“I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride.”
—May Parker, Spider-Man 2
With summer comes movie blockbusters and you can bet one of those blockbusters will be about one of our favorite superheroes. People love superheroes, because we can all find a superhero we identify with and therefore, this is a great topic to explore with your students.
Learning about superheroes helps empower our kids that deal daily with peer pressure, bullying, and other stresses. Superheroes motivate us because they are brave and courageous during the most stressful situations. They give us hope when we most need it.
The following lesson ideas, web tools, materials and apps will inspire your learners to enjoy reading and writing about various superheroes.
Host a Superhero Day or Party
Set-up a day, week, or event dedicated to superheroes. If you work with young learners, have them dress up as their favorite superheroes or have them bring in a toy that represents their favorite superhero.
Sit in a circle and have children demonstrate their superpowers (Total Physical Response learning), tell the group the superhero’s catch phrase, confess a weakness, give a reason why this is the favorite superhero, and play games.
You can play games like Superhero charades and guess the superhero through the drawing of clues. You can have a superhero playlist of music the class listens to all day.
Your teens can contribute to a Superhero playlist if you use tools that have a collaboration option, like Spotify or Youtube. If you work with teens, your superhero day can consist of them sharing comics and presenting about their favorite superheroes.
Read Superhero Stories
When you choose your reading list, include stories, novels, and comics about superheroes. You can ask your students for suggestions. You might also ask learners to suggest books that show the non-typical hero. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a popular book about a boy who represents the non-typical hero.
You can also find several graphic novels with superheros. This type of novel is great for language learners because there are visuals to accompany difficult vocabulary and plots.
You can teach your students about the hero’s journey and have them create a mindmap, animated video, or infographic of their favorite superhero’s hero journey. The following are a few recommended resources for superhero stories for children:
- You Can Do Anything Daddy by Michael Rex
- Superhero School by Aaron Reynolds
- Superhero Max by Lawrence David
- Superhero High—a free interactive ebook by the British Council with free printable activities and online games
Create Superhero Songs and Music Videos
Have your teens work in pairs or groups to create music videos or movie previews about their favorite superheroes. They can use free mobile phone apps to create special effects like Quo Movie Fx, Creature Fx, and Action Movie FX. These record clips with explosions, ghosts, dinosaurs, etc. super imposed to an actual recorded scene.
With these apps they can literally make their house looklike it’s exploding or being swallowed by an earthquake. Your students can use a video editor like iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or a free app like VidEditor to piece together their movie.
For young learners you might try songs like Amazing Superheroes from the British Council, or I’m a superhero! I can… by Genki English. These come with interactive online exercises to learn the lyrics and vocabulary.
Use Toys and Stuff Animals as Superheroes
Have very young learners bring in their toys and pretend these toys are superheroes. They can name what powers they have by repeating the phrase, 'I'm a superhero, I can...” and have their stuff animals perform the movement.
Use these Superhero Ability Cards to demonstrate verbs like jump, fly, rescue, climb, capture, and punch. Children can play a game after they learn the vocabulary where they pick up a card from the deck and have the toy perform the action. They can even do this as a charades activity where their peers guess what the action is.
After they learn the vocabulary, they can also work in pairs or groups and pretend their toys are saving another toy or they can work as a team to save other toys.
Invent and Create Superhero Gear
Remember how Batman has a team that designs his gear and vehicles? Walk into class, describe a new hero or have a card deck of superheroes you assign to each group, and tell the students they have to work in groups to create that superhero’s gear and vehicle.
Have students work in pairs and design the gear and what it does. The gear should align to the mission of the superhero. They will have to research common enemies and know some history of battles to create the right gear.
Preteach vocabulary dealing with materials and actions related to gear. For example, they might learn words like titanium, steel, lasers, and so forth. Give them a chart where on one side they list the material and the other side they list it’s elements.
They can draw the gear with apps like Educreations or ABCYA Animate. Another option is for the groups to create an infographic with free tools like Piktochart and Thinglink where they create labeled drawings of the gear and vehicle. With Thinglink (which also has a free iPad app) students can link to research for each material.
Have them explain why they chose the gear, what it does, and how it helps support their superhero’s mission.
Invent a New Superhero to Solve a Problem
Divide students in pairs or groups and give them each a problem they need to create a superhero to tackle. Possible problems include pollution, bullying, sexting, name calling, bad grades, etc.
They can use tools like Little Bird Tales to upload drawings of their new superhero and create a digital story showing adventures of their superheroes.
Invent an App for a Superhero
Tell your students the modern superhero now needs an app. Have students use tools like Educreations, or create an infographic to talk about an app for either a current superhero or one they have already created. Watch a series video examples of student invented apps. They can work in groups or pairs.
- My bookmarks of various superhero games and lessons updated regularly
- Style-a-hero—a game by the British Council for designing your own superhero
- Create Your Own Super Hero—games and activities from Marvel for creating your own superhero
- Grammar Man—a comic strip by Brian Boyd about a superhero who tackles grammar
- Comic Master—a free tool for creating custom comic strips and illustrations
- The Mathematics of Spiderman and the Physics of Superheroes—free videos from the University of Emory