Teaching Unit for the Graphic Novel Brain Camp

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2016

12 Pages, Grade: 9


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Theoretical Introduction
2.1 Graphic Novels in the Foreign Language Classroom
2.2 Educational policies:
2.3 Advantages and disadvantages of the Usage of Graphic Novels

3. Teaching Unit
3.1 Brain Camp: Technical analysis
3.2 Sequence

4. Works cited

1. Introduction

Living in a time in which working with technology has become usual in all kinds of situations and especially in educational terms, people still tend to underestimate the benefits of using several kinds of media which are actually obvious. Parents and politicians tend to focus on the usage of technology and emphasize its pros and importance for teaching. On the one hand, they demand for the newest media and technologies, but on the other hands they seem to refuse innovations such as using youth literature, especially graphic novels. While reading the classics keeps being a big part of the curriculum, the educational standards themself have changed. Especially while teaching English in a foreign language classroom it is now demanded to concentrate on fostering competences than making the students memorize several information. But the curriculum and the methods of teaching remain instead of innovating them. One innovation which still is not considered may be teaching English by using Graphic Novels. Firstly, it is important to define the term “graphic novel” correctly and to know about its traces and development. According to Hallet, graphic novels are fictional and similar to long novels, but uses the narrative form of comics (cf.Hallet 2012: 4). Graphic novels mainly arisen from the comic books from the US (cf.Hallet 2012: 4). Secondly, it is necessary to be aware of their benefits and how to use them while teaching English.

Although graphic novels seem to remain as media which are not considered while teaching English in a foreign language classroom, an increasing number of educators try to integrate them in the curriculum and stand against the criticism. The following term paper will discuss the usage of graphic novels in the foreign language classroom, will relate to the educational policies and compare the advantages and disadvantages. Furthermore, a graphic novel will be analyzed and a teaching unit using it will be presented.

2. Theoretical Introduction

2.1 Graphic Novels in the Foreign Language Classroom

As stated before, many English teachers ignore the diversity of Graphic Novels and seem to concentrate on reading text heavy novels (cf.Carter 2008: 49). Although it is necessary to focus on literature while teaching English in a foreign language classroom (cf.Thaler 2008: 23), it should be considered if the classics are that much of importance. Solely because graphic novels are an unusual text medium does not mean they do not have a great impact on the language learners. As movies, YouTube videos or even Tweets have become a part of the EFLC, it is illogical avoiding the usage of a text medium which is available and also popular since years.

It is criticized that many educators still keep teaching with the same methods and material for years. New media such as graphic novels or other visual literacy tools in classrooms are missing and ignored (cf.Carter 2008: 47). Especially fostering the competences would become innovative and easier by using diversity of media, but instead the curriculum remains with the classics. Another goal of teaching English in the foreign language classroom is achieving and fostering Literary Communicative Competence, which is also related to Communicative Language teaching the Intercultural Communicative Competence (cf.Thaler 2008: 31)

2.2 Educational policies:

As stated before, the educational policies of teaching English in a foreign language classroom become innovated and changed. While the usage of perfect grammar was the main focus of language learning as well as learning vocabulary the goals of the English education has changed.

Although reading the classics and dealing with grammar is still an essential part of the English lessons, the teachers should concentrate on fostering competences. These are explained and predetermined by the Bildungsstandards. They include the speaking, reading, listening and writing competence.

Furthermore, the literary canon has an important role when it comes to teaching English. Even if the novels are also predetermined, there is always a scope left for every teacher to decide on its own, with which medium they would like to work. One example would be analyzing the movie script of “Inglorious Basterds” and watching the movie, which an English teacher used in a 13th grade advanced English class. The mentioned scope could be also filled with the usage of a graphic novel. But as they are not mentioned in the curriculum, many teachers tend to forget them and also do not want to do the extra work they would have to if they used a new kind of medium.

2.3 Advantages and disadvantages of the Usage of Graphic Novels

As discussed in the seminar “Teaching Graphic Novels”, there are several positive and negative aspects of teaching graphic novels.

Beginning with the disadvantages, the first point which comes up is the colloquial language which is expected from graphic novels. As graphic novels are often regarded as trivial, it may be difficult to convince parents or colleagues of its benefits. Furthermore, if it is the case that colloquial language is used, it would not be useful for the EFLC. Also, the pictures may reduce the focus on language items, whereas there is already less text than in novels. As speaking and reading are two of the competences which are given in the German Bildungsstandards, it is important to foster these competences, whereas neglecting grammar and syntax and ignoring language items would be detrimental.

