Heroes: Past and Present: 

The Contributions and Significance of Cultural Icons

Deborah Bjarnason
English Teacher

Blach Intermediate

Project Overview and Student Goals
Technology Integration and Suggestions
Activity Timeline, Project Sample, Bibliography
California 7th Grade Language Arts Standards
Rubric for Assessment
Student Collaboration
Biographical Information and Real World Application

Biographical Information and The Real World Application of this Project
I teach 7th grade English at Blach Intermediate in Los Altos, California. I developed this project in the hopes that my students would understand more about the literary motif of the hero by giving them real world examples of the ways that cultures have created "superheroes" or cultural icons. As students examine heroes in past and contemporary societies, they will come to a greater understanding of mankind's need to create cultural icons as well as what the roles and contributions of these icons are, once they have been created.

I am fortunate to be equipped with the funds and materials that I will need to complete this project. Many thanks to the Los Altos community for caring enough about education and their students to provide teachers and students with fully equipped computer labs and classroom computer resources.

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Project Overview and Student Goals:

In the past and present, cultures have created their own cultural icons. These "superheroes" reflect the society's values. Evaluating these cultural icons, students come to an understanding about the society's values. In this project, students will evaluate cultural icons in both ancient and contemporary societies. This project is created in conjunction with Bernard's Evslin's The Adventures of Ulysses, but it can be used with many other novels in which "superheroes" are studied. In this project, students will analyze the roles of superheroes in terms of cultural values, examine individual superheroes in terms of their personification of a societal values, and create a visual representation (a slide show) of different cultural icons and their contributions (both positive and negative) to their societies.  This project was designed for my 7th grade Language Arts classroom, with my entire population of 7th grade students, but it could be modified for use with high school language arts or junior high or high school social studies curricula.

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Related Standards:

From the California State Standards (http://www.cde.ca.gov/standards/reading/grade7.html):

3.0 Literary Response and Analysis
Students read and respond to historically or culturally significant works of literature that reflect and enhance their studies of history and social science. They clarify the ideas and connect them to other literary works.

3.4 Identify and analyze recurring themes across works (e.g., the value of bravery, loyalty, and friendship; the effects of loneliness).

    Students will fulfill these requirements as they read Evslin's The Adventures of Ulyssses,  analyze the character of Ulysses (the superhero), and learn to compare Ulysses with other superheroes, both from "real" life and from other literary works.

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Specific Objectives

A. Students will discuss cultural icons in class and bring pictures (from magazines or the internet) to class of cultural icons. Students will participate in a class discussion in which teacher and students discuss the following topics:

    1. What is a cultural icon? Who can you put in the blank of, "Everyone knows who ____________ is."?
    2. How are cultural icons created?
    3. How do cultural icons reflect the values of a society? Why was Rosie the Rivetter so popular during WWII? Why was Twiggy an icon of the 70's and not the 90's?
    4. The concept of culture will be discussed. A simplistic definition for this project is that culture is a system of rituals, language, religion, location, art, or symbols etc. that a group of people use to distinguish themselves, mark themselves apart, or work together. All people have culture be it religious, group affiliation, growing-up background, etc. Cultural icons are not just limited to popular culture. Cultures also create icons in the following:            There are other areas in which cultures create cultural icons, these are just a list of a few.  

5. Are cultural icons used for the benefit or detriment of a society? Can they be used in both positive and negative ways?

    B. After students have discussed cultural icons and their function in society, each student will choose two areas (see above list) in which to focus his or her research. Each student will then research (in class and out of class) these two icons.

    C. In groups of three, students will create a slide show presentation in which they present their research with a slide for every person researched. The slide show will ultimately contain at least six slides. Each slide needs to have the following:

1. A picture of the icon.
2. A one paragraph description of what the person did to be revered as an icon.
3. What societal values this icon represents.

Students may or may not choose to have an introductory slide to their slide show.

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Assessment Strategies
 (Rubric 906957 on Rubistar)

CATEGORY 4 points 3 points 2 points 1 point
Presentation Well-rehearsed with smooth delivery that holds audience attention. Rehearsed with fairly smooth delivery that holds audience attention most of the time. Delivery not smooth, but able to maintain interest of the audience most of the time. Delivery not smooth and audience attention often lost.
Content Covers topic in-depth with details and examples. Subject knowledge is excellent. Includes essential knowledge about the topic. Subject knowledge appears to be good. Includes essential information about the topic but there are 1-2 factual errors. Content is minimal OR there are several factual errors.
Mechanics No misspellings or grammatical errors. Three or fewer misspellings and/or mechanical errors. Four misspellings and/or grammatical errors. More than 4 errors in spelling or grammar.
Originality Product shows a large amount of original thought. Ideas are creative and inventive. Product shows some original thought. Work shows new ideas and insights. Uses other people's ideas (giving them credit), but there is little evidence of original thinking. Uses other people's ideas, but does not give them credit.
Requirements All requirements are met and exceeded. All requirements are met. One requirement was not completely met. More than one requirement was not completely met.

