Mensa for Kids – I need a Super Hero Unit

I Need a Superhero

Download the PDF version of this lesson plan.


Hereos pin

The idea of the hero is something that even very small children understand at some level. Many perennially favorite picture books feature heroic characters (such as Max in Where the Wild Things Are — a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey). As children grow, their exposure to different manifestations of the hero broadens. They encounter heroes in television, movies, books, magazines and music, and on the pages of their local newspapers.

The heroic archetype features prominently in literary analysis at the high school level. A clear understanding of, and the ability to manipulate and apply, this idea is critical to any approach to world literature for the high school student. Unlike most of the Mensa Foundation’s lesson plans, this one includes the reading of a long novel as its culminating assignment.

This lesson plan was designed to tie into the Mensa Hero Bracket Challenge that began in the October 2010 issue of the Mensa Bulletin, with the results announced in the March 2011 issue. It is not necessary to read the article, however, for students to benefit from the lesson plan. If you are a member of Mensa, you (or your students) may read about the Hero Bracket Challenge in the October 2010 issue.

Guiding Questions

  • What makes a hero?
  • Where do we find heroes?
  • How are heroes in books different from heroes in real life?
  • What is the journey of the hero and how does the archetype manifest itself?

Learning Objectives
After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to:

  • Explain what makes a hero and the elements of the heroic journey.
  • Recognize heroic figures in multiple media.
  • Analyze a literary work for the heroic archetype.
  • Analyze a piece of literature for elements of the hero and the heroic journey.
  • Write an essay comparing and contrasting heroes in two works.


  • Ensure Internet access to look up relevant sites.
  • Get a copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
  • Print out copies of this plan as needed.

Growing use of contract faculty in Ontario traps many in precarious work, threatens quality of higher education

As an Occasional Teacher, this is an issue I can relate to. It’s hard enough trying to get a contract as a full-time teacher, but imagine having to compete with lower quality and cheaper “teachers” for these few jobs? How many of us could afford to be OTs forever?

“Improving the working conditions of contract faculty is about improving the learning experience for students across the province,” said Lawson. “It’s also about social justice and fairness for every academic employee.” 

Please read:

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) launched a campaign this morning to address the issue of increased reliance on contract faculty in Ontario’s universities. This was done in solidarity with the American contract faculty walkout.

As you likely know, this isn’t an issue that’s only occurring south of the border. The CBC estimates that over half of Canadian university courses are taught by contract faculty. These professors don’t have access to the same job security, pay and benefits as their tenured colleagues despite doing the same work. The quality of Ontario’s postsecondary education system is threatened by the poor working conditions of contract faculty.

You can find the campaign here:

And here’s the full press release:

Stop Motion App for creating videos

NFB StopMo Studio: A new Challenge for Creativity


This is a guest post written by educator Paul Carrière, plastic arts teacher, elementary level, FACE School, CSDM. All photographs were taken by grade 3 students in Paul’s class with an iPad.

Like its predecessor PixStop, the NFB’s new app for iPad, NFB StopMo Studio, is a great, inexpensive tool that makes it easy to produce frame-by-frame animated films. StopMo Studio offers a wide range of features and very gently hints that we, teachers may need to go back to the drawing board. It has been my experience that an app of the calibre ofStopMo Studio can get students’ creative juices flowing and even inspire teachers to review their teaching strategies. Students who are used to lecture-style explanations on a video projector or the blackboard are more receptive and engaged when I teach them using an iPad.

Check out the article for more information. We are creating Public Service Announcements right now and producing videos and some students are using this app!



Film Study: Symbolism

Symbolism: Something used for representing something else. Symbols work like images that have meaning added to them. Colours can represent a moods. A rose is just a flower, until it is one of a bunch given as a present. Then it signifies love – passionate if the rose is red, chaste if it is white.


  • Evil: Fire, black, crow, storm
  • Death or endings: Gravestones, cemeteries, grim reaper, day of the dead, skulls, candle blowing out, coffins, ringing of the bell, cross bones
  • Love:  cupid, harp, heart, rose, red

Film Study: Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is a literary device in which an author hints certain plot developments that perhaps will come to be later in the story.  It can be very broad and easily understood, or it may be complex use of symbols that are then connected to later turns in the plot.

Foreshadowing often appears at the beginning of a story and contains clues about what is to come:

  • Keep an eye out for signs of potential conflict between characters.
  • Look for signals that things might not be what the initially seem.
  • Pay close attention to any details that seem unusual or have particular emotional significance.

A hint that is designed to mislead the audience is referred to as a red herring. This is particularly the case with mystery writers, who want to bury clues to a mystery in information that is partially true and partially false.

Film Study: Irony


  • The opposite of what is originally thought or expected occurs, and is characterized by an incongruity, or contrast, between reality (what is) and appearance (what seems to be).

Verbal Irony is an incongruity between what is said and what is meant.

  • The discordance of verbal irony may be deliberately created as a means of communication (as in art or rhetoric).
    • as soft as concrete
    • as clear as mud
    • as pleasant as a root canal
    • “as pleasant and relaxed as a coiled rattlesnake” (Kurt Vonnegut from Breakfast of Champions)

Dramatic Irony is an incongruity between what a character in a work of fiction believes to be true and what the audience knows to be true.

  • Dramatic irony communicated the importance of a particular truth by portraying a person who is strikingly unaware of it, emphasizing a perceived truth.

Situational Irony is an “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal, [intended], or expected result.”

  • Descriptions or depictions of situational irony, whether in fiction or in non-fiction, serve the communicative function of sharpening or highlighting certain discordant features of reality.


  • Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father.
  • The Titanic (the unsinkable ship) sinks.
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Cup.
  • The police station gets robbed.
  • The fire station catches on fire and burns down.
  • It snows in the moths of June in Kitchener.
  • A lawyer is honest and will not charge a lot of money.