Lesson Plans: Hooray for Heroes Theme Unit
Explore the concept of heroism with cross-curricular, character-building activities
By Jacqueline Clarke | null
Children hear the word hero used today more than ever. Yet what does it mean to be a hero? Explore this concept in depth with students, then host a special day to celebrate and honor the heroes in their lives.
What Is a Hero?
Kick off your hero studies by inviting children to create dictionary entries for the word. Begin by reviewing the different parts of an entry — the word divided into syllables, pronunciation, part of speech, and definition — and having students include these components in their work. After they share what they've written with the class, record a class definition on colorful poster board for display. Encourage students to refer to this definition to help them identify heroes in their own lives, in history, and in literature, and remind them that they each may have many heroes. You might also invite them to create Hero Sandwich Booklets.
Hero Sandwich Booklets
What characteristics make up a hero? Pose this question to your students, and list their responses on a chart. Then invite children to create "hero" sandwiches to identify the characteristics that they believe are most important in a hero. First, have them cut out construction paper "bread slices." Then ask each student to cut out a few construction-paper sandwich fillings (such as meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato). Have them label each with one characteristic of a hero, using the chart you've created as a reference. Show them how to stack and staple the fillings between the bread to make booklets. Invite student to share and compare their booklets to discover that heroes can exhibit any combination of heroic qualities.
To help children recognize heroes among the familiar people in their own lives, ask them to think about family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, and so on. Do they have special admiration for any of these people? What qualities do they admire? Why? Give children time to consider these questions, then distribute the Reproducible on page 70 and encourage them to complete it.
Hero Hallway of Fame
Children can honor their own living and historical heroes with portraits in a class "hallway" of fame. Lead students in naming some living heroes, such as a president or other public figure; or seasonal historical heroes, such as Johnny Appleseed or the Mayflower pilgrims who set sail in September 1620. As the discussion evolves, challenge children to think of other living and historical heroes they might know. They can also gain inspiration from www.rolemodel.net; www.myhero.com; The Barefoot Book of Heroic Children, by Rebecca Hazell (Barefoot Books, 2000); 50 Great Americans Every Kid Should Know, by Jacqueline Ball (McLanahan, 1998); and The Children's Book of Heroes, by William Bennett (Simon & Schuster, 1997). Next, have students create portraits of their favorite heroes using crayons, markers, colored pencils, paint, and craft items such as yarn, fabric, buttons, wallpaper, newspaper, and so on. Back the portraits with construction-paper frames, and have students title their work with the subject's name. Display the portraits under a "Hero Hallway of Fame" banner, with students taking turns as the hallway tour guide.
Parade of Heroes
After setting up a Hands for Heroes Bulletin Board (below), host a parade of heroes! To prepare, send a note home informing parents of the event, and asking each to help create a costume that represents a favorite hero. In the note, suggest ideas for story characters, historical figures, or general occupations such as nurse or firefighter. On parade day, have pairs of students interview each other to learn about the heroes that they represent, then write their interview notes on cards. Invite each child's partner to introduce the hero being represented, and to briefly name one of his or her accomplishments. For example, "Danny is dressed as George Washington. He was our first President!" Photograph each child as he or she is being introduced, then parade around the school. Later, use the photos and student interview cards to create a scrapbook.
Hands For Heroes Bulletin Board
Invite children to identify literary heroes! First, read aloud several fables, folktales, and other appropriate stories. Ask students to name the hero in each, challenging them to use the class definition to determine whether or not characters are truly heroes.
Then have children trace their hands on construction paper, cut out the outlines, and label each with a favorite literary hero and his or her heroic accomplishment. As students read more stories, encourage them to create additional hands for display.
