Who's the Greatest Hero of All Time? From Debate to Opinion Writing | Mentoring in the Middle

Who's the Greatest Hero of All Time? From Debate to Opinion Writing

Picture of crowd in arena with bright lights
I wish I had taped it, this powerful discussion.  Impassioned students debating whether their person was more heroic than someone else's.  Which led to conversations about what heroism is.  Was Albert Einstein more heroic than Harriet Tubman?  Todd Beamer?  Carson Wentz?

Elementary students' worlds are just starting to expand, and if you ask them about their heroes, they most often talk about their parents, a few athletes, Harriet Tubman and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Picture of book: Tales of Famous HeroesPicture of book: 50 American Heroes Every Kid Should MeetIt's important to expand their horizons!  And so we did, first with 50 American Heroes Every Kid Should MeetTales of Famous Heroes, and then this website:
http://historysheroes.e2bn.org.  It wasn't meant to be a huge research project, just a way to get students to think beyond their parents.

Students completed this graphic organizer (you can download it by clicking here).  There's a blank page (and this one with directions.)

Students held on to them as they read about a couple of people they weren't as familiar with.  We used commonlit.org  which is rapidly becoming my go-to site for great articles!

But the kids wanted to talk about the people they'd researched!  They wanted to compare and learn more about each other's heroes.  So we decided to discuss in a Socratic Seminar "Who's the Greatest Hero?" of all the heroes researched.

Oh Boy!

It was an amazing display of thought and discussion about the qualities that make a hero.  Students were the most impassioned I've seen in a while.  I hated to end the discussion, and then it occurred to me that they should have an opportunity to argue on behalf of their hero.  What a great activating strategy for Opinion writing!

Whether you try this Hero's Challenge or another idea, having students discuss and debate in Socratic Seminar is a great way to get ideas flowing!

P.S.  Special thanks to Kate Hadfield Designs and Joyful Hands Products for their clipart on the Hero's Graphic Organizer.

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