Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Letter to The Book Chook - Super Hero Help

Dear BookChook,

A young man in my Kindergarten class has a superhero fetish. As I'm looking for ways to motivate him to do SOMETHING- ANYTHING - I'm hoping to use the superhero powers to my benefit!!!  He has very poor fine motor skills, is generally lacking any interest/motivation, and rarely attempts anything. If you have any ideas let me know!

signed, A. Teacher

Dear A. Teacher,

It sounds to me as if this little guy has started school simply because he's reached a certain chronological age, not because he's actually ready for the sort of formal learning that governments are demanding of Kindergarten classes. But I will jump off my soap box and give you some ideas that might help him get involved in creating. He will obviously need a teacher aide or parent helper for most of these.

Online ideas:

Marvel's create your own superhero: Here he has to choose features, and a name, then you can print it the resulting hero out. He could even try making his own comic or comic book, perhaps with help from an older student. There are other activities, but they are not perfectly pitched at 5-year-olds. 

What I like about this British Council super hero maker is the text included. Kids will enjoy reading the super powers of heroes they've made; controls are fairly simple and intuitive. You could use these text snippets as a model, and see if he can come up with something very simple of his own. Plus there are related activities in the left sidebar, like a passage about Superman where kids must choose the missing word. And a great song about super heroes where kids can read/sing along to a little animated song.

Creaza has lots of different themes in its cartoon builder, one is future, but the hero doesn't have a cape.

Here's one of Eric Herman's songs for kids on YouTube, Steve the Superhero.

This Hero Machine is another superhero generator. There is seriously a lot of learning here if he would like to try it himself at home with mum, too - I just bet he can learn to manipulate the mouse and work out controls when the reward is great! And here is the classic version.

Hero Factory. Mostly, again, this is just about choosing body parts etc to generate a super hero of your own. Inherently motivating though.

Kaboose has a hero maker too - it won't work in my browser.

This Super Hero project sounds interesting, even if aimed at ESL more. You can check out projects by other kids, including a 5yr old.

There's a hero avatar here but it has really annoying ads.

Here's a creative SuperHero alphabet on Flickr, and some excellent Minimalist heroes from the same artist.
PBS Photo Factory

PBS Kids has some great games for kids. At SuperWhy, you can play Create a Super Dog, which is actually a simple word identification game rather than an art app, there are printables to colour featuring SuperWhy and the other characters from the PBS TV show, songs to sing and read along with, and videos. There are also lots of little games like Design Centre, that might work as a reward for drill and practise sessions, and you can practise reading sight words in Comic Book. Here's a cute one called Create Your Own Super Hero where kids "earn" items for their hero by making words. And finally, PBS also offers Photo Factory where kids can choose PBS characters, like SuperWhy, to add to their own photos. See my example just above.

Don't forget there are superhero-type capes among the equipment in avatar-maker, the Mini-Mizer. You'll see a project using this in Writing, just below.

Comic made with Comic Life 2 
Non-digital ideas:

Writing: Create a wanted poster for a Super Villain. List the powers of your own superhero. Create a super hero scene from toys, take photos or draw, and tell the story of one adventure your hero has. Make a comic about your superhero. Above you'll find a comic I made using Comic Life 2 for Mac. I simply took some screen grabs from MiniMizer play, wove a very short story in dialogue around them, and dragged each pic into a Comic Life 2 template. I used the invert feature to change the colour to blue for our poor frozen hero, exported the result as a pdf, remembered Blogger doesn't like pdfs, so took another screen grab of the result.

Reading: Compile your writing activities above into a simple book for your young hero to practise "reading". I know you'll have checked out your own school library for Superhero books, but don't forget the public library and its inter-library loan system may help. Look out for old comics at garage sales. He can invent stories about comics and cartoons even if he can't read them yet.

Single sounds: f- fly, p- power, s-uper, c- cape, b- boots, i-nvisible, v- villain etc. Or make up Super Hero names for sound of the week eg d = DragonBoy, m = MunchingMan, g = GreenGirl.

Word matching game: make some little tokens by printing out superhero insignias or avatars, or cutting toys from catalogues and gluing to card circles. Use these to match sight words, letters, sounds etc

Maths: Can he make a car for a super hero using a set number of blocks eg Lego, Duplo, Mobilo? What else can he make? Are there pattern blocks to copy/create SuperHero pictures with?

Science: How far can he make his super car go after it rolls down a ramp ? Try measurement using informal units.

Art/Craft: Design and dress a figurine eg Lego or puppet as a superhero.

Fine Motor skills: Find a toy catalogue with super hero figurines and practise cutting out simple shapes you've drawn around them.

Drama: Act out some simple stories you've created while doing the above activities. This helps to reinforce stories and gives kids an understanding of story elements.

PE: Give games like hide-and-go-seek, chasies and creep-ups a Super Hero flavour. Re-name equipment to things like "hoop of power", "freezing bean-bag" etc

A. Teacher, I hope something there might help. Your young Super Hero is so lucky to have a teacher who's trying to find a key to his being able to learn and enjoy himself at school!


Book Chook


  1. Dear A. Teacher,

    Try the book '101 Things to do to become a Superhero ... or Evil Genius'. It's packed full of activities and ideas and the book does't have to be read from start to finish - kids can go to whichever activity appeals at the time. My son loves it. If you want to check it out there is a review at my book blog Buzz Words Books.

  2. @Vicki StantonIt sounds wonderful! Thanks so much for your suggestion, Vicki.

  3. I use a great activity involving superheroes, not for 5 year olds but from year 3 up. I read the story of the Chinese Brothers (some versions have 5, 6 or 7 brothers). They all had “special gifts”. We discuss what these brothers would be called today – Superheroes. They then draw their own superhero – who they are and label what powers they have. They then explain their picture to the class. Fast finishers can write a story/comic involving their character. I have even extended this exercise by sending each student a letter saying they have been nominated for the “Superhero of the Year Award”. They need to send a letter to the nominating committee explaining why they should be chosen. You could even hold an awards ceremony.

  4. I have on my blog super hero printables might work for your little one. Blog: let me know your e-mail address and I will send you a couple sets free. Take care, Gwyn

  5. @GwynVery kind of you, Gwyn, thanks!

  6. Thanks for your comment on my superhero book post! These are some really fun suggestions, I'm glad you led me to them.

  7. @Erica MomandKiddoI'm just glad you found it helpful and not aggressive self-promotion! Sometimes my boundless enthusiasm for online spaces where kids can create can be misunderstood.

  8. I wrote a book titled "How to Draw Superheroes Using 5 Easy Shapes" exactly for these children. You can find it on Amazon here:

    It helps kids refine their motor skills not even realizing that's what they're doing because they're drawing something that truly interests them. I've also done 3 other books. I've done Super Villians (for once they've mastered the heroes) and also books on Princesses and Monsters.

    All my best,



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