the videos on making a thesis statement and writing an academic paper!