My gifted 2nd graders study the theme, “Structures,” and begin the year with animal structures. I recently saw this fabulous article on Edutopia, “Superhero Science” by Autumn Ware, that inspired me to leverage student interest in superheroes as a route for researching interesting animals. Experience has taught me that scaffolding is particularly important with these younger students, who have limited exposure to research skills. So, we started by doing some research together on Jeffrey, the tarantula we have on loan for two weeks.
The students made Thinglinks with their research. Then we discussed some of Jeffrey’s amazing abilities – throwing barbed hairs at predators, re-growing limbs, using multiple eyes, etc… I asked them to pretend they had one or more of Jeffrey’s abilities, and to think about how they could use it to help people. They wrote short stories about their imagined adventures.
Yesterday, while I conferenced with each child about his or her story, the other students worked on their iPads to make themselves into bona fide superheroes. First, they used the free app, “Superhero Yourself” to take their pictures and add masks, capes, and other accessories. They saved their pictures. Then they opened the “Comic Book” app (which we had fortunately downloaded during a limited time period that it was free). They imported their superhero pictures to a one-panel layout, added the comic effect (from the FX in the top right), a title, and word balloons if they wanted.
Each student seemed very proud of his or her results. The only glitch in this process was that the free “Superhero Yourself” app saved their pictures with ads at the top and bottom. But those were easy to crop out once they were saved to the camera roll.
Now the kids have some tools for presenting their information when they research the animals of their choice. And, now that their imagination has been jumpstarted, they can bypass the iPad completely if they want – drawing themselves as amazing superheroes that only they can create.
Summer Superheroes is a “Parent & After School Resource” on ReadWriteThink. It offers an interesting twist to the concept of creating your own superhero by challenging the author to invent a superhero whose powers are somehow dependent on the warmest season of the year. The detailed instructions for motivating the child and for helping him or her to develop the story include interactive resources on the ReadWriteThink site. This would be a fun idea to share with parents, or to use in the last month of school – when everyone’s mind is on summer anyway!