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Section 1

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Explore super heroes in the world of popular culture.

  • What do we know of the super heroes presented in film, on TV and in cartoons and books?
  • What attributes do these heroes possess?

Resources required:

Sound Arts: Music
  • Soundtrack CD Batman Original Motion Picture Score composed by Danny Elfman (or similar movie soundtrack of known super hero)
  • Dance Wall Charts (Ministry of Education)
  • Dancing The Long White Cloud (Ministry of Education)
Visual Arts

Resources for accessing possible images of super heroes, for example:

  • Comic and cartoon books and DVDs selected by teacher and students.
  • Picture books e.g. Weaving Earth and Sky (2002, illustrated by Gavin Bishop)
  • Robyn Kahukiwa's Supa Hero (2001) painting (Celebrate Art New Zealand series Vol.5, 2004, Interactive Education Ltd)
  • Paikia (1993, Robyn Kahukiwa, Puffin)
  • School Journals e.g. Tane me te Whanau Marama (Part 2 Number 2,2003: P.22-29)

Questions for viewing:

  • Refer to Exploring the Visual Arts in Years 1-6 series (Ministry of Education, 2001)
Connecting the Arts learning - you find the through lines that suit your students best

Dance: Choreographing a dance sequence using movement ideas from the 'superheroes' of popular culture

Drama: Creating still images of popular super heroes and adding a line of dialogue

Sound Arts: Music: Listening, analysing and responding to Batman soundtrack. Comparison with Maui sound score

Visual Arts: Viewing and analysing super hero images


    Suggested Sequence of Learning

    Teaching Notes

    Divide the class into small groups of 4-6 students and allocate crayons and paper ( Resource Sheet A printed off onto A3 size). Ask the students to brainstorm as many popular heroes as they can recall and name. Give a time limit so that it is a race! Share back with rest of the class and add in any super heroes left out.

    Encourage students to think about super heroes in: films, books, comics and current TV programmes with heroes. They will come up with characters such as: Batman, Robin, The Incredibles, Buzz Lightyear, Danny Phantom, Spiderman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Xena, Captain Underpants, Maddigan's Quest etc.

    Store charts to use and refer to later in this unit.

  2. Learning Intentions

    The students will:

    1. Use the elements and techniques of drama to explore super heroes in popular culture (PK)
    2. Explore the drama conventions of freeze frames and slow motion action (PK)
    3. Improvise a line of dialogue in role as a super hero and refine to present to others (DI & CI)
    4. Identify and explore the dance elements of space and body awareness when using slow motion action (PK)
    5. Choreograph a short 'slow motion action' sequence (DI)

    Suggested Sequence of Learning

    Teaching Notes

    Ask the whole class to find a space alone. Teacher leads by calling out a super hero and the students are to move into a freeze (i.e. a physical representation or still image of this hero). Use a bell to emphasize the freeze. E.g. "Batman! 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, FREEZE." Use the drama elements of 'role' and 'action' to describe the students' work. Give 5-6 different heroes in rapid succession.

    Make these snappy and short commands so they don't have much time to think.

    Look for students who are able to freeze, stay in role and who are using their bodies expressively - their actions are clear.

    With some particularly strong images you might try pressing an imaginary 'button' between the shoulder blades and hearing one line of dialogue (the idea of a robotic toy that has one line to repeat). Select some lines and refine, practise them as a class as a chant.

    A classic one is Buzz Lightyear's line "To infinity and beyond!" from Toy Story.

    Focus on vocal techniques especially projection

    Add the direction for students to move into the freezes now using slow motion e.g. "Spiderman ... a thousand and one, 1002, 1003 1004, 1005, FREEZE." You might ask: What happens before the freeze? Move towards the freeze slowly...
    Elicit what makes some of the 'freezes' and 'slow motion action sequences' effective and note the success criteria on the whiteboard. Give more practice of other superheroes with these criteria constantly referred to. Discuss the use of Body awareness and the use of Space.

    Look for students who are moving with controlled physicality and who are using a wide range of movement as they move towards their freeze.

    Use the "Practical Knowledge" Dance Wall chart (Ministry of Education).

    Ask half the class to sit down and view the others presenting their favourites. Encourage them to give feedback on the specific criteria e.g. the:

    • Clarity of the movement suggested.
    • Use of space and body awareness.
    • Use of facial expression.
    • Ability to be absolutely still-frozen.
    • Use of slow motion action to move into the freeze.

    Encourage and reinforce the use of the appropriate vocabulary

    Identify which students are analysing the still images perceptively and who are able to respond with appropriate comments related to the criteria.

    Make recorded anecdotal comments or assess according to the effective use of the selected criteria.


