top of page

Building Relationships with Students by Bringing Superheroes into the Classroom

Updated: Jan 16

Everyone talks about the importance of building student relationships. Still, it's become a bit of a half-hearted excuse for why things can go so wrong in the classroom.

"Well, she didn't have good relationships with her students. What did she expect?"

This is why teachers are getting so overwhelmed. Everyone tells teachers to build personal relationships with students, to connect with them on deep levels, but what they don't say is.... how? Sure, some people talk about the fun team-building activities you can do at the beginning of the year or even the concept of sharing more about yourself. This article is all about bringing superheroes into the classroom to build connections between popular culture that we can all agree on.

I’d never have become an English teacher if it weren't for Lois Lane. Of course, I dreamed of having superpowers like Superman, but if I couldn’t be him, I could be his powerful love interest, Lois. She was feisty, fallible, relatable, and above all… human in non-human, genuinely impossible situations.

line of kids in superhero costumes Bring Superheroes into the Classroom

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 influence young minds. Their heroics continue to influence us as adults. I’d argue that incorporating their tales, values, and characteristics in the classroom is a valuable addition.

I have always prided myself on being a comic book connoisseur. Still, 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 do something about it.

Kids feel the same way, so I created a “Senesac’s Hero’s Code of Ethics” instead 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 representing 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 in 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 I talked 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 my students' personalities 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 various easy, random acts of kindness 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 teach them outside the classroom.

We must teach them to be good people inside and outside the classroom, wherever they may go, especially when no one is looking. It also improves behavior in the classroom, as students are working hard not only to complete acts of kindness but also to 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. By doing this activity, you won’t take away any time in class on these acts of kindness, so you have nothing to lose.

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. It improves my mood when I’m having a rough day. I love looking at my wall and using the quotes for even my inspiration. Since I do it, I know at least some of my students are also doing it.

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 face. 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 usually enjoy reading. Yes, there’s less effort in imagining what something looks like. However, you can have students do an in-depth analysis of the themes and various rhetorical devices used in these stories.

These higher-order thinking skills are all we English teachers 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 try it out.

Whether you read graphic novels, do some simple getting-to-know-you activities, or decorate your classroom with a superhero theme, there are many ways to incorporate superheroes into the classroom. After reading this article, I'm sure you’ve thought of some ideas of your own! Please share your ideas with me in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear what you’ve come up with!

bottom of page