Heroes by Alan Gratz Teaching Ideas

Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor Teaching Ideas Teaching Activities

Have you had a chance to dive into Alan Gratz’s latest novel, Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor? It’s a compelling story that captures the courage of people living in Hawaii during World War II. Alan Gratz is a renowned author known for his ability to blend historical events with fictional narratives, creating compelling stories that students love. His attention to detail and deep understanding of historical context have earned him acclaim and a dedicated following. Add some of these Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor teaching ideas to your curriculum. 

Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor is a novel for readers in the 5th and 6th grades. It is an ideal choice for educators looking to engage young students in discussions about American history. It is also a perfect addition to any classroom library, offering students a chance to learn about this historical moment.

The story follows Frank and Stanley, two friends living on Ford Island, during the attack on Pearl Harbor. As the attack unfolds, they experience fear, loss, and bravery, ultimately finding the courage to help others and stand up against prejudice. The novel explores themes of friendship, heroism, and the impact of war on individuals.

This handout includes all the activities mentioned in this blog post and the novel study samples. Get the handout by clicking the button. 

Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor Teaching Ideas

Teaching Idea #1 – Novel Study Samples

Heroes A Novel of Pearl Harbor Novel Study Samples

This PDF contains novel study samples, including Chapters 1–9 vocabulary and comprehension questions.

This handout also contains the activities mentioned in the blog post.

Teaching Idea #2 – Nonfiction Text with Comprehension Questions

Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor Teaching Ideas

In this activity, I’ve included three nonfiction texts about entertainment teens enjoyed in the early 1940s.

Movies and Musical Theater

The first text delves into three movies and a musical theater production that emerged in the early 1940s. Students will be intrigued to discover that these productions have endured for over eight decades!

Comic Book Characters

The second nonfiction article sheds light on six comic book characters introduced during the same era. Once new and exciting, these characters have become timeless icons in popular culture.

Swing Music

The third nonfiction article takes students back in time to Nazi Germany during World War II. Students learn about the dance craze that went worldwide.

Encourage your students to read these articles closely so they can answer the comprehension questions that follow each.📚🌟

Teaching Idea #3: 1940s Comic Book Superhero Illustrations

Teaching Idea 1940s Style Comics

During World War II, comic books became popular entertainment, providing readers with exciting stories and a sense of patriotism. I recommend having students read the nonfiction article supplied in Activity 2 and then complete a fun activity based on a comic book hero. 

Superhero Origin Stories:

Have students write and illustrate origin stories for each superhero. What motivated them to become heroes?

Heroic Artifacts:

Imagine artifacts associated with each superhero (e.g., Captain Starburst’s shield, Liberty Lass’s compass). Students create visual representations of these artifacts.

Download the handout for more teaching ideas with comic book heroes and printable comics to add speech bubbles to.


Teaching Idea #4: Music of the 1940s

Fun Activities with 1940s Songs

In the 1940s, teenagers danced to a mix of swing, big band, and popular tunes. Playback.fm is a great website for discovering popular songs during World War II. This website provides a comprehensive Top 80 Song Chart for each year from 1900 to 2021. 

For educators, it’s an excellent place to explore war-era music because titles are linked to YouTube videos for easy access. 🎵🌟

Here are a few songs you and your students may recognize.

“Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Glenn Miller
“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by The Andrews Sisters
“Walking the Floor Over You” by Ernest Tubb
“You Are My Sunshine” by Wayne King (originally recorded in 1939)

“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby
“(I Got Spurs That) Jingle, Jangle, Jingle” by Kay Kyser
“Deep in the Heart of Texas” by Alveno Rey
“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” by The Andrews Sisters

The handout includes several activities you can do in the classroom with 1940s songs, such as song parodies: 


Song: “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by The Andrews Sisters

Original Lyrics: “He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way.”

Parody Lyrics: “He was a brave sailor boy from out Pearl Harbor way.”

See the product that inspired this post.

Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor Novel Study includes vocabulary practice, comprehension questions, constructed response writing, and skill practice. We

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