    Suggested Sequence of Learning

    Teaching Notes

    Ask students to go back into their small groups and to list the qualities and attributes that these various super heroes seem to possess. Add to the original chart, ( Resource Sheet A ). Share back with the whole class and build up a vocabulary list of descriptive language for display on the wall. Students will probably offer the heroes' physical attributes and their mental capabilities.
    Students might create a poem or a character description on one of their favourite super heroes using some of these words on the list.  
  4. Focus elements and principles:

    scale, viewpoint, colour, line, space, shape

    Learning intentions:

    The students will:

    1. Identify images (moving and static) of heroic characters and where these can be viewed (UC)
    2. Investigate why these images may have been made, and who might value them (UC)
    3. Select one image of a superhero and describe how the artist has used body language (space, shape, movement), and the visual arts elements (such as scale/size, viewpoint, line, and colour) to communicate power and heroism (CI)
    4. View images of heroic characters and describe the clothing that is used to characterise a superhero (CI)
    5. Explore how the artist's use of a particular media has communicated mood and message in an image (CI)
    Possible learning sequence:

    Throughout the learning, students use their visual arts diary to record their ongoing ideas, responses and research in words or sketches, and to paste in found/copied images of superheroes. If developing ideas for their own superhero artwork later, the visual diary can then become a rich source of visual ideas to refer to and a place to collate further drawing and visual thinking as ideas are refined.

    Questions for viewing objects or images:

    Think about the kinds of questions to ask.

    The inductive method used in Exploring the Visual Arts Years 1-6 (Ministry of Education) is useful. They have four kinds of questions that start with close viewing, visual detective work and lead through to evaluative thinking.

    Refer to pages 9-10 Exploring the Visual Arts Years 1-6: Painting (Ministry of Education) for examples of questions which could be adapted for viewing the hero images e.g.:

    • What do you see?
    • What are these people doing?
    • What shapes and lines do you see?
    • Are there any contrasting shapes or lines or colours?
    • Is there a single focus in the image or are there several?
    • What path do your eyes take through [the image]?
    • What is the person wearing? Would this happen in your town or city?
    • What things in the image remind you of other things?
    • Is there a part of the image that is special to you? Why is it special?
    • What title could you give the image and why?
    • What questions would you like to ask the artist?
    • Now why do you think the artist made this image?
    Key teacher strategies:

    Give time to view and talk.

    • Several viewings can give the opportunity for asking more questions and for building on ideas.
    • Accept all answers when interpreting images but probe for visual evidence.
    • Do less talking as teacher; encourage students to build on each others' ideas.

    Suggested Sequence of Learning

    Teaching Notes

      In groups students view and share the superhero images that have been gathered and identify the variety of places in which they were sourced. (Display available images on the wall for further reference - students could use 'post-its' to post their ongoing and ideas about them).  
      Students speculate on why the images may have been created and how they might be valued.  
      Students could also record personal responses to imagery in speech or thought bubbles about what selected superheroes mean to them and/or the important ideas being communicated. Ideas could be collated in a class brainstorm.  
      Students select one image and discuss in pairs how the artist has communicated that the character is a hero. (On card(s) write 4 x questions for the students to think about in pairs or groups).  
      Share back as a class two visual strategies the artist has used. Record a pool of ideas. This could be referred back to later during Section 2 and 4 visual arts learning experiences.  

    Suggested Sequence of Learning

    Teaching Notes

    Conduct a whole class discussion regarding attributes of super heroes: what is possible and what is in the realm of the imagination? Lead the focus onto one particular super hero (e.g. Batman) and list his special qualities in two columns on the whiteboard. Which attributes are purely fiction and which ones something that mere mortals could develop? Which of these qualities are shared with other superheroes? Ask students to go back to their groups with their charts and highlight the similar qualities they find (e.g. bravery). Students might refine the charts individually in their books.

    You might focus in on Batman or Spiderman or whatever superhero is current!

    Ideas for Batman might include: strength, courage, perseverance, powers of hearing and transformation, gliding, endurance etc.

    Elicit descriptive vocabulary and add to class list.

    Use Resource Sheet A .

  6. Key aspect: listening & responding

    Learning intentions:

    The students will:

    1. Identify, describe and respond to contrasts within musical elements. (PK, CI)
    2. Describe techniques used to create particular moods and effects (PK, CI, UC)
    3. Compare and contrast the characteristics of different styles of music. (PK, UC)

    Suggested Sequence of Learning

    Teaching Notes

      Listen to the soundtrack of Batman (or any other super-hero soundtrack that is current and accessible). Refer: Into Music 1, Into Music 2 and Into Music 3 (Ministry of Education) for other ideas about listening to music and possibilities for follow-up responses.

    Select some of the following questions to ask and discuss:

    • What do you notice about the music?
    • Did it remind you of any other music you have heard?
    • How would you describe the music in relation to the elements of music? Eg. How does the composer use dynamics (loud and soft sounds) and tempo (fast and slow sounds) to create the effect? What instruments are keeping the beat? Are there any repeating rhythmic or melodic patterns? Are there any changes in the texture of the music (i.e. layers of sound, using single instruments/voices or groups of instruments/ voices).
    • How would you describe the mood of the music?
    • What techniques did the composer use to give us that feeling?
    • Were there any particular instruments that stood out?
    • If this were playing at a particular moment in a movie what do you think would be happening?

