If your middle school students think that pop culture celebrities and tabloid cover kings and queens are people to look up to, teach them a thing or two about true historical or global role models during a heroes and heroines activity. According to the National Council for the Social Studies, teachers in middle school should help their students to develop a global perspective through group projects, experiential hands-on learning and interdisciplinary instruction.
Personal Heroes and Heroines
Heroes and heroines aren't just larger-than-life characters or mythical men and women. Help to teach your middle school students that heroes are all around them with an activity on personal role models. The educational experts at Scholastic Teachers suggest staging a lesson that gets students to realize that their parents, coaches, family members -- and even teachers -- can be everyday heroes and heroines. Ask your students to brainstorm a list of personal heroes and heroines, then have them narrow their choices down to one specific name and write a mini biography of that person. Task the kids with interviewing their subject -- either by phone, email or in person -- and ask them to create a set of questions that shows off the person's admirable qualities.
Teach your middle schoolers about the mythical figures that embody global qualities that many humans strive to attain. Choose a selection of mythological figures such as Perseus, Heracles or Athena. Assign each student one character or have them choose their own -- making sure there are no duplicate selections. Have the students go to the library and research their selected heroes and heroines from ancient Greece and Rome, noting admiral attributes and strengths to emulate. After researching the characters, students can present their findings during oral reports in front of the class.
Figures from America's History
Whether you are teaching a U.S. history class or looking for an activity to accompany a unit on the American greats, heroes and heroines from the past can help middle school kids to learn about the astonishing people that helped to shape their country. Pick a time period such as early America -- choose someone such as Benjamin Franklin -- or opt for a theme such as women in history -- go with Susan B. Anthony. Help your students to create a portrait of their hero or heroine, first using pencils and paints and then with words.
While some heroes and heroines are simply everyday people with admiral qualities, others are game changers when it comes to the face of America and the world. Help your students to learn about these types of people with an activity on civil rights activists such as Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr., women's suffrage pioneers such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Julia Ward Howe, or go global and add in a lesson about Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela. Have the students search for newspaper and other media clips that demonstrate the heroic acts of a chosen figure, printing them out to piece together into a scrapbook style biography project. Encourage your middle schoolers to add in articles, biographies and photos or pictures of a hero or heroine who helped to change the world.
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