What is a Hero? Deveoping a Common Framework

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Students will be able to form arguments by creating a framework.

Big Idea

What is a hero, anyway?

Creating a Framework

15 minutes

Today we are analyzing whether or not Katniss is a hero.  We're ignoring the literary hero's journey element, and just focusing on whether or not Katniss has the qualities of a hero. In order to do that, we first have to define what a hero is. To help students generate ideas, I asked them to write a quickwrite that identified what they thought were the qualities of a hero.  What do heroes do? say? think? affect others?

Evaluating Scenarios within a Framework

10 minutes

I stole, I mean borrowed, this activity from Cheryl Mango-Paget, Jane Gaun, and Leslie Grabel, the leaders of a Common Core Phase II class I took a couple of years ago.

I gave students a list of ten scenarios that are based on real events. Real people, real situations, real tragedies.  They read through the list of scenarios and ranked them from the most heroic (1) to least heroic (10). There was lots of quiet, mutterings, underlining, and crossing things out. It was the shortest ten minutes students used to think EVER.

Then I asked students to have a discussion with three or four of their peers.  I asked them to share the scenarios they ranked as most heroic and least heroic and explain why. 

This was an excruciating task. I've done this ranking twice now, and each time, the inner moral dialogue I have with myself is heartbreaking, enlightening, and depressing. Take the time to do the ranking yourself.  Certainly don't share your insights before students have had a chance, but do this activity. 

Discussion: Defining a Hero

15 minutes

After students shared in their small groups, we came together as a class and shared out. Each group shared which scenarios were most and least heroic and explained their reasoning.

Least Heroic

  • Overwhelmingly, the students thought that the scenario with the lifeguard was not heroic.  The lifeguard was just doing his job, and he didn't even get wet.
  • They also thought that the teacher who died on the space shuttle was not heroic. She chose to have adventure, and yes, it was a sad tragedy, but she didn't do anything heroic.
  • The gymnast who worked hard did so for herself, and was also not heroic. She inspired others, but she was motivated to work hard for herself and her own achievement.
  • The man who went on the news after he discovered the company was cheating customers was not heroic, because all he lost was his job.

Most Heroic

  •  Most students thought the most heroic scenario was the scientist who helped discover a cure for heart disease. Everyone else just saved one person, maybe three people, but the scientist helped thousands of people.
  • The man who runs into a burning building to save a child was considered heroic by students. Even though he and the child died, his actions were still heroic.
  • The old man with the fatal disease who sacrificed his life so the other three people on the raft could live was heroic because he made a sacrifice.
  • The man who saved a woman after a plane crash but froze and drowned was heroic because he was brave and courageous. 

As students discussed the scenarios and explained why a scenario was heroic or not, I recorded the qualities of a hero on the board. To prepare for the next day, I compiled all the classes' responses in a color-coded list so that students could compare responses.

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