    Formative assessment possibilities:

    • How well can the students identify or describe changes within a specific element, using appropriate vocabulary?
    • How well can the students describe the impact of specific musical techniques for different examples?
      Now listen to some of the soundtrack from Maui: One Man Against the Gods and answer the same questions. Note: play the Maui DVD on your computer and use speakers to amplify the sound - there is no official CD of the sound score for Maui as yet.
      How do the two pieces compare? Encourage the students to use musical language in their descriptions.
    Divide the students into groups and they can work together to fill in the Comparing Styles chart (delete any categories that are not appropriate). Use Resource Sheet B .  
  7. Learning intentions:

    The students will:

    1. Explore, combine and contrast the dance elements of Body Awareness and Space (PK)
    2. Select, combine and use the elements of dance to develop ideas showing Batman's attributes working in small groups of 3-5 students (DI)
    3. Develop a dance sequence using slow motion to move into a still image of Batman using a musical accompaniment (DI)
    4. Present their "Batman" dance sequence & respond to other students' dances (CI)

    Suggested Sequence of Learning

    Teaching Notes

    Revisit the dance elements using the chart: Practical Knowledge. Explain that students will be focusing on the elements of Body Awareness and Space. Individually practise moving into Batman super hero freezes using slow motion. Guide the use of the body (body awareness) and the use of space.

    Use the Dance Wall Chart: Practical Knowledge (Ministry of Education)

    Use language from the Batman chart created in section 5 (see above) to guide this exploration.

    In small groups (3-5) ask students to explore different ways to show Batman's attributes using their bodies to make the shapes. Try the group all doing the same image (e.g. of his courage) then explore changes in the use of space e.g. vary the levels and angles of the dancer's bodies. Try the group doing different attributes each (e.g. courage & speed & flight etc.) and then explore how to place these images in the space effectively.

    Look for students who create imaginative shapes 'freezes' and who also use clear body shapes.

    Use vocabulary from the Dance Wall Chart: Practical Knowledge to describe their movements.

    The teacher must guide this exploration and allow time for groups to present some dance ideas.

      Explain the task: students will be developing a freeze frame or still image showing Batman's attributes selecting some ideas from their exploration. Each dancer must move into the freeze using slow motion movement over 5 seconds (this will be familiar from the learning activity practised in section 2 (see above)). Each student will be expected to use his/her body to show one aspect of his super hero quality each (e.g. the special strength he possesses). The music - the sound track of Batman will be played softly in the background to add to the mood.

    This is the student brief

    The students should be ready to start their choreography now as they have experimented and explored first.

    Refer to the list of Batman's attributes created in (5)

    Use the Batman soundtrack CD

      Set up the success criteria on the whiteboard and model this process of the selection of dance ideas and choreography with a small practise group first. It is helpful to direct students to stand with their backs to the 'audience' first then turn one by one (i.e. in canon) and move into their freeze using the music in the background.

    By modelling the process and the 'product', students will gain a much clearer idea of your expectations.

    Note: If you always return to the beginning of the same CD track as the students practise it will help students to work 'with' the music and they will start using it for effect.


    Set up a scaffold on the whiteboard for students to follow e.g.:

    • Your movement and freeze must represent only one quality of Batman - chose one word each from the whiteboard.
    • Everyone must stand still with their backs to the audience to begin.
    Scaffolds with clear directions guiding their compositions, give students a real sense of security.
    • Each student should turn move slowly one by one into their position e.g. 5,4,3,2,1, freeze.
    • Each student must freeze in their shape until the other dancers are finished and the music is faded out.
    • Each student must stay focused (i.e. not get the giggles!) and facial expression could be important.
    • The final shape must have a least 3 different levels and some different angles so that it looks visually interesting
    Count the slow motion slowly e.g. "a thousand and one... a thousand and two" etc
    Allow only 5-10 minutes for students to create their visual picture/'dance' and play the music softly in the background. Give feedback to each group, monitoring and conferencing, and then ask everyone to refine and practise their pieces

    Observe and take note of students who seek multiple solutions in their work.

    Demand integrity in even the smallest movement.

    You might call out over the music when each student should be starting to move into their shape helping them to use the music effectively.

    Each group then presents to the rest of the class (or have 2 groups present at once to dispel any nerves.) Ask the viewers to give feedback based on the criteria listed on the WB (whiteboard).

    You might ensure students are focused before they begin and turn the music up then fade out at the end of the sequence.

    Identify students who are focused in their performance.

      Take digital photos of each group's final moment or a significant moment from the dance sequence ( Resource Sheet C ). Assessment opportunity for possible use in portfolios with student's comments attached. Refer to the Ministry of Education's Dance Matrix on TKI or pages 12-14 in Dancing the Long White Cloud (Ministry of Education)
      Hand out student reflection sheet Resource Sheet D . Spend 5-10 minutes writing up answers and sharing back some responses. Provide suitable vocabulary on the white board and give specific help (monitoring and conferencing) as students complete their sheet. Read out some of their comments as they are working to provide a model for others.

    Provide suitable vocabulary on the white board and give specific help as students complete their sheet.

    You might direct some students to 'peer support' others in their writing process where necessary.

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