Heroes don’t always wear capes or use superpowers. Often, ordinary people become heroes when an extraordinary situation demands extraordinary action.

We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from AramcoWorld, by teachers and students at any level. 

—the editors

The lessons that follow include an introduction, a statement of goals—what students should be able to do by the time they finish—and step-by-step instructions for the activities. Each also includes a link to Common Core standards that the lesson meets. We hope this format will make it easier than ever to use AramcoWorld for your educational goals. Let me know! Send me your comments at [email protected]

—Julie Weiss

“Saving Sarajevo’s Literary Legacy”  

Heroes don’t always wear capes or use superpowers. Often, ordinary people become heroes when an extraordinary situation demands extraordinary action. In this lesson, you’ll get a chance to explore what makes a hero, to apply those criteria to some individuals you’ll read about, and to tell their story in a format that you choose. By the time you finish this lesson, you will be able to:

  • define a hero
  • identify heroic individuals
  • tell a hero’s story in a form of your choice

1. What makes someone a hero? 

This lesson is about two topics: One is Sarajevo’s intellectual, cultural, and religious artifacts. The other is heroism. Let’s start with the second one, heroism. Hero is a word that gets used fairly often (although probably not as often as superhero); but it’s rarely defined. Now is your chance to define it. What do you think a hero is? Brainstorm with your classmates, calling out what comes to mind as you think of the word. Have someone make and display a list of what you say (for example, on chart paper, a smartboard, or black or whiteboard). Here are a few ideas to get you started. You might call out any of the following: 

  • the names of real people or fictional characters that you think of as heroes, 
  • actions that heroes do
  • traits that you associate with heroes,
  • events that lead people to heroic action,
  • and anything else that seems appropriate.

 After the brainstorming session, take some time to think about the class’s ideas. As a class, use the brainstormed list to write a short definition of hero. Don’t use a dictionary. Instead, create a fuller, more textured definition than a dictionary can provide—one that might include examples of heroes and descriptions of situations that gave rise to heroism. Now, armed with a definition of hero…

2. Read Saving Sarajevo’s Literary Legacy.” 

You’ll notice that the article is made up of two stories, one from the distant past and one from the recent past. The two are connected, of course, and overlap some in the article, but there is a noticeable split where the article shifts from one story to the other. As you read the article the first time, find that place and draw a line to mark it. You can then go back and read each part separately as you search for heroes. 

3. Who is a hero?

After you have read the article, identify anyone in it that you think might be a hero. Based on your class’s definition of hero, highlight the parts of the article that show that that person is heroic. What makes you think of him or her as heroic? Think about beliefs they hold, actions they take, motivations that inspire those actions, and risks involved in what they do. Write a paragraph that explains why the person you chose is a hero. When you’re done, trade paragraphs with another student and read each other’s. Discuss how they are similar and different, and revise your paragraph if you think doing so will improve it.

4. Telling a Hero’s Story

Now, think about heroes’ stories that you have read or seen. Chances are that their stories were told in a different style than this article. You might have read stories in comics or seen movies, video clips, or television shows about them. Focus on the hero you identified in the article, and tell that person’s story using one of the formats you’ve seen. 

In order to so, choose an example of the format you want to use that can serve as a model. Say, for example, that you want to make a short video. Find one such video that tells a hero’s story. How did the person who made the video tell the story? Watch the video enough times to see beyond the content and into the structure. For example, many stories have near the beginning, “…what she did next will bring tears to your eyes.” Do you want to start your video that way? Where do you go next? How will you tell the story—in words and images if you’re making a video or comic, or just in words if you’re writing your story? Make a storyboard or outline of your hero’s story. Use it to create your final product, a hero’s story. Share your stories with each other. 


Common Core Standards met in this lesson:

W.9-10.3  Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

RI.9-10.7 Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.