Unit I : What is a Hero?
This is the first installment of a three-part unit.

See Unit II: Who Are Heroes?
See Unit III: Heroic Actions
Subject Area:   All

Grade level:    Adaptable to all


Students are expected to be able to:

  1. Describe the characteristics of a hero.
  2. Recognize the hero in a story.
  3. Name heroes in their lives and express why those people are heroes to them.
  4. Use a computer to access the Internet, find and read stories on the MY HERO Website.
  5. Distinguish between a hero and a celebrity.

Introduction of MY HERO Project


It’s recommended to use as many Internet-ready computers as possible. You are also encouraged to use books, fiction or non-fiction, with strong heroic characters to help children identify the characteristics of a hero. If there is limited access to computers, you may also consider printing copies of several MY HERO stories and reading them aloud with the class.

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Activities and Procedures:

Step One: Introduction

Look at the following ideas: (a) “Cold Start”; (b) Visual; (c) Story.
Select the one(s) that will work best for you, and adapt them to the age you are teaching.

A. “Cold Start”

  1. Ask the question, “What is a hero?” As students answer, write their responses on the board or chart paper. Older students might call this a brainstorming session.
  2. Ask for descriptions of a hero (examples: A hero is honest brave, helpful, kind...)

B. Visual

  1. Have pictures of well-known heroes on a bulletin board. Ask, “What is a hero?” Have students respond with their ideas. Write their responses on the board or chart paper.

C. Story

  1. Read a story featuring a hero. If you would like to use MY HERO stories, choose them from the Directory or Selected Stories. Then ask, “What is a hero?” Have students respond with their ideas. Write their responses on the board or chart paper.
  2. Ask the students to identify the hero, explain why he/she is a hero and why heroes are important. (They may add to the descriptions of a hero at this point.)

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Step Two: Definition/Description

As a class, come up with a definition/description of a hero.

  1. Write this summary definition/description on the board or chart paper.
  2. You may want students to have this definition/description listed in their notebooks or in a folder on heroes.
  3. A graphic organization with “hero” in the center circle and descriptions radiating from the circle is effective visually.

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Step Three: Identification/Naming of Heroes

Have students name some heroes. Why are they heroes? Distinguish between a hero and a celebrity.

  1. Approach these hero and celebrity distinctions in a positive manner, assuring students that both have their place and importance. Perhaps have the students name some celebrities who are heroes and some heroes who are celebrities. Be sure your distinctions are in place before students begin to name people for these categories.

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Step Four: Read a MY HERO Story to the Class

Have students discuss why the person noted in the story is a hero.

1. Select the example according to the age and interest level of your students. See Selected Stories for stories specially chosen for classroom use.

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Step Five: Analyze Characters in the Story

Assign small groups or partners and review hero stories from the MY HERO Website or other book source.

  1. Each group or pair will make a list of the main characters in their stories. They will specify who is the hero and why. Students will then tell if they agree or disagree that the hero is a hero and why. Present some of these reports to the class with a brief summary of the story.

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Step Six: MY HERO Website Scavenger Hunt

  1. Students access the MY HERO Website (www.myhero.com) to conduct a scavenger hunt through the site.

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Step Seven: Descriptive Pattern Organizer

  1. Arrange the key term “hero” in the center circle. Surrounding the main circle, arrange several smaller circles with hero characteristics written inside.

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Content Recommendation:

The dictionary definition of a hero is “a person of distinguished courage or ability…admired for brave deeds and noble qualities…role model, ideal…” (excerpts, Webster, Unabridged, 2nd edition, 2001). This seems somewhat narrow and exclusive unless amplified. You may want to include the following characteristics in your description of a hero: integrity, compassion, helping those in need, moral courage and doing what you know is right.

Make a distinction between celebrity and hero. In the dictionary, celebrity is defined as "a famous or well-known person."

Be sure that your definition and distinctions of heroes are ones you can live with as you apply and broaden the application or designation.

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Modifications to Consider:

The method and extent of classroom introduction of “What Is a Hero?” will vary with the age level of your students. For older, computer-literate students, consider using the “Cold Start,” plus items No. 2 (Define/Describe) and No. 3 (Identify). Then go directly to an independent (or small group) on-line assignment using the MY HERO Website.

For very young students who do not yet read, the use of visuals and teacher-read stories will be all the more important.

For college students, the hero concept may be addressed in the liberal arts curriculum of literature, history and ethics courses. Through discussions, college students can define and describe heroes, distinguish between heroes and celebrities and identify well-known and unknown heroes, developing their ideas about why these people are considered heroes. College assignments would begin with accessing and browsing www.myhero.com, identifying and writing about a person who is a personal hero and submitting the story to the MY HERO site through the “Create” program.

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Created by Ann M. Hoffelder, Curriculum Consultant and Allyx Schiavone