Capture Heroic Moments: Creating Narrative Scenes about Heroes, A Unit of Study For Grades 3-5
by David Kelly, Media Arts Educator- MY HERO Project

Grade Level: K-4,5-8,
Subject Arts - Media,English/Language Arts,Social Studies,


Students are introduced to the vocabulary and processes of writing their own short narrative scripts. This series of lessons provides an introduction to the basic vocabulary and concepts of narrative scenes for film and/or theater. Topics include developing characters, plot and conflict in order to write a short screenplay. 

Once students have completed these short scripts, they may use them in the production of a short theatrical performance or film. As students become familiar with the techniques and terms in this lesson, they can apply their new skills to create their own fictional works, be they short films, plays or fictional written material.


Note: Each lesson can take approximately a 45-minute period.

-Learn the basic vocabulary for narrative story telling (Lesson 1)
-Develop basic research skills (Lesson 2)
-Develop understanding of story structure, character development and creative writing skills  (Lessons 3 & 4)
-Develop collaborative skills by working in small groups (Lessons 5 & 6)
-Develop reading and public speaking skills (Lesson 7)



1. Warm-up/discussion: Mingle Mingle!

Show the students the following film from the MY HERO website:
The Bridge 8 Minutes  |  Short  |  Kosovo  |  By Jeton Neziraj 
Jeton Neziraj shares this animated version of his acclaimed short play "The Bridge." This story shows the simple power of forgiveness and the importance of working together.

To get the class active and thinking about these questions, do a mingle/mingle: a small group discussion of what is hero is, where the children change partners quickly at the teacher’s direction. Give your question out, have students walk around the room, and when they stop, ask them, one question at a time, the questions below:
Who is the hero of this story? How does the hero behave in a story?  Which actions are the ones that make this character a hero? 

2.  Vocabulary Introduction
As a way to introduce students to the elements of narrative storytelling, introduce the following key concepts and vocabulary.
Have a large chart paper up with each of these elements below in a column (this chart can then serve as a reusable graphic organizer for every story they play with.) Before unveiling each element, prompt students, “What makes a story? What must you have to create a story?” As they guess several, unveil (or write down) each element and reveal any that they do not guess. 







Feel free to use appropriate story examples which all students know (e.g. fairy tales, your current literature book, Harry Potter, etc.) as you define each term.

Characters: The people that make up a story. Who are they? Where do they come from? What do they want? Etc. 
Setting: Where does the story take place? 
Even when you’re writing a story based on real events, you have the freedom to choose where it takes place. A scene set in your main character’s kitchen will have a very different feel than one set in a crowded restaurant. Think about where a scene takes place, and how that setting can influence the character’s choices in a scene.

Objective: A character’s main goal, which he/she actively tries to achieve in the story. 
Ask students for an example of a character’s objective in a popular film/TV show. For example, in Finding Nemo, the objective of Nemo’s Dad, Marlin, is very clear: to find Nemo.

Motivation: The “why,” or the reason that a character pursues their objective. 
Generally, the stronger the motivation, the more active a character will be. As an example, consider the popular children’s book Charlotte’s Web. In the book, the character of the rat named Templeton is rather selfish and always hungry. Whenever he helps out the main characters, it is always because they offer him food. Getting more food is his motivation, and it is a powerful one. 

Obstacles: Whatever stands in the way of a character in achieving his or her objective. 
The bigger the obstacle, the bigger the conflict in the story. Obstacles can come in many forms. An obstacle might be an external occurrence such as a hurricane, preventing the character from saving his family. An obstacle can also be personal; in Finding Nemo, Dory’s faulty memory is often an obstacle to her being able to help Marlin. 

Actions: The concrete steps that the a character takes to achieve their goal. They can be thought of as tactics, and are generally in verb form (to beg, to attack, to impress). Again, consider Marlin in Finding Nemo, and the different actions he takes to get back his son Nemo (leaves home, befriends fish, travels far, etc.)

