LESSON

Modern-Day Heroes: People Who Are Making a Difference

The purpose of this lesson is to help students identify and recognize modern-day heroes—people who have made, and are making, a difference in their communities or in the world. Students will learn how local movements can become national, then global, movements through the activism and perseverance of upstanding individuals.
Grade Level

Objectives

At the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe contemporary heroes who stand up for what they believe in.
  • examine the relationship between activism in the broader world and in their own lives.
Essential Questions
  • What does it mean to make a difference in your community?
  • What are some characteristics of people who have made or are making a difference in their communities?
  • Enduring Understandings
    • People can make a difference simply by helping others and solving problems.
    • Everyone can be a hero by standing up for what he or she believes and by helping others.
Materials
  • Note: Feel free to update this lesson to reflect the CNN Heroes of the current year. 

    Overview

    Each lesson in this series is designed to help students think about how to resolve difficult ethical decisions related to injustice. The lessons empower students to stand up, take ownership of their
    feelings and attitudes about unfairness, and become change agents in the world. This is the second lesson of the series “Dealing with Dilemmas: Upstanders, Bystanders and Whistle-Blowers.” This is the second lesson of the series. Its purpose is to help students identify and recognize modern-day heroes—people who have made, and are making, a difference in their communities or in the world. Students will learn how local movements can become national, then global, movements through the activism and perseverance of upstanding individuals. Students will see that not all acts of heroism need to have a global effect to be defined as brave or courageous. Each hero’s accomplishment
    illustrates that having an idea and getting involved can lead to projects—large and small—that make the world better. The goal is to encourage activism and awareness and enable students to think about what they, as individuals, can do to make a difference in their own community.

    Vocabulary

    bravery [ brey-vuh-ree ] (noun) courage

    hero [ heer-oh ] (noun) a person of distinguished courage or ability who is admired for brave deeds and noble qualities

    change agent [ cheynj ey-juh nt ] (noun) someone who works toward change or helps make change happen

    role model [ rohl mod-l ] (noun) a person whose behavior or example can be admired by others who try to be like them

     

    Suggested Procedure

    As a warm-up activity, have students discuss the following question with a partner. Ask: “If you had a superpower that you could use for good, what power would it be, and why?” Allow students a few minutes to share their thoughts. Ask for volunteers to share their responses with the class. Write the responses on a chart, making note of key descriptors. Then ask students what makes a hero different from a superhero. Chart responses, focusing on words that describe a hero’s qualities.

    1. Explain to students that while there are many types of heroes, this lesson will introduce them to everyday people who are currently engaging in work that others have deemed heroic. Students will research and take notes about individuals who are making a difference.

    2. Before class, review the 10 profiles listed above (found on www.CNN.com) CNN Heroes—Everyday People Changing the World. Add additional profiles to the list, if desired.

    Grades 3-5 Select two profiles for each of your students, keeping in mind the student’s interests and reading level. (Provide hard copies of the profiles if necessary.) Allow the students 10-15 minutes to read through both profiles and select one to use later when completing their handout.

    Grades 6-8 Let students access the link online. Give them 10-15 minutes to browse the profiles of the nine heroes listed above. Then ask students to select one person’s profile to read in full. They will use this person later when completing their handout.

    3. Have students break up into groups of no more than five and take turns discussing their heroes and their respective projects. If needed, students may refer back to the hero profiles.

    4. After the discussion, instruct students to complete the Profile of an American Hero handout (Grades 3-5, 6-8), using specific information from the reading. Help students compile their data onto the larger class chart entitled People Who Are Making a Difference (Grades 3-5, 6-8).

     

    Extension Activities

    Ask the students to share the three adjectives they used to describe their heroes. Write the responses on a chart under the heading “Qualities of a Hero.” Display the finished chart in a visible area of the room.

    • Guide students to review the online posters for the heroes. Invite students to work in pairs, selecting one poster and reflecting on the quotation and writing what it means to them. Invite students to share their work.
    • Review with students this comment by Maggie Doyne, who received the CNN award for 2015 Hero of the Year: “Please remember that we have the power to create the world that we want to live in.” Ask students to write about what that means.

     

    Alignment to Common Core State Standards/ College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards CCSS R.1, R.2, R.7, W.7, W.8, W.9, SL.2