Updated: Aug 12
If it weren’t for Lois Lane, I’d probably never have become an English teacher. Of course I dreamed of having superpowers like Superman, but if I couldn’t be him, I could definitely be his powerful love-interest Lois. She was feisty, fallible, relatable, and above all… human in non-human, truly impossible, situations.
Most days she and I have the same spelling capabilities and I don’t shame myself for it because Lois NEVER did, and this lady had a Pulitzer! The fact that she always ran into danger and always did the right thing simply because it was the right thing to do has always inspired me.
I tell you this all to make my next point, superheroes and their tales can be so influential to young minds. Their heroics continue to influence as adults. This is why I’d argue that finding ways to incorporate their tales, values, and characteristics in the classroom is a valuable addition.
I know I have always prided myself on being a comic book connoisseur, but even if you don’t read the comics you’ve learned what superheroes are all about through television, movies, and people talking about them on the streets. What is the appeal? Is it their powers? Or is it that they embody a way of life that we wish we could have. We want to believe that if terrible things happen, we’ll step up and doing something about it.
Kids feel the same way, which is why I created a “Senesac’s Hero’s Code of Ethics” in place of a rule chart. Each line started with a “Heroes will…” statement. Next to each behavior expectation I placed a symbol of a DC superhero which represented that expectation.
"Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul I swear until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share, I’ll never stop fighting. Ever!” – unknown author.
This was just the first step of incorporating superheroes into my classroom. Here’s a list of ideas you might like to try out!
Use a variety of specific heroes in a discussion to represent a specific behavior and character strength you wish for your students to embody. I used a code of conduct poster that I talk to my students about and occasionally referenced as needed. This was done at the high school level. Another way to do this is to incorporate a specific hero of the day with a list of their strengths and use it to spark a conversation at the beginning of class. Have your questions ready and allow time to discuss how this impacts their thoughts on how they should act.
First days of school activities. I created a set of superhero/superpowers “Bell Ringers” or daily starter questions that let me know about the personality of my students in that first week of school.
Additionally, you could have them fill out a cool graphic organizer that gives them a sort of superhero profile with a space to draw themselves as a hero. The activity sheet would include a statistics section that would include their heroic motivation in life, superpowers, weaknesses, background, and preferred method of solving problems.
Superhero activities are great ways to get to know your students at the beginning of the year- it doesn’t matter how old they are, they all have a favorite hero! Click here to try out my first days of school “superhero bio” activity FOR FREE today.
Create a wheel of heroic acts. Have students spin a wheel with a variety of easy, random acts of kindness that they could accomplish throughout the week. You could tell them to record themselves doing the act, or to show you a picture of what they did for someone else. Offer them a special reward for representing the values you’re teaching them outside of the classroom.
It’s important that we teach them to be a good person both inside and outside of the classroom, wherever they may go, especially when no one is looking. It also improves behavior in the classroom, as students are working hard to not only complete acts of kindness but share their accomplishments with others in their class. They will care about how they talk to you and other students because it is something you value. Bonus, by doing this activity you won’t take away any time in class on these acts of kindness, so you have nothing to lose. Have them spin before or after class and perform the act outside of class time, then shoot your an email with what they did.
Decorate your classroom with inspirational quotes from comic book heroes. This one is self-explanatory. The benefit is that your classroom will have a theme. It will look cool. It will inspire students. It will create a welcoming, positive environment. For me, it improves my mood when I’m having a rough day. I love being able to just look at my wall and use the quotes for even my own inspiration. Since I do it, I know at least some of my students are doing it as well.
Use graphic novels to improve literacy in place of regular novels. I will touch on this in a more in-depth article later this week since classic pieces of literature are now in graphic novel form… However, let’s stick to the theme of superheroes. Today’s graphic novels utilize much higher vocabulary than you might think. They even touch on deeper themes than they did in the past.
This is thanks to Stan Lee’s “Fantastic Four” comic books which introduced adult conflicts and real-life problems that superheroes now faced. Comic book writers are considered serious authors who touch on real life situations in the settings of our favorite superheroes. These stories are often complex and extremely interesting to teens who don’t normally enjoy reading. There’s less effort imagining what something looks like, yes, however, you can have students do an in-depth analysis of the themes and various rhetorical devices that are used in these stories.
This higher-order thinking skills are all we English teachers really care about at the end of the day. If we can motivate students to read complex pieces of literature, even if they’re in a comic book, we should definitely try it out.
Whether you choose to read graphic novels, do some simple getting to know you activities, or decorate your classroom in a superhero theme, there’s many ways to incorporate superheroes into the classroom. I’m sure after reading this article you’ve thought of some ideas of your own! Please share you ideas with me in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear what you’ve come up with!