Culminate your studies with a hero celebration day. First, help students create invitations that they can present to their everyday heroes. Before the big day, guide students in making "hero" shirts using fabric crayons, as well as "hero" ribbons to give to their guests. At the celebration, ask kids to speak about their heroes and to present them each with a ribbon. Let guests browse the hero booklets, bulletin board, and scrapbook that your class has created, then lead a tour of your Hero Hallway of Fame. Ideas in this unit contributed by Kathy Cunningham, Fred Fowler, Lynn Peters, Dorothy Giebel, Cheryl Kieloch, Jo Beth Lehrer, Joan Robson, Seth Fancey, Beth Meany, and Sue Squire at Morgan Road Elementary School in Liverpool, New York.
The Hero in Me
Give students an opportunity to think about times in their own lives when they faced a challenge in order to help someone. Bring in an empty picture frame at least 8" x 10" large, and remove the glass and backing. Seat children in a circle and pass the frame around. Encourage each student to look through the frame and describe how he or she went out of the way to come to someone's aid. For example, "I was helpful when I made friends with the new kid," or "I was helpful when John fell off his bike and I brought him to the nurse." Once everyone has had a turn, have classmates describe helpful qualities about each child in the frame. Make sure each student gets a hearty round of applause!
About the Author
Jacqueline Clarke is the author of two recent professional books for teachers, Best-Ever Activities for Grades 2-3: Graphing (Scholastic Inc., 2002) and Best-Ever Activities for Grades 2-3: Vocabulary (Scholastic Inc., 2002).
The Definition of a Hero
- Length: 562 words (1.6 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
The Definition of a Hero
When I think of a hero I immediately think of someone who is strong, intelligent, handsome, and daring. Upon closer examination, many different qualities than these become apparent. Courage, honesty, bravery, selflessness, and the will to try are just a few of the overlooked qualities of a hero. The definition of heroism changes with the context and time. Heroes of the past are not necessarily heroes of present time and vise versa.
A person can be a hero for saving the life of one or of millions. Heroes are not only real people, but they are also fantasy figures. Children are extremely interested with legendary and fantasy figures because they take on such tasks as: difficult journeys, challenges with dragons, discovering lost treasure, and changing the nature of the world through their singular acts of courage and selflessness. They also endure much resistance, hardship, and danger. Often the hero learns valuable lessons about survival and self-reliance. Not only do heroes teach valuable lessons they give a child a sense of belonging. To a child, a hero is an invincible person who will change the world.
There is another type of hero that almost no one is aware of. In the poorest areas of the country, live mostly minorities and other ethic background. All their lives they’ve been expected to work harder and expected not succeed in life. Some individuals living in poverty with a determination to succeed work hard all of their lives to become what everybody doubted they could. Escaping the crime, drugs, and prostitution is enough to escape hell, even if they don’t go to college. Despite of their financial problems, drug and crime surroundings, or difficulties in the language skills, their desire to triumph fuels their persistence. Those who make it to success are the few living examples of the purest form of hero anyone can be. They are not only their own heroes but also the heroes of the poor children who dream of becoming like them someday.
You also don’t have to kill anyone, conquer foreign land, or risk your life to be a hero. Anyone who influences anyone else by saving or helping save his or her lives is a hero. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the lives of millions of people by bringing justice to minorities. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest heroes, led a nonviolent revolution to free his country.
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Definition Hero Present Time Poor Children Selflessness Singular Everybody Valuable Hardship Surroundings
Even a parent can be a hero to his or her child by leading them in the right direction. All teachers are heroes when they make it their job to teach a child anything that will help them in life. You don’t have to go to great lengths by risking your life to make a difference in someone else’s life.
In conclusion, a hero is any person who changes the life of another person in a positive way. No one has to kill monsters, rescue girls, or lead a war to be hero. You don’t have to have superhuman strength or be known worldwide to be a hero. There is one characteristic that all heroes must possess. Whether your saving someone from a fire, leading a nonviolent revolution, or striving to succeed, you have to have courage to accomplish your goal. Everyone has a hero, but not everyone has it in him or her to be a hero.