In addition to this, it is obvious that graphic novels are unusual in the EFLC, which makes it hard to get further material, information or tasks. The teacher has to come up with a completely new way of dealing with literature and search for secondary texts. Due to the fact, that teaching with graphic novels is a new method, it may be also difficult to choose the right one. Furthermore, it may also be problematic, that parents have to buy this additional material, whereas the classics such as Shakespeare’s works are mostly available at the school’s library.

In contrast to the disadvantages, it should be considered how graphic novels could affect the English lessons positively. Firstly, the importance of innovative teaching methods should be emphasized, as the curriculum and the Bildungsstandards do not recommend the strict grammar teaching anymore. As fostering competences become more and more important, the goal of an English teacher should be motivating his students and giving them the chance to get to know different forms of text material. In a time where movies or short films are used in the EFLC, it should be self-evident to also use this kind of text medium to spread the diversity in text material, as it provides to create variety into the curriculum.

Graphic novels may be especially suitable for language beginners, in case of less text and easy vocabulary. If the graphic novel has longer text passages and has a higher language level, it can also be used for advanced learners. Regarding to the teacher’s assessment, you can use the graphic novel “Brain Camp” for eighth graders, while Persepolis may be used in higher classes for example. So it is appropriate for all levels of language learners.

Most importantly, the visualization should be emphasized, at it supports language learning, makes texts easier to understand and more interesting for students. Firstly, student who may not be in reading novels very much, can be motivated. Furthermore, it is scientifically proven that visualization makes it easier to remember vocabulary. Also, the tasks concerning graphic novels support creativity more than just text work, as there may be different interpretations and also new methods of teaching (e.g. describing the first impression of a cover page or drawing a graphic novel page).

3. Teaching Unit

3.1 Brain Camp: Technical analysis

The Graphic Novel “Brain Camp” by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan and Faith Erin Hicks was published on the 3rd of August 2010 in English language and is appropriate for classes seven, eight and nine.

The protagonists are Jenna and Lucas, two teenagers who are brought to “Camp Fiedling” which is known for its successful attendants. On the one hand, there is Jenna who is overlooked because of her sister’s success. Jenna’s sister is an extremely talented and diligent girl with good grades. While she is a musician and is going to go to Yale, Jenna is the inconspicuous and more reticent daughter of the higher middle class doctors. On the other hand, there is Lucas living with his mother, as his father ended up in jail. They are from the lower middle class. His grades are bad and so is his behavior, he got turned down reading Olympics, chess club or remedial in math. His mother is worried he will end up as an alcoholic in jail. So you can both identify Jenna and Lucas as underachievers.

This is the point when “Camp Fiedling” comes up, as they are known for turning underachievers to winners. Even if Lucas’ mother and Jenna’s parents are loath first and are not sure about the big decision, they end up giving in and accept sending their children to “Camp Fiedling” as they are impressed by the promised success of the camps participants. Also, the camps’ agent claims they are looking for young people who have potential to grow bigger. Finally, the camp’s agent is able to convince Lucas mother and Jenna’s parents for sending the both to the camp.

Both Jenna and Lucas arrive at the camp later than the others and are introduced to the camp director Tracey Vanderheuven and to each other. Being not very attired in each other, they stay distanced. Lucas gets to know Dwayne in his cabin, who get bullied by another boy and pays him regularly for being safe and not getting into trouble. Also Jenna get introduced to the girls in her cabin and a little bit bullied, furthermore, she finds a dead baby bird outside while stumbling and falling into it. During the meal Jenna cannot eat any of it, as she is vegan. Also Lucas misses the chance of eating the cafeteria meal, as Dwayne’s bully pushes him so his meal falls off his tablet. Dwayne himself is allergic to almost everything and does not eat anything too. The three meet outside the cafeteria and become friend by realizing, they are all underachievers, lazy slackers or clueless.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Teaching Unit for the Graphic Novel Brain Camp
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
teaching, unit, graphic, novel, brain, camp
Quote paper
Erstes Staatsexamen Talia Baskaya (Author), 2016, Teaching Unit for the Graphic Novel Brain Camp, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/492245


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