Using Superheroes in Class

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Some years ago, acclaimed director Steven Spielberg said he thought the superhero film genre would die out. Much has been said about the possible downfall of this movie genre. However, Captain Marvel is already a massive box office hit and all the hype revolving around the release of upcoming Avengers: Endgame has got people really eager to see what the future holds for Marvel’s superheroes.

It’s undeniable that the superheroes fad is far from over. So why not take advantage of this fun and diverse universe and include activities that might provide younger (and maybe older) students with fun moments in class?

Below you will find some ideas for activities which involve superheroes and which I have already used in some of my classes. They are categorised by level, but you can adapt them and make sure they meet your needs and fit your context or group format.

  • Beginner/Elementary (A1 / A2)

As at this level students usually learn more basic language or isolated words, we have plenty of opportunities to work with vocabulary.

It is possible to deal with the simplest words, such as colours: “what colour are their uniforms and capes?”

Other ideas include teaching opposite adjectives (weak x strong; fast x slow; tall x short, etc) or appearance. And still on the adjectives subject, one of my favourite things to teach with superheroes in context is comparative or superlative adjectives. This not only makes sense to teenagers, but also speaks to their reality since it’s something they talk about amongst their friends.

You can also teach and contextualise grammar topics. A perfect one is can/can’t and their uses to talk about abilities. Use examples with superheroes and grab tweens’ attention successfully!

  • Pre-Intermediate/Intermediate (B1 / B2)

Here is when we should enrichen the topic and give students more chances to speak their minds about superheroes. They can exchange views on the films they have/haven’t watched and maybe even predict what is yet to come in films that haven’t been released.

Some activities ideas are:

Predict the next scene

Teacher shows a video (it could be a cartoon, which is easily found on YouTube) and pauses it. Then students have to predict what happens next using will, may or might.

Act it out

I ‘ve always found really difficult to come up with freer practice when teaching adverbs of manner. If you like to take risks and think your students might enjoy this kind of activity, why not try to role play a superhero battle?

It could work like this: In small groups, students write some sort of script with sentences including adverbs of manner, i.e. Captain America shouted angrily. Iron man quickly moved. The other group has to act out (correctly) what is on the script. This could also work as a written practice if you feel like role-playing isn’t your students’ cup of tea.

  • Advanced (C1 / C2)

It’s possible to discuss pretty much anything with advanced level students and it couldn’t be different with superheroes. Nowadays you can tackle many relevant topics such as sexism and gender equality (why are there more male superheroes than female superheroes?), representation, politics, among others. So, use your imagination and organize speaking activities to engage your students and get them actually wanting to talk.

Conditionals

Have students practice mixed conditionals under varied contexts, such as hypothesising about the future or regretting past actions. You can show them a scene and later ask their opinions. For instance: What would you have done if you were character “X”? And how would character “y” react?

This could be helpful to use in a controlled speaking practice so you can correct students’ mistakes on the spot.

I am sure you have got the power to create memorable moments for you and your students! I hope these simple ideas help you and if you feel like you need a helping hand, don’t hesitate to contact me at contato@henriquezamboni.com.br

Thanks for reading!

Henrique Zamboni has been in the ELT field for almost 10 years, having worked for different language schools as an English teacher and teacher trainer. He holds the CPE, the CELTA, a degree in Letras and a degree in Marketing. He is currently teaching teens and adults.

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