Commencement Level Lessons | Portrait of a Hero


One class period

Program Segments

Summer 1812 The Americans Invade (18 ½ minutes)
Spring 1813 The British Invade (7 minutes)
September 1813 Showdown on the Great Lakes (9 ½ minutes)
September 1813 The Americans Invade Canada – Again (7 ½ minutes)
Autumn 1814 Secession Threat in New England (9 minutes) 

NCSS Themes

I: Culture
III: People, Places, and Environments
IV: Individual Development and Identity
V: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions 

Canadian (Ontario) Concepts

Interactions and Interdependence

Canadian (Ontario) Specific Expectations – Seventh Grade

Describe the major causes and personalities of the War of 1812
Explain key characteristics of life in English Canada from a variety of perspectives
Describe the different groups of people

Students will be able to:

  • understand and define the meaning of the words “hero” and “heroic”
  • describe the characteristics of the heroes from American/Canadian history by observing details in pictures and listening to brief biographies of each figure 

Focus Questions

  1. What is a hero?
  2. What does a hero look like?
  3. What characteristics must someone have to be a hero?
  4. Who are some heroes from American/Canadian history and in what ways are they heroic? What can they teach you about being a hero?  

Key Concepts


Instructional Resources

The War of 1812 DVD
Icon The War of 1812 Heroes worksheet (57.4 KB)  


  1. The teacher will post a picture of a family member or mentor in the center of the chalkboard or somewhere visible so that all students can see.
  2. The teacher will explain to students why this person is a hero to them. Show the speech on Heroes, in the first program segment.
  3. While explaining, the teacher will add bits of information about their hero in a spider-web-fashion around the image, detailing the reasons why heroism is warranted. Do this to model what the teacher will want the students to accomplish using historical figures.
  4. If students understand the teacher’s example, move on; if not, the teacher might ask the students to complete a web of their own particular hero.
  5. The teacher will hand out the War of 1812 Heroes worksheet and ask students to begin filling in information about these three figures based on their pictures.
  6. After all thoughts are recorded, watch The War of 1812 segments that cover these three figures. After each section, allow writing time for each figure so students will not forget their thoughts.
  7. When all three figures are finished, allow for some sharing of ideas about each figure.
  8. Conclude the lesson by having the students write on the back of the paper which one historical figure is their hero and why. Collect each paper and grade it.
  9. For a scoring rubric, explain to students that they should have at least ten different ideas written about each figure totaling one point a piece, and five points for the final question. Full credit equals 35 points.

Assessment Tasks
After the students view The War of 1812 segments on Sir Isaac Brock, Tecumseh, and General Andrew Jackson, they will fill in a chart on the circumstances in which each historical figure was made a hero.

Related PBS Resources

Everyday Heroes
Explain how everyday heroes are just as heroic as famous ones and list heroic things they do. Design and present awards to everyday heroes you know, including yourself.

Honoring Heroes and History
Explore public sculptures and memorials. Discuss how artists' interpretations of history can influence perceptions of the past. 
Awarding Valor
Investigate and define valor in the context of the Medal of Honor and extend the defining parameters of the award to incorporate a broader group of recipients. Explore historic controversies surrounding minority recipients of the award.


Download a print-friendly version

 Icon Portrait of a Hero Lesson Plan (354.3 KB)

Image - shop_warof1812.jpg


Shawnee Chief Tecumseh


General Andrew Jackson


General Isaac Brock