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Magic and Education

As educators, the most important aspect of our work is to help childre prepare for a bright and challenging future.  But if we don’t also teach our children how to deal with life’s difficulties, many simply won’t realize their potential.  And for those students who face additional challenges – ADHD, LD, SLD, NLD, Austism, or any number of other physical and/or psychosocial obstacles – our job as an educator may include finding strategies to move them into becoming a more competent learner.

HOCUS FOCUS is a student-centered, experiential-based educational approach that utilizes the art of magic (simple magic tricks) in the context of empowering an empathetic, professional educator/student relationship with the fundamental goal of student growth and development.  It is a systematic approach by which students learn to focus and accomplish specific goals and objectives by learning magic tricks – simple tricks at first and them more complex tricks as they progress – and then exploring the benefits of each one.

HOCUS FOCUS can be used along with a traditional academic curriculum and can encompass a variety of techniques and instructional strategies.  It is designed to assist children and adolescents with learning disorders regardless of their specific strengths and/or weaknesses.

HOCUS FOCUS is a comprehensive “special education” curriculum available for use in schools or therapy sessions.  The course study was developed in collaboration with national experts, teachers, and therapists/clinicians.  The program is grounded in educational concepts, i.e. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning and Levine’s (2002) Neurodevelopmental Function.

The purpose of this curriculum is to provide teachers with a visual, exciting, and motivating way to allow students to safely explore skill levels, improve existing skills, and develop new ones.  Each lesson combines education and imagination to help children improve their abilities in planning, sequencing, organizing tasks and movements, fine motor skills, gross motor function/coordination, concentration, memory skills, and much more.  And, most importantly, HOCUS FOCUS is fun!

More information is available on this curriculum at

The use of magic in the classroom can also provide other educational factors as described below.

David Levin, Therapist, Inner Harbour Hospital, GA
Kevin Spencer, Healing of Magic, VA

Magic Therapy has been successfully implemented in school systems across the nation. Working with Special Education Instructors and Therapists, the use of magic tricks has helped students develop fine and gross motor skills as well as concentration, following simple and complex directions, task follow-through, communication and socialization/interpersonal skills, and numerous other objectives.

The following are the theorized educational factors and key elements of utilizing magic therapy for the purpose of student growth. The factors and elements are not mutually exclusive and may be useful in a variety of classroom settings or guidance programs. The descriptions that follow provide ideas only that may help promote magic therapy activities in the schools or classrooms on a psychosocial level.


Magic therapy may provide a simple means for the Educator to connect to the student and deliver a particular lesson, whether academic or social/developmental. Magic tricks are an appropriate means of removing boundaries and providing “comfort zones” when Educators initially get to know the student and may help Faculty appear more playful and approachable (Gilroy, 1998). Magic therapy activities are highly engaging and tend to capture and hold the attention of children very quickly.


After using a magic trick in a classroom setting, an Educator may choose to teach the students the method. The Educator is not only teaching them a new skill that they can repeat for peers or adults but, by learning to do something that others may not be able to accomplish, the performer/student achieves self-efficacy, self-esteem, and self-confidence.


Instilling hope may transpire when solutions to personal difficult situations seem to work out in the context of the trick. The illusion may help to symbolize optimism, the possibilities of change, or turning negatives into positives. The magic therapy Counselor may incorporate what Purkey and Schmidt (1990, as cited by Spruill & Poidevant, 1993) referred to as the “plus factor.” The plus factor is the notion that even the most difficult situations can be made to seem easy. This conceptualization may be particularly helpful for student who have felt inadequate or have depressive symptoms.


Using the magic trick as a metaphor for a specific lesson may promote heightened teachable moments by promoting social/emotional development and health/wellness in children (Gilroy, 1998).

For example, magic tricks that “break out” or “escape” can represent overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. According to Spruill and Poidevant (1993), the use of magic objects and actions can metaphorically represent information that is not easily accessible to children and can bring to the surface heretofore unspoken thoughts and feelings.


The concept of reframing allows one to look at things from another perspective. Magic tricks provide a context that can teach the skill of reframing. The Educator may assign students a week of trying to figure out a particular trick, then process what it was like to “think outside of the box,” and apply this skill to their own challenges. Magic tricks provide an excellent basis for problem-solving, frustration tolerance and task follow-through.


The Educator can model appropriate social skills when performing magic. This educational factor allows Students to practice or perform an illusion with peers or adults in order to exercise appropriate interactions, practice giving and receiving feedback, and practice presentation or assertiveness skills versus aggression. This may be an effective way for Student who enjoys excessive attention to receive it appropriately. In addition, the concept of magic tricks may also be used to talk about perspective and how two individuals may perceive the same situation differently.


Magic tricks may be an effective ice-breaker for new classes or small counseling groups. The Educator may perform a trick in which teamwork is necessary in order for the effect to work. Students may also be given particular roles prescriptive to the particular dynamics of the classroom.


Magic therapy can be used in conjunction with established techniques and testing to help gauge or assess for certain learning disabilities. Monitoring the response to certain magic tricks may be effective in highlighting depressive symptoms, hyperactivity or attention challenges, and frustration tolerance/anxiety concerns (Gilroy, 1998).

For example, a Student struggling with hyperactivity or poor impulse control may insist on the trick being revealed or may shout out their theory about the secret.


Many tricks may help students practice cognitive skills – such as following complex directions, sequencing, memory, conceptualization, and problem solving. Furthermore, tricks tend to involve colors, numbers, alphabet/reading, and mathematics.


Using magic tricks may allow Students to process how it feels to be fooled or how if feels to fool someone else. It may provide an opportunity to discuss good secret versus bad secrets. In a counseling relationship, the Counselor may gain leverage with the child by revealing the illusion in an effort to encourage the Student to be open about potentially guarded or sensitive information.


Magic tricks may help Students practice the demonstration of appropriate boundaries by setting clear rules and guidelines magic therapy sessions and related activities. Students may have to process their impulsivity mishaps and acknowledge the concept of the Magician’s own personal space as well as their own. The idea of asking permission before performing a trick for someone can be used to highlight benefits of this element.


Specific issues may be addressed by using magic therapy activities such as reinforcing lessons about the dangers of drugs and alcohol or the “misdirection” of advertising companies (Gilroy, 1998). The activities may prove useful for Students struggling with issues of grief by processing loss in terms of where something goes when it “disappears.”

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