From zero to hero – seven superhero classroom activities!
by Matt Parks
The topic of superheroes is a popular one for many students around the world, engaging adults and young learners alike. The following activities can be used as stand-alone tasks to provide students with fluency work or to activate a particular language point. If you think superheroes aren’t of particular interest to your students then many of the following tasks could be adapted by replacing the idea of a superhero with a famous person.
Ask students to write down their favourite colour, something they can’t do that they would like to be able to do, the name of their first pet and something they are afraid of. Then tell the students that they need to include this information to create their own superhero. It’s worth giving students a template in which they can draw their new superhero and either make notes or write a full description on the following points: their superhero name, what they fight against, their costume, their special ability and their weakness. One way to round off this task is to collect in the newly-designed superheroes, redistribute them and then put the students into groups and get them to try and guess the real identity of the superhero by guessing which students drew them.
This task works well as a follow on from when they have drawn themselves as a superhero. Draw a scene on the white-board in which someone needs rescuing. The scene I normally draw (a basic stick drawing works fine) is of someone who is being held hostage in an underground basement in a solid steel cell, which is being guarded by a dragon. Above ground there are two tanks and lots of armed guards. Then put the students into groups and tell them to come up with a rescue plan with the stipulation that every student has to contribute to the rescue. Once the students have made notes on the rescue, get them to present their rescue to the other groups. It’s useful to encourage the students who are listening to try and pick holes in the rescue plan that is being presented. Get feedback on which plan the students felt was the most foolproof.
Possible language points: first conditional, language to make suggestions.
Tell the students that being a superhero is expensive and with the recession their superheroes need to find employment. Then present the students with a range of jobs and get them to decide on which superhero would be best suited to the job and why. The jobs that I find that tend to work well are a teacher, a babysitter, a librarian, a chef, a cleaner, a bus driver, a waiter and a shop assistant. Then put the students into groups of, say, 6 and give them 5 jobs (so there aren’t enough jobs for everyone). Encourage students to debate who should be employed in which job, which will encourage a lot of discussion as students try not to leave their superhero out of work.
Possible language points: ‘can’ for ability, language to state preferences.
Tell students that they are going to read an article about a superhero. Get the students to brainstorm the questions they expect have been asked, such as What’s your real name? What do you like about being a superhero? How did you get your powers? etc. Also encourage the students to be creative and think about less obvious questions such as What’s your favourite colour? What do you generally have for breakfast? etc. Then tell the students that they are not going to read the interview and instead they are going to conduct the interview. Set up a role play where half the students are journalists and have to interview the other half of the class who take on the role of their favourite superhero.
Possible language points: ‘wh-‘ questions, a range of present and past tenses.
Get the students to choose a superhero and tell them that they are now retired and that their life of crime-fighting is over. Get the students to make notes on what they used to do (crime fighting, saving the world etc.) and also what they do now. Encourage the students to think about how they spend their time now. Set up the context of a reunion and get the students to mingle meeting each other and talking about their lives. For feedback get the students to try and decide whose life has changed the most.
Possible language points: used to, present perfect simple/continuous.
Once the students have chosen a superhero tell them that you have found a missing page from their superhero’s diary. Get the students to think what a typical day is for their superhero. Then get the students to write a diary entry for their superhero. Encourage the students to be creative and get them to think about not only exciting crime-fighting events but also more mundane things, such as what they had for breakfast, what they went to the shops to buy etc. Once the students have finished post them on the wall and get the rest of the students to read them and see if they can either guess which superhero’s diary the page came out of or who had the most interesting/ unusual day etc.
Possible language points: present simple
Get the students to write the name of an unusual country, a famous person, a scary animal, an unusual form of transport and the name of a student in the class. Then get the students to quickly draw their favourite superhero and then to give them a scar anywhere on their superhero’s body. Then tell the students that they have to come up with the back-story about how they got that scar and within their story they have to include the five pieces of information. Once the students have written their story get them to share them and have the students vote on which story is the most unbelievable.
Possible language points: past continuous/simple.
I am not too sure where I have got these ideas, but I am pretty sure a lot of thanks go to colleagues of Oxford House College in London, particularly Makkie Wightman, Jason Anderson and Soraya Pittiglio. Also thanks go to my colleagues in International House Bangkok.
Author’s Bio: Matt Parks is a CELTA teacher trainer at International House Bangkok, where he has been for nearly 5 years. He also has teaching experience in London, Jakarta and Istanbul. Currently, he is attempting to enter the digital world as well as hoping ‘flowery-shirt Friday’ catches on in other schools apart from IH Bangkok. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org