Portrait of a Hero

Visit any elementary school playground and chances are you'll see children pretending to be heroes from their favorite stories, TV shows, or movies. Through such dramatic play, children are free to use their imaginations to explore where their abilities can take them, and to experience feelings of control, power, and mastery. By building on these natural play experiences, we can help students begin to understand the true meaning of heroism and how they might start to develop heroic characteristics in themselves.

Through a series of interactive activities, students will explore their beliefs about heroes and heroism. They will share names of familiar figures they consider to be heroes, and then closely examine their reasons for believing each one is a hero. Students will then view portraits of heroes from American history, and glean a bit of background information on each one. They will identify the heroic personality traits and characteristics of each hero. Students will also broaden their understanding of what makes a hero, enabling them to identify the real-life heroes who surround them each day. By introducing students to someone you regard as a personal hero, they will recognize that some of the people they know and admire are also heroes. Students will share pictures and record reflections of their heroes, using these to create a Hero Hall of Fame. Through this process, students will begin to learn what it really means to be a hero and what characteristics a real hero possesses. Finally, students will consider ways they, too, may become everyday heroes.

Guiding Questions

What is a hero? What does a hero look like?

What characteristics must someone have to be a hero?

Who are some heroes from American history, and in what ways were they heroic?

Who are some famous and not so well- known heroes in the world today?

What can they teach you about behaving like a hero? Could you be a hero? How?

Learning Objectives

After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to: understand and define the meaning of the words hero and heroic

Learn about heroes from U.S. history by observing details in pictures and listening to brief biographies of each figure and express why they are considered heroes.

Learn how everyday people can be heroes, and demonstrate an understanding of how famous heroes and real-life heroes compare

Create goals and show-through writing and art-how they believe they can become heroes.