So, how does African American History inspire student goal-setting?
Some kids have a clear idea of what kind of future they’re working towards, and others may not have any good ideas, or any good examples of happy and successful adults in their lives. Helping kids connect with and claim a Hero can define their vision for the future and motivate them to act constructively!
I used to look at MLK Day like another “to-do” list item. Read a story. Check. Watched a video. Check. Did a cute activity. Check.
I have since realized that if we want the amazing example of Martin Luther King Jr., or any inspiring figure to sink in, it’s going to take a little more time. I LOVE the fact that we try to honor heroes nationally, but I always felt that one day wasn’t enough. As an adult I know how hard it is to adopt a new behavior or attitude. As an educator, I know how much repetition goes into skill mastery. Yet, we try to squeeze a Mega-hero’s life into a few days of activities, and then hope our kids “get it?” Probably not going to happen.
I wanted to give my students more time to dive into the meaning of a hero, the specific qualities practiced by real heroes, and the impact that their lives can have. Since Biographies are an essential part of non-fiction, I found a way to integrate several of my reading, writing, speaking, language and social studies standards into one big project. A Personal Hero Research Project! Of course you can set the criteria for any demographic you like (African American, Latino American, Women Leaders, etc.)
This resource is most appropriate for 3rd-8th Graders. Follow this link to download my Free set of Hero Project Resources for your room! The folder includes…
* fully editable parent letters
* due date calendar
* research guide for students
* research and presentation rubrics
* power points to introduce the project components
* an interview guide for living heroes
All of these resources were created and tested with my own students. 😀
Important elements to consider when introducing this project:
- Kids should choose a Hero that they personally connect with or want to be like; not just a popular figure they already know about. (Living or dead.) They were required to choose someone who made a positive contribution to society. (Yes, I had a student do Al Capone, and he really surprised me!)
- As students work through the research process, discuss it! Ask students to share their progress, excerpts from their research that they found inspiring, interesting facts, etc.
- Continually focus classroom conversations around this main idea: “What was motivating this person to accomplish these things?”
Why are some people willing to make sacrifices that are uncomfortable? Why are some people willing to do dangerous things or even risk their lives to accomplish their goals? The depth of your conversations will vary depending on your student’s age level and maturity. I was often pleasantly surprised by the deeper thinking that students wanted to engage in during this project.
Let me know if you give this a try, or have any ideas to share. 😉
I am excited for your students to learn SO MUCH that will inspire them, and for YOU to learn so much about them.
PS – If you know a teacher that could benefit from this resource, please pass it on!