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Lesson Plan

Heroes Are Made of This: Studying the Character of Heroes

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Heroes Are Made of This: Studying the Character of Heroes

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Six 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

John Paul Walter

John Paul Walter

Washington, Washington DC


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Designed to explore the hero and the heroic in literature, this sequence of activities can be used as a unit or as stand-alone activities. In the first activity, students work in small groups to brainstorm lists of heroic and unheroic traits. They create lists of heroes and villains and discuss and categorize their choices. They explore how heroism can be relative by reading about a mock trial of George Washington. In the third activity, students read and analyze an heroic text. They create word portraits of a hero from the text by ranking lists of characteristics, then create and discuss character maps. Finally, students compare the heroic qualities of multiple characters from one or more works of literature, using a Venn diagram.

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As Rodrigues and Badaczewski explain in their section on "Involving Students with Character" (59-68), students often need structured activities to help them analyze the fine detail of characters, even stereotypical characters, within the context of their specific text. Brian Moon explains, "Like cars, computers, clothing, and other consumer goods, written texts are products of culture; as cultural artifacts, these things are made to fit into people's lives and to support certain ways of thinking and acting" (30). This lesson is designed to encourage students to explore the hero and the heroic not as fixed ideas but concepts dependent upon contexts such as situation, culture, gender, expectations, etc.

Further Reading

Moon, Brian. 2000. Studying Literature: New Approaches to Poetry and Fiction. The NCTE Chalkface Series. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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This lesson is based in part on: Rodrigues, Raymond J., and Dennis Badaczewski. 1978. A Guide Book for Teaching Literature. New York: Allyn and Bacon.

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