Teaching Hero Characteristics in Writing Using Ted-Ed in an ELA classroom for 8th Grade Students.

The Context for my Lesson
This lesson is tailored for a 8th Grade English Language Arts classroom with Academically and Intellectually gifted students. It is made up of students who excel in the English Language Arts classroom, who need more thought provoking instruction. Before showing the Ted-ED Video “What Makes a Hero” by Matthew Winkler, the students will have read a book of their choosing from a list of selected titles, such as “The Outsiders”, “How to Kill a Mockingbird”, or the “The Boy in Striped Pajamas”. In addition, they will already be familiar with ancient mythology, and classic tales from earlier grades and instruction, and could understand the character references in the video. Things they would need to know more about are the literary cycle, point of view, and theme as it applies to their own writings. One of the year long assignments in this class is to pick a character and to continue writing their story as if the student was them, so in that vein, they need to be aware of their own hero characteristics or be willing to look inside themselves for that in context.

The Lesson Teaching Hero Characteristics in Writing and Literature is a life long study for students who are set apart from others due to excelling in the English Language Arts Area. The TED-ED video does a wonderful job of underlining the previous teachings in writing, and being able to identify the literary cycle in every story they digest. Seeing the students realize that they can be a hero is the greatest gift, and to understand how a ordinary person becomes a hero in literature, movies, and in life is essential to critical thinking later and in other subjects. They would be able to look at their literary selections and pick out the timeline and isolate specific areas, but also apply these techniques to their own stories. The video is essential in taking a subject that by lecture alone they could not fully appreciate and changing it into an interesting and relatable topic, which would engage and immerse the students in the literature they are currently reading and the writing which they will continue.

The Standards This Lesson Meets
This lesson meets the standards for Grade 8 ELA students, which states ” Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works such as the Bible, including describing how the material is rendered new” (Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, 37). Because the lesson includes modern fiction of the students choosing, and the recall of myths and traditional stories, as well as asks them to identify the hero in the story, and how they can make it new, it meets all the standards given.

It also meets the standard, as stated ” write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and short time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences”(Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, 44) . While the students would have a year long writing assignment that integrates their own ideas and storytelling abilities, it also allows for burst sessions, in class, to further reflect on the reading and information presented as it pertains to their year long project, which also meets the standard of “write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well structured event sequences” (Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, 43) Further information on this standard are as follows:

” a. Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically”
b. Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, pacing,description, and reflection, to develop experiences, events and/or characters
c. Use a variety of transition words, phrases, and clauses to convey sequence, signal shifts from one time frame or setting to another, and show the relationships among experiences and events.
d. Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events
e. Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on the narrated experiences or events” (Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, 43)

The Media or Technology I am Integrating
I am using a lesson found on TED-ED titled  What Makes a Hero by Matthew Winkler.  TED-ED is an interactive and easily navigated site that allows educators to customize and challenge their students to deeper understandings of the subject matter.  For this particular lesson, questions and links to other research is provided, requiring the students to invest in the video, and hopefully helping them to apply it to their current readings.  Because TED-ED is internet based, it is available to the students at home, where they can view the information via a link provided by the teacher, and be ready to dig deep when attending subsequent classes, as well as allowing significant time for blast session writing without editing.

The Rationale for Integrating the Media or Technology in this Lesson

In 8th Grade Language Arts, students struggle to remain integrated in the ideas under the writing, especially when the reading is less than interesting.  One way to illustrate the idea of literary ideas including the shaping of a hero is to show them an animated, amusing, and carefully crafted media representation of the topic.  In this particular 8th Grade ELA AIG classroom, this viewing would be seen at home, allowing that students would come in with a knowledge base of the 12 steps of a hero, what the monomyth is, and how it applies to current society, reading, and their own stories.  According to Rubenstein, one of the great aspects of TED-ED is the ability to “Flip”, or the idea that “traditional in-class and homework activities should be flipped, wherein content is introduced outside of class, allowing for deeper and meaningful explorations of the content to occur in class” (Rubenstein,262).

Another strong point of using the Technology in the classroom is that it promotes creativity and risk taking (Robinson, 266).  As most children at this age are technology savvy and able to create on their own YouTube videos, the use of something that is in their pervue, their age as it were, will encourage and hopefully inspire them to step out of the box with future endeavors and embrace their creative nature.  Some would argue this is critical because “schools educate students out of their creativity” (Robinson, 266).

The Integration of the Media or Technology Into the Lesson

So this is really a paragraph on how the ideas presented above would play out in a live classroom.  That has to go back a little to the choice and assignment of reading materials made at the beginning of this quarter, and the additional writing assignment given at the beginning of the year.  Once the reading is completed in a timely manner determined by the educator, the assignment would be made to view the previously mentioned TED-ED video and answer the associated questions.  Once this was done, the next day in class, the information provided by the video would be used to discuss each student’s views of their literary “hero”, as well as how they answered the discussion question with the presentation, of how to turn the antagonist into a hero.  This would show the ability to apply deeper meaning to the ideas presented in the video.  Following this discussion time, over the next several days, there would be burst sessions of writing in their own stories, as well as opportunities to work creatively on media projects themselves, whether it is art, poetry, music, or other ideas that help to express what a hero is to them.  Finally to end the chapter on heroes, the educator would ask the students to villify a known hero, and then apply that concept to current world issues.

My Evaluation of the Media or Technology Integration

I love the idea of bringing new life to the staid old topics every student dreads learning about.  While a student may love reading or writing, or both, most are usually asleep mentally during discussions of literary properties.  The ideas presented in the TED-ED lessons are creative and eye catching, as well as entertaining.  Teachers would need to make sure they are choosing selections that are going to engage their students, as well as lead to further discussion and critical thinking.  The goal of the educator is to prepare their students for life after school, whether that is high school or college.  By exposing them to technology and integrating it into the lesson plan, but not depending on it to provide the lesson, it gives the students the room to take risks, “teachers can promote the development of critical thinking skills by using television and video materials as texts to be interrogated and analyzed” (Hobbs, 36).  These are skills that students will need to achieve their greatest potential in the upcoming world.



Hobbs, R. (2006, March). Non-Optimal uses of video in the classroom. Learning, Media, and Technology, 31(1), 35-50. doi:10.1080/17439880500515457
Rubenstein, Lisa Davia. “Using TED Talks to Inspire Thoughtful Practice.” The Teacher Educator 47 (2012): 261-67. Web. 6 July 2016.
What Makes a Hero. Dir. Gerta Xhelo and Kirill Yeretsky. What Makes A Hero. TED-ED, n.d. Web. 6 July 2016.

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