Every child has a hero. For some, it may be a sports figure or a celebrity. For other children, their heroes are people who have made great advances in the world like Jesus or Einstein. Most children name one of their relatives, a parent or grandparent, aunt or uncle, as their heroes. Regardless of who the hero is, we look up to our heroes as examples and role models, and we seeking to live our lives in similar ways to them.
These activities will get your students speaking and writing English while talking about the important people in their lives, their heroes.
H: How to Talk About Heroes in Your ESL Classroom
What is a Hero?
What makes a person a hero? Is it something he has done? Is it a quality she possesses? Start by explaining to your student what the word hero means, and then brainstorm the qualities that a hero might or should have. They may be characteristics such as bravery, fearlessness, strength, intelligence or boldness among many others. Allow your students to share what they value in the people they look up to. After talking about the qualities of heroes, give your students some examples of heroes by reading selections from The Children’s Book of Heroes by William J. Bennett. Do these people exemplify the qualities your students said a hero possesses? How do they meet those descriptions? How are they different? Break your students into groups and assign one hero to each group. Then have that group discuss how that person either does or does not meet the class’ criteria for a hero. If you are teaching adults, you may prefer to read portions of newspaper articles that talk about local people who have done heroic acts in the community rather than selections from the children’s book.
Who is a Hero?
After examining the heroes in groups, encourage your students to share with one another who their heroes are. In their groups, they should tell their classmates who their heroes are and what qualities those people possess that make them heroic as well as the heroic actions they have performed. These people can be living or dead, people that your students know personally or people they have never met.
You can create a display of heroes in your classroom that you can add to throughout the year. Start with examples from the books or people in your community. Post a picture of that person as well as a description of him or her and what he or she has done for the community or the world. You can include well-known heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi as well as local heroes. Also, encourage your students to contribute to the wall with heroes from their home cultures.
Now your students will write about their heroes. For younger children or beginning students, you may assign two to three sentences for each of the following questions. For older children and advanced students, you may want them to write a paragraph answering each of the following questions. In either case, tell your students to give the following information about their heroes in their writing.
- Who are they?
Give some information about the person and his or her personal life and history.
- What did they do?
Explain the acts that classify that person as a hero.
- How do they measure up as a hero?
Point out what qualities that person has that match those characteristics of a hero your class brainstormed earlier.
- Why is he or she your hero?
Explain why you admire that person’s actions or character.
- What would you say to your hero?
If you could meet that person, what would you say to him or her and why?
Once your students have written their pieces, display them on the wall of heroes. Make sure that each person has a picture of his or her hero to display with the writing assignment.
After your wall of heroes has grown a little and your students have had time to read the information about its members, break your class into small groups to talk about the heroes. In those groups, ask students to decide how they would classify the heroes. The classification could be based on past and present, by country or by accomplishment. Let your students decide, and challenge them to think of as many classifications as they can.
- Who are they?
Are You a Hero?
To round out your unit on heroes, put your students in groups and have them discuss heroic actions that each of them has performed in the past. Their examples could be walking an older person across the street or doing yard work out of kindness, or they could be as dramatic as saving someone’s life. Only your students will know. Then, if you desire, have your students write about their own heroic act. You may or may not want to add them to your wall of heroes or make a special section on the wall to display their own stories.
We all like to have someone in life to admire. This unit on heroes will give your class practice with listening, speaking, reading and writing as they learn about historical figures and share about heroes in their own lives. You can carry the theme throughout the school year or just focus on it for a few days.
In either case, your students will be encouraged to be thankful for the influential people in their lives and to live more heroic lives themselves.