To get students more involved, have them write examples of each term on post-it notes, using different stories they have read that year in class. Then have them walk up to the board and place their post-it example on the appropriate term.

Likewise, you could create a quick story together, i.e. a story about a boy, his sister, their bicycle, and a problem, and label each element with the right term.


1. Warm-Up Activity: Ask students to raise their hands on who would like to build a rocket one day.

Tell students they will be researching the real life story about how a poor coal miner’s son (Homer Hickam) went on to build rockets and work for NASA.

Give the students class time to research Homer Hickam’s life story and write down key facts about him. In addition to the school’s resources, students find newsreel on American historical figures at The U.S. Library of Congress website,

Students can also use sources from the archives at and organize their materials on a customized web page by using MY HERO’s Create program (

2. Film: Show students the narrative film made about Homer’s life, October Sky.
After the movie ends, ask the students: 

Was the character of Homer as presented in the movie similar to what you thought of him before the film, or different? Why?

In the film, what actions made you feel that Homer was acting like a hero? What qualities did he display? 

Once again use the graphic organizer of key narrative terms (Elements of A Story), this time inviting students to use post-its and paste examples from October Sky. Continue until there are a few good examples of each narrative term. 

Assessment: Be sure to view each post-it for comprehension, and do a quick Think-Pair-Share where students summarize October Sky, tell the summary to their neighbor, and then share our one or two with the group.


Resources needed: Copies of the Script for each student, Elements of a Story Chart

1. Warm-up activity: Think Pair Share 

Remind students about the narrative elements of a story they learned in the last lesson. Invite a student to summarize the graphic organizer. 

Next, you will lead students through a Think Pair Share Activity. For the Think, you ask the following question and give students a moment to silently ponder: Think about your heroes, from either a book they have read or from history. What makes someone a hero? What actions do they take that make them heroes? What challenges did they face? 

Have students turn to the student next to them to Pair, where they take turns sharing their thoughts on the question. Then their partner shares, and the teacher invites several students to share what their PARTNER said, enhancing their listening skills and learning about each others’ heroes and what they have in common.

2. Activity: Make a Scene

Explain that students will be making a fictional scene about a heroic moment, in which their main character (the hero) has to overcome an obstacle in order to achieve a goal. The obstacle should come from another character in the story, who opposes the hero in some way. Be sure to bring up the “Elements of a Story” Chart and past post-its to jog students’ memories and serve as a platform for the upcoming activity.

3. Sample Script

Look at the sample scene from Bridge To Terabithea as an example of how to format a script (sample #1, attached). Either project this scene onto the whiteboard from your computer or document camera, or make copies for partners in the class to go through.

Go through the scene and note how it is formatted. The scene location and time of Day in bold in the script starts each scene. Description of characters and setting are in normal paragraphs. Characters names get capitalized the first time they appear in the script (with their age described in parentheses). And dialogue centered and indented, with character names in bold before their lines.

Then read aloud the scene from Bridge To Terabithea, as Jesse tries to convince his mom that he needs to keep his old shoes, not wear his sister’s pink pair of shoes. Complete the graphic organizer of Story Elements together as a class and prompts students to help her name each character’s objective, actions and obstacles, etc.


-When Leslie tries to go into the Girl’s restroom, Janice Avery blocks her and demands a dollar to enter:






-to get money from Leslie, show her who’s boss

-to go to the bathroom without paying



-wants money


- Feels special by proving she’s tougher than everyone else


-Her Dad is mean to her, she thinks she has to be mean to others

-has to go to bathroom


-thinks it’s unfair for Janice to demand money


-recognizes that Janice is bully, doesn’t want to play her games



Leslie is brave, does not give in to bullying like other students

Janice is bigger, smart and tough



-to scare

-to make fun of

-to threaten


-to stand up to

-to question

-to dodge


Resources needed: Character Graphic Organizer, copies for each student

1. Motivation: Ask students, “Have you ever been in a conflict?”

Tell the students that they, as a class, are going to write their first scene together. The basis of this scene will be a conflict between two characters. Tell them a conflict in a story is when one character, character A, wants something from another character, character B. B will not give A what A wants. So the two characters are in conflict, and must try different actions to get what they want.

