Lesson Topic: People Who Make A Difference: American Heroes
Grade Levels: Primary (2-3), Upper (4-5)
A panel of teachers, parents and administrators from the school will ask students a series of interview questions in order to determine their hero's worthiness for the award. In addition students may display their hero's special qualities using any suitable medium such as art, dance, multimedia, drama, a speech, or a written report. They will be evaluated on the quality of the information found about the hero as well as their ability to convince the panel about his or her heroism. Return to Top of Page
- Task#1- What is a hero?
This task is designed to get students thinking about the characteristics of a hero so they can later evaluate which historical figures on the heroes chart meet the criteria. The class should spend time brainstorming what a hero is and what he/she is not by making a venn diagram, or a list. Build background by using characters from literature you have read and or famous persons, such as Washington or Lincoln whose lives and characteristics are most likely already well known to your students.
- Activity #1- Hero Characteristics List After discussing several different examples of heroes from a list generated by the students, the class will identify the common characteristics of heroes as well as a list of traits that are not "heroic". Distinctions should be made between heroism and "super stardom" or fame.
- Task#2- Hero's Traits' Comparison
This task is designed to help students analyze how heroes develop their special qualities by comparing the life and actions of familiar heroes such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,.William Bennett's book A Children's Book of Heroes is a valuable resource to develop this understanding. The discussion should motivate students to want to investigate a category of heroes and begin to notice common traits.
- Activity #2 Hero Comparisons Fiction and Non-Fiction Students will work in small groups to compare fictional and non fictional heroes and to determine common characteristics of their lives and actions. They will analyze what events, qualities or issues helped to distinguish them from other people of their time period. Inspiration, a mind-mapping software, is a helpful tool to use to brainstorm ideas and organize thoughts.
- Task#3 Hero's Journey
The purpose of this task is to help students see the development of heroism by comparing fictional heroes' lives to historical figures' lives. It would be helpful to refer to Joseph Campbell's The Hero With One Thousand Faces (1968) in which he notes that mythological heroes' lives tend to follow a cyclical pattern involving a transformation which comes about by facing external crises and internal fears leading ultimately to victory and personal achievement. This is an ideal time to place students in the groups listed on the Heroes' Chart:
1) Presidents and First Ladies
2) Political Figures and Leaders
3) Inventors, Artists, and Authors
4) Scientists, Doctors, and Nurses
5) Explorers and Pioneers
6) Athletes and Adventurers.
- Activity #3- Hero's Journey Timeline Students read or hear short biographies about historical figures mentioned in the content standards for their grade level. In addition they should visit some of the hero websites to learn about how heroes make a difference. The class should be divided into groups of 4-6 students and assigned a category of heroes to study. Students will study the challenges and problems in the historical figures' lives that they had to overcome in order to make their mark on American History. They will make timelines of the heroes for their group and compare them to timelines of fictional heroes' lives and/ or to those of other groups. Joseph Campbell's The Hero With One Thousand Faces (1968) contains valuable information about the cyclical pattern that fictional heroes follow which leads to a transformation of the individual by facing external crises and leading to victory and personal achievement.
- Task#4 Individual Hero Reports and Mandalas
This task should enable students to write a biography and develop a presentation about their hero/historical figure. Student groups should have selected a category of heroes from the Heroes' Chart and notice certain similarities and differences among them. The mandalas, or teaching posters are an ideal way for students to summarize the important characteristics of their hero and are effective when displayed according to the categories studies.
- Activity#4 Hero Biography Each student will become an expert on their hero and to be knowledgeable about their category of heroes. Refer to the hero chart. Go to http://www.biography.com. for additional persons not listed in the chart. Each child will pick a heroic figure from their group's category and will have to write a narrative, a personal letter, a song, poem or a report addressing the question of how their "heroic figure" has made a difference and what the world would have been like without them.
- In addition, in order to teach other students what they have learned, each student will create a teaching posters called a mandala that will include the highlights of the contributions of their hero Each mandala will contain a picture of the person in the middle and in each corner there will be words and symbols representing the life experiences and accomplishments of their hero. A short biography may be attached to the poster.
- Task# 5 Group Presentation
This task allows student groups to present the biographical information about the heroes/ historical figures listed in their category. They should clearly identify which persons in their group are heroes, why they think they are and how the group came to consensus about it. Presentations can take many forms including multimedia, drama, debate, speech, oral presentation, dance, video or art. The mandalas or teaching posters are helpful as well
- Activity #5 Group Presentation Collectively each group will have the option to write or compose a script, poem, multimedia stack, dance or song about their hero category. They will address how they can make a difference with their lives and perhaps include references to people they know who have made a difference in their lives.
- Task# 6 Heroes Convention
This is the culminating event and is intended to allow each student to present his/her hero at the hero auditions and before a panel of teachers, parents, or peers who will interview them and act as judges for the performance. Rubrics should be developed and used to evaluate the quality of the student work.
- Activity #6 Hero of the Millennium Auditions The culminating experience will be a "heroes convention" where all the students would dress like their hero and present their qualities in competition for the hero of the millennium award. Interview questions will serve as a form of assessment to determine what each student remembers about their hero and as a means to invite them to persuade the audience about their worth. The winner will be selected based on scores from the interview (oral presentation rubric) and from the performance (presentation rubric) Return to Top of Page
Lila Wills Browson