In the TCI world, we make connections with our students by talking with them about their own lives. Slowly at first. Very slowly, actually. But, eventually we can begin to delve into issues of great importance.

Karen Rowan, in her Extreme Personalization workshops, will often ask what a person’s superpower would be if they had one. I remember being in her workshop in San Diego (or was it Breckenridge?) and getting very excited about the possibility of claiming a superpower! What would it be? So many choices!

As it turns out, the choices are endless. HOWEVER, it makes lots of sense to take that superpower idea ONE STEP FURTHER.

My friend Tim, an expert in cyber security, recently created this Superpower Generator with his 7 year old. He stated:

Every superhero has an origin, a power and a weakness, so [we] created a random superhero generator for all your superhero needs.

He’s absolutely right. A superpower needs an origin story and a weakness to be complete.

His superpower generator is quite silly. But the notion of including the origin story and the weakness completes the idea.

As I’m personalizing my class this fall and we determine that they have a superpower, I won’t necessarily try to discover their origin story or their weakness right away. But I’ll ponder it. We’ll come back the next day to revisit that superpower. Perhaps 2 or 3 days in a row. Then again next week. And as our class gains more and more vocabulary, perhaps one day we’ll return to the superstudent and say:

How did you get that superpower?


Who gave it to you?


Have you always been able to…


Does your father/mother/sister/brother also have this superpower?


Does your superpower work when it’s cloudy/rainy/hot/snowy/windy?


At what time of the day does your superpower start working?


If you eat garlic/raw egg/asparagus/egg shell does your superpower diminish?


Where does your superpower not work?

And we’ll explore that idea. Because, once you have a superpower, you have a story. A story that can weave in and out of your class all year long.

There’s no hurry!

You don’t have to solve it all in the same day. This type of story grows ever more detailed as the year goes on – as students’ ability increases. It allows you to reuse and recycle all that vocabulary. And coming back to the same person with the same superpower can heighten interest! Or, perhaps it’s changed slightly?

Allowing that student to become that superhero and accepting (and respecting) their responses to your follow up questions can raise buy-in from the most reticent of learners. Being willing to allow superpowers that aren’t necessarily superpowers can show you’re willing to allow students to be who they really are.

BUT: Be sure to hold your ground swiftly and decisively if someone tries to push boundaries of acceptability!

Be on the lookout. When you find the right kid, with the right energy and she/he gives you the right superpower… Explore (eventually) all that it entails! It can provide tons and tons of compelling comprehensible input!



A Superhero Generator

2 thoughts on “A Superhero Generator

  • August 20, 2015 at 6:53 am

    This is crazy–I have been planning to start the upcoming year with superhero discussions too. My plan is to start with a PowerPoint of different superheroes (and non-superhero celebrities mixed in) and talk about whether they are REAL superheroes or not. For example, Batman doesn’t have any powers. Do they consider him to be a superhero? What about Miley Cyrus or Troy Bolton or the Doctor or Edward Cullen or Hermione Granger or Tom Brady? What are their powers? From there we’ll transition to talking about the students’ powers, origin stories etc. So much potential for CI! Also some MovieTalk could be mixed in.

  • May 28, 2016 at 12:01 am

    This happened organically in my class this year. One student became Fuego-Man. His superpower is also his weakness because shoots fire from his hands, but he can’t control it so it never works. This spawned all of my actors in a story to become super heroes too. Leche-Man and Oreo Man (Sponsored by Nabisco) had to be in the story to help Fuego-Man out. It was amazing, but now I get to go back in Tuesday and interview Fuego-Man about his origin story and his weaknesses! Thanks so much for this.

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