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Everyday Heroes Lesson

Updated on April 12, 2012

CNN Heroes

When we think about heroes units, all of the mythical and fictional stories with heroes in them come to mind (think Odysseus and Hercules ). While these tales have their place in the classroom, I wanted to make my unit on heroes for 7th grade more relevant to my students (and to the definition of a hero). I also wanted to use the unit as an opportunity to incorporate more non-fiction and research into my curriculum.

In preparation for the heroes research, we first determine a definition of a hero. This can be accomplished through classroom discussions, reading articles on people who are heroic, etc. It really depends on how much time you have in the classroom. Regardless, you develop a definition with the class for a hero.

The next step is to brainstorm character traits of heroes. Compile this into a list, making sure to fully explain and define each of the character traits. For example, courage being the ability to do something you're afraid of (finding strength) and bravery is the act of doing something courageous, usually while being at risk themselves. Other traits we brainstormed are persistence, selfless, perseverance, willingness, etc. Make sure that this list is posted somewhere in the classroom to use as reference.

When I have done all of the preparation for the research, I introduce students to the CNN Heroes website. The students browse through the heroes and read their stories for a few class periods, looking for one they'd like to do their project on. I love that the stories are all shown in video and in print, so the students really have fun interacting with the website and learning about these people.

After students have chosen their hero, I have them work through the writing process and develop an essay around proving why that person is a hero based on the character traits of a hero they possess. We work through the writing process from outlining to drafting and eventually revision and editing as well.

Another aspect of this project is having the students do oral presentations on the heroes. I give the students the option to either tell the story of the hero or, like their essay, prove that their hero is a hero through character traits. The point of the oral presentation is to really work on the skills of being a good speaker and presenter.

This CNN Heroes lesson has so many aspects to it that make it worth adding to the curriculum, especially with consideration to the Common Core Standards. It touches upon research, writing, reading informational texts, as well as language and speaking skills. It is also a way for students to learn about real-life heroes and can be inspiring in a lot of ways.


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