As an example, show students the scene from Bridge To Terabithea in which Janice demands money from Leslie for going inside the Girl’s room. Then give them the script for the scene, sample #2 in the attached handouts.

2. Graphic Organizer

Afterward watching this scene, have students identify the different narrative elements of the scene using the Chart: what is each character's objective, motivations, obstacles and actions? Make copies of the attached Narrative Elements_Character Work Sheet for students to complete (it’s a small handout version of the graphic organizer of Story Elements).

Take note of these elements on a marker board or similar (see the above brainstorming example with Leslie and Janice for a sample of what the marker board would look like).

Next, ask the students to think of different actions that both Janice and Leslie might have taken. How could the scene end differently?

3. Actions

Choose some one or several of Leslie’s new actions, and tell students that they are going to write a new version of the scene where Leslie uses these actions. 

Have a student take notes on a marker-board, as the class collectively maps out each moment of this new scene. At the end the class will have a detailed scene outline.

4. Write the Script

Finally, tell students to write a short script with dialogue of this scene at their desks, 1-2 pages. Read a few aloud and offer both notes and praise.

5. Assignment: 

Have students go through the process of writing their own scenes about fictional heroes. Suggest that students create characters based on individuals in their own lives, or base their characters off of other works of fiction (e.g. Tom Sawyer). 

As in the teacher-led example exercise, the students should come up with 2 characters that have a simple conflict. As in the example from Bridge To Terabithea, one character wants something from the other that the other will not easily give; both characters should use at least two different actions to get what they want. 

Students should write a brief summary of what happens in their scene, as well as each character's objective, motivations, obstacles and actions. Then they should write a 1-3 page script of their scene. Have students include an opening narration to explain the set-up of the scene (time, setting, what the characters have been doing prior to the scene, etc.), as well as closing narration to describe what happens to the characters after the scene. 

Use the attached Scene Writing Assignment handout to remind students about the steps they should take. You may also use the attached Mock Scene as an example of a finished assignment.


1. Motivation: “Today we get to share our work!”

The teacher should break the class into groups of three. Each student will have their scenes read aloud by two classmates in their group. All groups will get a chance to practice before they are asked to read a scene aloud before the class.

2. Feedback

After each scene is read aloud, the teacher can ask students to give supportive, constructive criticism on how the scene plays out. Are the elements in the script that need to be changed, or reworked? Refer to the graphic organizer of Story Elements, to make sure all of the motivations, obstacles, etc. are clear.

3. Final Changes and Upload

After each scene has been given this feedback, give students time to make any final changes to their scripts. The teacher should have students upload all finalized scripts onto The teacher can then create an organizer page via the MY HERO Teacher’s Room ( that features all the students’ work.


1. Motivation: “Raise your hand if you’d like to be an actor one day?”

Assign different students to play the roles in each scene. The writer of each scene will coach his/her actors after the lines are memorized. 

2. Rehearsal

Then conduct a final dress rehearsal of each scene, in the location in which it will be performed and/or filmed. In preparation, assign small student groups to handle the various jobs of producing the scene: Costumes, Set Decoration, Props, etc. 

One student should be selected to MC the ceremonies, reading the logline of each scene prior to performance. Others can play the role of narrators for each scene, reading opening and closing narration from each script.


Have students perform their scenes before their classmates, with the option of inviting friends and family.

The scenes can be filmed if desired.


-Final or end-of-lesson quizzes on key vocabulary and concepts

-Completion of assigned written materials

-Evaluations of final filmed scenes and/or live performances (for a helpful rubric, check out


National Arts Standards, 5-8
Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes: Select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of their choice.

Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of *art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of their experiences and idea.

Common Core English - Language 6-12
Conventions of Standard english: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.