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Hero Lessons

5 Tips for Teaching Hero Concepts...

Teaching Hero Concepts - Classroom IdeasIntroduction by Rebecca Thiegs Co-Founder

Teaching Hero Concepts"I was lucky enough to do my student teaching at Maple Grove Senior High School in Maple Grove, Minnesota.  Priding themselves on innovative curriculum, the teachers at Maple Grove developed an entire trimester of the 10th grade English curriculum devoted completely to heroes.  In that class, students worked on archetypal theory, creative writing, and reading classic hero tales (like The Epic of Gilgamesh). 

I give credit to my amazing supervising teacher, Sue Hein for many of the ideas I have about “hero study” in the classroom. Here’s how you can use’s hero writing prompt from our national writing contest and the winning essays listed in your class tomorrow...

NOTE:  These five hero concept teaching tips are tied to our Hero Essays page.  You should also review that page to review the content from which these teaching ideas stem.

1) Hero Walk

Hero Walk - Student Writing Ideas

Develop a “Hero Walk” for students to really define who or what constitutes a REAL hero.  For this activity, first have students come up with their own definition of “hero”: this could include people that they believe are heroes (past or present). You need to come up with a list of names (political figures - past and present, movie stars, singers, artists, maybe include names of students in their school who make a difference, put “your mom” on the list or “your dad”, possibly include “you” to the list, or anyone else that you can think of.  I usually put funny and serious names on the list, and job titles like “police officer” or “soldier”). 

I like to have a list of about 25-30 different names, but you decide when you have made your point with the Hero concepts by StageofLife.comactivity.  Instruct students they are going to do a “hero walk” and for the activity, there will be no talking, just walking from one side of the room or the other depending on their definition of hero.  Decide which side of the room represents “hero” and which side of the room is “not a hero” (you can choose whether or not you want a middle for undecided). 

Then, read each name and let the students walk to the side of the room which coincides with what they think of the name read - “hero” or “not a hero.” After you read through the names, have the students go back to their original definition of hero and add to it.  Ask: Has your definition changed?  Why or why not? 

Then, let the students share with a partner some of the ideas about the names on the “hero walk” and their definitions.  Then, have a full class discussion of hero definitions (come up with a class definition) and who on the “hero walk” exemplified the class definition best or worst. 

This activity, by the way, worked EVERY TIME.

2) Archetypal Theory / Hero Movie Clips

Archetypal Theory - Classroom Ideas

Show clips of Hero movies to teach archetypal theory or to teach the concept of hero.  If you want to start with an introduction of what Archetypal theory entails this article works really well (and is much more user friendly than other sources out there):

After you read the article or give an overview of archetypal theory, test out the student knowledge with videos or popular movies.  I really liked using E.T. (which might be a bit dated now), Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and The Wizard of Oz.  Movies like Finding Nemo, Toy Story or Disney Princess movies would work, too.  When I taught the Maple Grove High School curriculum, I used clips from different movies to illustrate different archetypes (and even played a “What archetype is this?” game).

Writing a Hero Tale - Classroom Ideas

3) Write a "Hero Tale"

Okay, so this could be a VERY involved end of unit sort of process, but it could also be a fun intro activity or a fun group activity.  It could be a class project where the final product is to create a class hero tale movie, or it could be an individual project where each student crafts their own hero tale.  You could also create a new “Greatest American Hero” to discuss current events and review aspects of the definition of hero.

4) Give a Hero Speech

Hero Speech - Classroom Ideas for Teen Writing

This is also more of an involved end of unit sort of activity, but it would be a great activity to really get to know the students in the class and see how they define hero.  This could be a long speech or a short impromptu speech.  Use some of the essay themes from the Stage of Life "Who Is Your Hero" writing prompt summary report to give the students some ideas on the types of people they could craft their speech around.

5) Submit a Hero Essay to

Submit a Hero Essay - Classroom Ideas for Teen Writing

You could do a class assignment for each student to submit a hero essay to the website.  Use the sample winning essays to as mentor texts and talk about the style, structure and content of a few of the essays.  If you have access to laptops, each student in your class could look at different essays and compare and contrast with their classmates. Get student writing out of the classroom!.

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  • Lancaster Museum of Art - Stage of Life CEO, Eric Thiegs, was invited by the LMAPA to present a seminar to teens on the power of writing and artistic collaboration.
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