Back to Lessons

What Makes a Hero

Suggested Level

Suggested Applications

Middle and High School History, Language Arts

Students will:
compare and contrast the terms hero and idol.
identify the characteristics of a hero.

Medal of Honor Focus: Sammy Davis, Private First Class, U.S. Army, Battery C, 2nd Battalion,
   4th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division / Vietnam War

Introductory Activity:

Students will create two columns on a piece of paper and label them hero and idol. The teacher will write
the students’ heroes on the board as they share them with the class. Afterwards, the class will discuss
what makes a “true” hero. The students will write that a hero is a person who exhibits bravery, courage, and
may be willing to put his or her life on the line for others. The students will write down the characteristics
of an idol, which may include someone who is adored and admired for celebrity or fame.

Whole Group Activity:
Students will view the vignette featuring Sammy Davis and take notes on what they think makes him a “true hero.”

Small Group/Individual Activity:
Students will form groups of four and discuss if the person they originally chose as a hero truly fits the category.
The groups will decide if they need to identify a new person as a hero based on what they learned. Students will
continue to work in their small groups and write more characteristics for each column of the original paper/comparison

Concluding Activity:
Students will share their comments and analysis regarding the characteristics of Sammy Davis and his heroism.
Students will discuss whether they changed their vision of their hero or not. Individually, students will write a reflection
about Sammy Davis as an example of a hero and the lists made at the beginning of the class of heroes and idols.

Charts, paragraph that explains how the chosen hero fits the definition as discussed in class, reflection

Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. NY: Artisan, 2006. (a website created through the collaboration of the International Reading Association, the National
Council of Teachers of English,, and Verizon)

In Their Own Words - Sammy Davis

Portrait of Valor