3 Super hero ideas to engage your students

superhero english activities

As teachers we sometimes struggle to find the right materials and activities to engage young learners and teenagers. If you can tap into the imagination of your students, however, you can captivate their attention and take advantage of numerous learning opportunities.

We covered Pearson’s new series of Marvel super hero-centered readers in a recent post, How to motivate reluctant readers, and showed how they can be inspiring teaching resources.

Now we’re going to take a look at how else you can use the exciting world of super heroes in the classroom as a follow up to these reading activities.

Each activity is linked to learning objectives from the Pearson Global Scale of English Toolkit – a free resource which helps you plan useful and level appropriate classes for your students.

The level is also displayed using the Global Scale of English (GSE) and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

1. The super hero hot seat

GSE Can Do statements:

  • Can write correctly structured questions with question marks. GSE 35 (A2)
  • Can ask someone simple questions about their life and experiences. GSE 36 (A2+)

This is a fun group activity and works well as a follow up to a quiet reading session. The objective is to practice question formation, listening comprehension, and speaking.

Preparation is light, you will only need to write the names of various super heroes, super villains and famous characters on separate slips of paper. You will need at least one name for each student in a group. Once you have them all put them in separate envelopes prior to the class.

If you are using any of the Pearson Readers Marvel Series, such as The Avengers, you can take the characters straight from the Who’s Who pages found in the books (see image below).

First, take five minutes to review some language related to super heroes with a quick whole class mind-mapping activity.

Write Superpowers on the board and have each student call out their super hero’s physical descriptions and clothing, favorite abilities (e.g. ability to fly, invisibility, super strength, x-ray vision, etc.). Note down any other relevant vocabulary.

Next, take three minutes to review closed question formation with the students using some of the vocabulary you have written on the board. More complex questions can be used for higher level classes:

  • Can you fly?
  • Are you strong?
  • Do you wear a cape?
  • Have you got any enemies?

Then demonstrate the game to students. Tell them that you are a secret super hero, but you cannot tell them who you are. You will answer yes or no questions.

For the purposes of the demonstration, you will be Thor.

Point to the questions on the board to elicit questions from the group. Only answer Yes or No, If students can guess your identity in 20 questions, they win. If they cannot, you win.

Once students have got the hang of the game, put them in pairs and have them write 10 questions each.

Monitor and review students as they do this and write any corrections on the board to benefit the whole class.

Finally put pairs together to form groups of four. Have students take it in turns to select super hero names from the bag and answer the questions. Students who correctly guess the characters win a point. If they can’t guess and student’s identity remains secret, they win the point.

If a student does not know the character they select they may choose another. Students are not allowed to make it up!

Depending on the size of your class, either put your students in groups of four or five students, or do the activity as a whole class.

This is a fairly controlled game that practices closed questions and listening comprehension. You can turn it into a more advanced activity with a follow up super hero interview.

Extension for more advanced groups

GSE Can Do statements:

  • Can answer questions about what they have done recently in some detail.   GSE 49 (B1)
  • Can talk about matters of personal information and interest in some detail.   GSE 51 (B1+)

Once the game is over, have students work in pairs to write open-ended interview questions about a super hero’s daily life. Allow about ten minutes for this. Monitor as students work and help with question formation and vocabulary. If necessary, take extra time to review common mistakes in open class.

Put pairs together and tell them to interview each other. Allow between three and five minutes per interview. Tell students they should note down the answers to the questions.

Note that students will have to be creative and invent their answers! When time is up tell students to switch to make sure every student gets a chance to interview and be interviewed.

As you monitor, write good examples of phrases and vocabulary on the board for other students to use.

2. A super hero news story

GSE Can Do Statements

  • Can write a single basic sentence about daily routines and activities. GSE 28 (A1)
  • Can describe someone’s physical appearance in a basic way, if guided by questions or prompts. GSE 29 (A1)
  • Can create a new version of a familiar story by changing some details, if supported by prompts. GSE 49 (B1)  

This writing activity works well as a follow up to the super hero hot seat. The objective is to practice writing and reinforce vocabulary relating to abilities, physical descriptions and daily routines.

Tell students that they are going to write a newspaper interview using their notes from the interview activity. They must choose one of the characters they interviewed (they should not use their own character).

Tell them to use this structure and answer the following questions:

  • Headline
  • Who is the super hero and where is he or she from?
  • What is his or her super power(s)?
  • Where does he or she live?
  • Other information from the interview

Allow students 15 to 20 minutes to write their news story. If time allows, let students read their reports aloud in class. Note down good use of language and correct any errors in class at the end of the activity.

Extension activity

Younger students may enjoy illustrating the story and labeling the super heroes clothing and superpowers.

As a stand-alone activity

If you wish to do this as a stand-alone activity, have students use the resources in the Marvel Reader series to research their characters.

3. Saving the world with a super hero comic strip

GSE Can Do Statements

  • Can write short, basic descriptions of everyday activities, given prompts or a model. GSE 35 (A2)
  • Can describe the plot of a film or book very briefly, using simple language. GSE 46 (B1)

In this activity for young learners, students create a comic strip in order to practice writing simple sentences and to reinforce vocabulary.

First, draw a simple globe on the board and tell students that super heroes sometimes work together to save the world.

Ask students what super heroes might need to save the world from and elicit answers for two or three minutes. If they struggle to think of examples, draw the following on the board to prompt them:

  • Aliens
  • A meteor
  • Super villains

Next put students in pairs or groups of three. Tell them to choose a super hero identity for themselves (for example, Capital America, Thor, etc.) and explain that they are super hero friends and it is their job to save the world from one of the problems on the board.

Distribute plain paper to each person. Ask them to draw a grid with six to eight boxes to start their cartoon strip.

Students should create a short original story, featuring their characters working together to save the world. Allow 25 minutes for this.

Using vocabulary from the Word List pages in the Marvel Readers, students should use simple language to convey the story in speech bubbles. More advanced groups can support the work by writing full sentences to explain each section of the story.

Monitor carefully and help students with spelling and sentence construction.

Extension activity

Have each group read out their cartoon strip, making sure each student reads the part of their super hero character.

We’d love to hear how you used these activities in your own classes. Leave us a comment and let us know!

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