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3. Teaching Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

written by: Sarah Degnan Moje • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 9/29/2014

As you move through the Harry Potter novel series with your middle school students, you will see both the characters and themes develop and change. This overview will help you guide your students through the third book in the collection.

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    Harry's Family

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (US cover) Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived has completed his first two years of Hogwarts. Now that he is well known for his own achievements in the wizarding world, this novel begins to explore the history of Harry’s family. We have met his Muggle relations and now we are introduced to his godfather, a wizard who has been imprisoned for murder. We also learn more about friends of Harry’s father and we come to see that family does not just have to be blood related.

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    Growing Up

    This, the third novel in the series is where readers first see glimpses of the adult Harry will become. Although at this point Harry is still grounded in childhood –he fears the Dementors and worries about not having a family member to sign his Hogsmeade slip—we also start to view what Harry will be growing into as the series continues: a young adult who is not afraid to take matters into his own hands.

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    Themes to Discuss in Class

    Here, too, we see two very important themes addressed. These themes will recur in the rest of the works. The need for a soul and the despair that comes from lacking a soul is first introduced in this book, in the form of the Dementor’s Kiss. Additionally, the idea that family does not have to be blood-related and that our friends or even our parents’ friends can care for us better than uncaring blood relations can is touched upon as well.

    It is Harry’s longing for a family connection that is pushed to the forefront of this work and the fact that it is almost in his grasp and then taken from him just serves to prove that although he is the “Boy Who Lived," his life may never be easy.