Heroes Here and There

6, 7, 8

To introduce the concept of the common good, and to explore the characteristics of everyday heroes who work for the common good.

Lesson Rating 
Two Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

    • list at least five characteristics and actions of historic and modern heroes.
    • define and give examples of the common good.
    • identify characteristics and actions of everyday people who are making a difference for the common good.
    • contrast the characteristics and actions of the “media image” of a hero with that of an everyday hero for the common good.

  • Two sheets of chart paper per small group (of four)
  • Storyboarding Group Process (Handout One)
  • Large chart paper with blank Venn diagram drawn on it
  • Self stick notes
  • Markers for each group plus teacher
  • Student copies of Everyday Heroes for the Common Good (Handout Two) Spanish version (Handout Three)
  • Giraffe Hero Stories (see Web site)
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:See Everyday Heroes for the Common Good (Attachment Two).


  • Blueprints CD-ROM, Group Process 20: Storyboarding. North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1999. 1-800-356-2735, www.ncrel.org.

  • Every Day Heroes. A story a weekday about people who are sticking their necks out to take on the challenges of our time. The Giraffe Project, PO Box 759, Langley, WA 98260. 360-221-7989, office@giraffe.org.

  • The Giraffe Program: Character Education and Service Learning <http://www.giraffe.org>

  • The Giraffe Project, PO Box 759, Langley, WA 98260. 360-221-7989, office@giraffe.org

  • Lewis, Barbara. Kids with Courage: True Stories about Young People Making a Difference. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, 1992. ISBN: 0915793393


  1. Anticipatory Set:Prompt students to think about persons in history who can be considered to be heroes. Draw a T-chart on the chalkboard or chart paper. Put the names of the heroes/heroines on the left side of the chart. On the opposite side have students list the action or characteristics of the hero/heroine.

  2. Now prompt the students to think about persons who are “media heroes” or famous heroes in the news. Have students work in cooperative groups of four to record names of “famous heroes in the news” on chart paper with markers. Each student should contribute two names.

  3. The teacher should model the next step: Select one of the heroes from a group’s list. Without letting the class know who it is, pantomime that person doing a heroic act. Let the class try to guess who the “media hero” is. In discussion, draw out actions and characteristics of that hero as they guess (e.g., courageous, leader, rich, powerful, makes speeches, sings, performs, plays basketball, wins, touchdowns, etc.).
  4. Next, in cooperative groups, have students take turns acting out one of the famous heroes from their group’s list by doing pantomimes of that individual doing a heroic act. In small groups guess the hero. The teacher should encourage small group discussion of characteristics and actions taken.
  5. Using Storyboarding Group Process (Attachment One) have the small groups list those words that describe the character traits and actions of the media heroes from their list on to self stick notes. Each person should contribute at least five self stick notes, with one word or concept on each. On the bottom half of the chart paper, groups should arrange words into categories and label them.
  6. Write the term common good on the board or chart paper. Define it as “the wealth shared by the whole group of people.” Discuss the meaning of the term. Ask for examples of the kinds of “wealth” that the common good might entail. Begin a guided discussion with the following questions:
    • Do these media heroes contribute to the common good? If so, how?
    • What about the heroes of our community? Do they work for the common good?

    Explain that in this unit, the class will learn the stories of everyday local heroes who work for the common good.

  7. Challenge each small group to develop a simple definition of common good. Share group results. Write the following statement on the board or chart paper, “The common good requires that citizens have the commitment and motivation to work together with other members for the greater benefit of all.” Discuss.
  8. Using both student and teacher-provided definitions, come to consensus on a working definition of common good. Each student should copy the working definition on to Everyday Heroes for the Common Good (Attachment Two).
  9. Explain: “We know who the media heroes are, but who are the everyday heroes who work for the common good?” Direct students to the computer lab or media center to select an everyday hero of the common good from the Web site: http://www.giraffe.org. Click on “Heroes.” In cooperative groups, each student should read a one-page story about a different hero. Students should briefly re-tell their stories to the rest of their group.
  10. Students should repeat the storyboarding group process, but this time, listing the characteristics and actions of their “everyday heroes” (e.g. motivated, committed, courageous, risk-taking, caring, generous). Have a few groups report their storyboards.
  11. Through guided discussion build a working list of characteristics and actions of everyday heroes who work for the common good. Students should enter these on their worksheets.
  12. After groups briefly review their two storyboards and compare the characteristics and actions of famous versus everyday heroes, draw a Venn Diagram on large chart paper and have the whole group compare and contrast the two types of heroes:

    Characteristics and Actions of

  13. (See Parent/Home Connection.) Ask students: “Who are the everyday heroes committed to the common good in our community? Tonight, ask your parents or guardians to identify three everyday heroes in our community, and describe how they’re taking action for the common good. Make sure to share with them our working definition of the common good and the characteristics and actions of heroes.” (This is also written into Attachment Two.)

Teacher observation of student participation in small and whole group discussions.
Successful completion of homework.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.

Academic Standards

Select categories to search for standards.

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