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Lesson Plan

Is Superman Really All That Super? Critically Exploring Superheroes

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Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Shelley Hong Xu

Long Beach, California


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



Popular culture texts such as comic books, video games, or even television shows can be valuable tools for teaching students critical reading skills. Comparing these texts with children's literature helps students explore what elements they share in common and how perspective or point of view influences their understanding of the characters. In this lesson, students generate their own list of superheroes from popular culture. They work in groups to read selected books and develop a list of superhero traits from these titles. They then compare the book superheroes with their pop culture counterparts using the online Venn Diagram or the Venn Diagram mobile app. Finally, students explore individual superheroes from multiple perspectives, using a list of guiding questions that encourages them to consider how superheroes might differ depending on audience, gender, or setting.

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Xu S.H., Perkins, R.S., & Zunich, L.O. (2005). Trading cards to comic strips: Popular culture texts and literacy learning in grades K8. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • There are similarities in portraits of characters between popular culture texts (including, but not limited to, comic books, video games, song lyrics, and television shows) and children's books.

  • Students' knowledge of popular culture texts should be capitalized on during literacy teaching. For this to happen, teachers need to guide students in critical reading and comparison of popular culture texts with more traditional classroom texts.

Read more about this resource


Alvermann, D.E., & Xu, S.H. (2003). Children's everyday literacies: Intersections of popular culture and language arts instruction. Language Arts, 81(2), 145154.


Alvermann, D.E., Moon, J.S., & Hagood, M.C. (1999). Popular culture in the classroom: Teaching and researching critical media literacy. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

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