Students will each have the opportunity to have peers evaluate this project using the rubric before the teacher evaluates the project using the rubric.

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Technology Integration

Students will be required to use a multi-media visual presentation to demonstrate their understanding of the superheroes that they study. We will be using the Appleworks word processing and presentation programs. Students will also be using web-based clipart and images. Students may also opt to use animation clipart, and/or video and sound clips. To ensure the success of this project, students should already know the basics of the slide show presentation program. Students will be reminded to:

1. Save frequently.
2. Save in the right place. (We will have already done a lesson on where the students should be saving their work.)
3. Proofread.
4. Work together as a group to solve each other's problems and to answer each other's questions.
5. Follow the assignment and in-class instructions.

Helpful Suggestions for Teachers
What You Can Do So That The Kids Solve Their Own Problems.

1. If possible, coordinate with your principal to have a computer-experienced student come in to the computer lab as a temporary T.A. Look at current T.A. lists to see if you can "borrow" a T.A. for a few days, check out the study hall lists to see if any of the students there can be drafted to work with you, look at concurrent computer classes, and so on. If all else fails, beg. Having a T.A. in the computer lab who knows what he or she is doing is a great asset.

2. Have students use online or paper copies of Appleworks Presentation tutorials. (Click here for one example.)

3. To avoid the "I have a question" hand raising chaos that often ensues in computer lab work, bring plastic or paper cups to the computer lab. Distribute the cups (explaining that they are not projectiles or receptables).  Tell students to put the cup on top of the computer when they have a question and to sit quietly and work on other work while they are waiting.

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Student Collaboration

Students will be assigned groups randomly, with serious teacher consideration regarding technology experience and classroom behavior issues. Groups will be organized to encourage student success---but the old "smart kid with a 'dumb' kid" grouping will be sneered at and scorned.

Each student in the group will have a role:  technology specialist, proofreader or time keeper:

1. Technology specialist---this person will be the "expert" on how the slide show program works. This person will be the designated "question asker" in interfacing with me---either face to face or on-line. This person also advises on the visual presentation of this project.

2. Proofreader---this person makes sure that all text is grammatically correct and that all information and analysis is accurate.

3. Time Keeper---this person will log the time spent by each person on the following tasks:  computer programming, computer research, writing and editing text, etc.

In addition to their "jobs", students will each be expected to supply information for two slides.

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Project Activities and Timeline

Week One

a. Have class discussion on superheroes and cultural icons.
b. Students should bring pictures of societal superheroes to class.
c. Students will share their pictures with the class and discuss their contributions to society.

Week Two

a. Students will be organized into work groups (see Student Collaboration).
b. Students will choose two superheroes from different "topics" (see Specific Objectives). The teacher may decide that every slide needs to address a different topic. (Example:  Students should have a superhero for each of the following:  sports, religion, art, music, literature, pop culture.)
c. Students will research their superheroes out of class.
d. Students will come to class and write a very succinct paragraph about their person and his/her accomplishments.
e. Group members will help each other draft the paragraphs in which they address the societal values that the chosen person represents.
f. At home, students will find pictures of their people on the Internet. They will bring the addresses to class, as well as the addresses of any clipart that they will use in their slideshow. This will be a homework assignment.

Week Three

a. Teacher will review procedures again as to what student expectations are in the lab. Teacher will bring plastic cups to the lab to handle student questions (when the cup is on the computer, the student has a question).
b. Students have two to three days in the computer lab.
c. Students will present their slide shows in class. Parents and administrators will be invited to attend.

Week Four

a Students will respond to the following journal prompt:  How does our hero slide show project give you a greater understanding about the story of Ulysses?
b. Students will respond to metacognitive self-evaluation of their project---what went well and what could've gone better.

Sample Project

Intro page

Introduction Slide Sample

One the introduction slide, students should give a broad overview of the contents of their project, taking care to document any websources they used for pictures.

page 2

On all of the "superhero" slides, students should give some background about the person, tell about the icon's contribution to society, and use some higher-level thinking skills to analyze why this person has become an icon in their field of expertise. Every source should be referenced, from both pictures and text sources.

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 http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/print/235_poc.html Images of Valentino, Curie, and Churchill

http://www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?prmID=156 Image of Dickinson

http://www.msad54.k12.me.us/MSAD54Pages/SAMS/cedarsite/Lindbergh/slideshow.htm   Appleworks Presentation Tutorial

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