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Descriptions of some famous wizards to help with english/literacy - Gandolf, Dumbledore, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger

Updated on October 5, 2013

What is this hub about?

Throughout my teaching career I have always found making or even finding the resources to be the time consuming activity. Planning can take a little time but I tend to have ideas as I think about where I want to take the kids next (usually in the middle of the night!!!) and then it is just about putting these plans together.

I think it is important that as teachers we have a bank of resources that we can take from topic to topic and from year to year with minimal editing. Some of mine I plan to share on here.

Anyway, resources are hard to find. You can spend hours on the Internet trying to find exactly what you want. That or spend a fortune in making or finding them in shops. A resource that I find hard to find using the Internet is descriptive writing about characters that I can share with the children. So on this hub I have chosen a few wizards that can be used as examples of how to describe characters in their work.

It is so important to model everything.

Yes, as teachers we do this all the time. Model, model, model to children how they should put their writing together, what words they should use and what sort of writing fits the task.

It is vital that these children see our model in all of this but it is also important that they see other types of writing and how other people put their work together and what words they use etc.

So here are a few examples of descriptions used about wizards from very famous books:

Professor Dumbledore from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Here is a direct quote from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone:

P77 in the book published by Bloomsbury (November 2010)

Harry unwrapped his Chocolate Frod and picked up the card. It showed a man's face. He wore half-moon glasses, had a strong crocked nose and flowing silver hair., beard and mustache. Underneath the picture was the name Albus Dumbledore.

"So this is Dumbledore!" said Harry.

"Don't tell me you'd never heard of Dumbledore!" said Ron. "Can I have a frog? I might get Agrippa - thanks -"

Harry turned over his card and read:

Albus Dumbledore, currently Headmaster of Hogwarts. Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Professor Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling.

Visual literacy with Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's stone. (Fast forward to around 1:30)

Gandolf from the Lord of the Rings

Here is a direct quote from the Lord of the Rings describing Gandolf as he enters the story.

Days passed and The Day drew nearer. An odd-looking waggon laden with odd-looking packages rolled into Hobbiton on evening and toiled up the Hill to Bag End. The startled Hobbits peered out of Lamplit doors to gape at it. It was driven by out outlandish folk, singing strange songs: dwarves with long beards and deep hoods. A few of them remained at Bag End. At the end of the second week of September a cart came in through Brandywine Bridge in broad daylight. An old man was driving it all alone. He wore a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak and a silver scarf. He had a long white beard and bushy eyebrows that stuck out beyond the brim of his hat. Small hobbit-children ran after the cart all through hobbiton and right up the hill. It had a cargo of fireworks, as they rightly guessed. At Bilbo's front door the old man began to unload: there were great bundles of fireworks of all sorts and shapes, each labelled with a large G and the elf-rune.

That was Gandolf's mark, of course, and the old man was Gandolf the Wizard, whose fame in the shire was due mainly to his skill with fires, smokes and lights. His real business was far more difficult and dangerous but the shire-folk know nothing about it. To them he was just one of the attractions at the party. Hence the excitement of the hobbit-children. G for Grand! they shouted, and the old man smiled. They knew him by sight, though he only appeared in Hibbiton occasionally and never stopped long; but neither they nor any but the oldest of their elders had seen one of his firework displays as they belonged to the legendary past.

Visual literacy with Gandalf from Lord of the Rings

Gandalf from the Hobbit

Here is a direct quote from the Hobbit when Bilbo Baggins meets Gandalf for the first time:

P5 from the 75'th anniversary edition published by Harper Collins:

All the unsuspecting Bilbo saw that morning was an old man with a staff. He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots.

"Good morning!" said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under his long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.

Visual literacy of Bilbo meeting Gandolf in the Hobbit

If we are talking about wizards then why not one of the most famous - a normal boy who dreams of more!!!

This is a direct quote from the first time we meet Harry Potter in the Philosopher's stone:

Perhaps it had something to do with living in a dark cupboard, but Harry had always been small and skinny for his age. He looked even smaller and skinnier than he really was because he had to wear old clothes of Dudley's and Dudley was about four times bigger than he was. Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair and bright-green eyes. He wore round glasses help together with a lot of Sellotape because of all the times Dudley had punched him on the nose. The only thing Harry liked about his own appearance was a very thin scar on his forehead which was shaped like a bolt of lightning. He had had it as long as he could remember and the first question he could ever remember asking his Aunt Petunia was how he had got it.

Visual literacy about the boy in the cupboard under the stairs

Hermione Granger from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

This description is taken directly from the book:

P79 from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, published by Bloomsbury:

He had just raised his wand when the compartment door slid open again. The toadless boy was back, but this time he had a girl with him. She was already wearing her new Hogwarts robes.

"Has anyone seen a toad? Neville's lost one," she said. She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair and rather large front teeth.

"We've already told him we haven't seen it," said Ron, but the girl wasn't listening, she was looking at the wand in his hand.

"Oh, are you doing magic? Let's see it, then."

She sat down. Ron looked taken aback.

Hermione enters this clip around the 2:18 mark

The stereotypical view of wizards

Gandalf and Dumbledore definitely fit the description of a stereotypical wizard with their long beards and flowing cloaks. Galdalf goes even further by having the typical wizards pointy hat.

When describing characters it is important to use what the children know and to extend that knowledge. When children think of a wizard they probably picture an old man with a staff and pointy hat. This could very well be because they have seen the films as they are so huge a hit or they have read books and saw the typical pictures that depict these type of characters.

So to start off with you could simple compare descriptions by using some simple tasks:

  • discuss which is best and why - a simple task of having the text on the board and treating it like a guided reading session for the class.
  • Guided reading the books and discussing the text and how they describe characters. (Lord of the Rings would be a hard read but extracts might be good to compare to the Hobbit.)
  • See if they could fit the description to the wizard - visual literacy using pictures could be good here.
  • See if they could write a descriptive paragraph about the character and compare what they wrote to the actual book - visual literacy could be useful here.
  • Break the description up into sentences and the children have to place them back together - generates some interesting discussions on why they did that and what is important to describe first.

Visual literacy is important to the children as they need to be able to picture what you are talking about, that is why I included the videos to go alongside the descriptions.

The next thing I would do is to challenge that stereotype. Throw Harry Potter into the mix (A normal boy who ends up as a hero - what kid wouldn't want to be him?)

You could have Hermione for the girls.

No matter what you do with these descriptions, children will enjoy it because they will be allowed to use their imaginations. Just imagine the potential you could untap if you are doing a fantasy type style writing.

You only have to watch this advert to see what power words have in creating an image in our minds


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