Shaun Tan's "The Arrival". Interpretation and Lesson Schedule (7th/8th grade, Gymnasium)

Elaboration, 2018

16 Pages, Grade: 1.3



1. Argumentative Essay

2. Lesson Sequence

3. FirstLesson

4. Reflection

5. Appendix

6. References

1) Argumentative Essay

In 1974 Shaun Tan, famous writer, film maker and artist, was born in Western Australia. His Malaysian father emigrated to Australia in I960 for his studies. There he met Tan's mother. They got married in 1967 and Tan's elder brother was born in 1972 (SMH, 2013). Already as a child Tan was sure about his talents and interests. He loved to read novels and soon discovered his interest for the science fiction genre, which up until today is a very important influence for his work (ALMA, 2012). In 1995, he graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts and English Literature (Anonymous). In 1990, an illustration of Tan was first published in ajournai, six years later he decided to turn his hobby into his job. He sent his work to different magazines without knowing that later he would come work on children books (SMH, 2013). In the year 2000, The Lost Thing was his first success, a lot more followed (HK, 2001). Tan was awarded with national and international prizes and expanded his activities into the film industry by producing a movie of his graphic novel The Arrival (Anonymous) (ALMA, 2012).

Tan wants to present in his picture books everyday situations differently - more fictional (AE, 2007) (HK, 2001). That could be a reason for why his graphic novels appeal to children but also to adults since a larger group could be spoken to. Moreover, Tan is aware of the importance of the readers since each reader makes up his own story and has his own way of thinking which is an important aspect for graphic novels in general (ALMA, 2012).

This work focuses on one specific graphic novel of Tan. Hence the term graphic novel will be used frequently, thus a definition needs to be given. Merriam Webster defines a graphic novel as follows: “a story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book” (MW). Until the 1970s comics were seen as books for young children and youths without any cognitive or literary demands. In 1978, Eisner and Steranko published comic books and called them graphic novel in order to proof that comics too are demanding. In the 1980s Art Spiegelmann published his controversial graphic novel Maus I, which deals wih his families experience in the Holocaust. Spiegelmanns graphic novel not only supported Eisner and Steranko's efforts, it even managed to enter classroomas as an example of serious literature (Monnin, 2010: XVII).

According to Monnin, “On September 11, 2001, the power of images to convey meaning took on a whole new level of significance in classrooms around the world’' (Monnin, 2010: XVIII). In her personal experience of that day she observed that students do not know what to do with what they see. To support her statement, that September 11 is crucial for the history of graphic novels, she adds a chart which shows “the rise in graphic novel sales from 2001-2006” (Monnin, 2010: XVIII).

According to Monnin, graphic novels are the perfect mix of print-text and image literacy which makes it easy to have literature suitable for a larger group of students. Since some students are rather verbal-linguistic and others rather visual learners a graphic novel seems to be a nice arrangement which fits both (Monnin, 2010: XX). This option makes it possible to get more students interested in literature and motivates the to read and to participate in the course (Monnin, 2010: XV). Furthermore, Monnin highlights the importance of this change for teachers. Teachers have the opportunity to change the conservative print-text literature school courses into innovative and more creative courses, therewith showing a different feature of literature to the wider society (Monnin, 2010: XVI).

A similar stance is assumed by Alissa Burger who hightlights how multifarious topics are dealt with in graphic novels and why they are so important for classrooms. She underlines the advantages of graphic novels as school literature by saying that they are “engaging reluctant readers, encouraging students to view familiar material from a new perspective, and critically engaging students’ multiple literacies” (Burger, 2018: 1). Moreover, she highlights the complexity of working with graphic novels in the classroom. Students have to switch between words and images and have to find a match in their thoughts (Burger, 2018: 2). It is notjust the switch but also the process in complete which is complex. The students have to look, understand and interpret the images. Additionally, the text needs to be read, understood and interpreted. Afterwards, they have to put the separate thoughts together and come to one conclusion. Lastly, students form their own opinion and communicate their opinion verbally or written and verify their opinion with the text and the images again (Burger, 2018: 2). Similarly, just as an effect of other literary works, graphic novels also affect the reader and present readers an insight into another world (Burger, 2018: 3). Furthermore, Burger emphasizes the importance of graphic novels in respect of “our contemporary culture [-which] is one of dynamic multimodal and interactive texts, a trend which extends well beyond the classroom, and for which graphic novel reading will serve our students well” (Burger, 2018: 2). She exemplifies her statement with websites, advertisements, video or audio materials which are mostly an aggregation of text and image (Burger, 2018: 2). Adittionally, she stresses her argument by repeatedly comparing graphic novels to short stories and novels. As short stories and novels contain components like plot, setting, characterization and point of view, the graphic novel contains them too and even more because of the additional images (Burger, 2018: 3).

Maureen Bakis was worried about the lack of interest of students in reading classical literature and the correlating consequencest - such as: “how to teach students basic writing skills, how to get them to think critically, and how get them toproblem solve ” (Bakis, 2012: xi). Thus, she made the experience that graphic novels ν//Λ a pedagogy based on transactional theory and reader response fit perfectly into classrooms and ensure that students are motivated and interested dealing with the graphic novels in several ways (Bakis, 2012: xiii). She consolidates the pedagogical role as mentioned above by elaborating what is meant by transactional theory and reader response. Transactional theory stands for the negotiation between the reader and the text. Each affects the other element which means that they are dependent (Bakis, 2012: 4). The reader response focuses on the importance of the student's interpretation and understanding of the story. Teachers shouldn't provide one favourable answer but instead create an environment where students can explain and articulate their own thoughts (Bakis, 2012: 4). Additionally, she provides several reasons which plead for graphic novels in classrooms. Though, it would be too extensive to cite every single reason given by Bakis, I will only concentrate on of her main arguments. Graphic novels are not simple but it is more comfortable to work with them - especially during class. They can be read and reread at school which could be essential for a deeper understanding (Bakis, 2012: 2). Moreover, graphic novels provide the opportunity to have discussions in class where students exchange their views because of the imagery, that creates a “democratic classroom” (Bakis, 2012: 3). The student is more included and respected because the own opinion is essential and books which are favored by them are school material, thus their motivation to participate is increased (Bakis, 2012:

All of the three authors, Monnin, Burger and Bakis, advocate the usage of graphic novels in classrooms although each author highlights different aspects. One common feature of all three statements however is that it is easier to inspire the students - even reluctant ones - to read a graphic novel. Monnin calls attention to the role of the teacher with this new medium. The teacher has the opportunity to change the society's prejudice stance towards comics since still a lot of people think that comics are not demanding literature (Monnin, 2010: XVI). Whereas, Burger underlines the importance to teach students to understand and to criticize the combination of text and images hintig to new media and information sources such as websites, news etc (Burger, 2018: 2). To manage the everyday life nowadays and in future students could only profit to work with this medium by taking a critical viewpoint. Bakis underlines the development of the student's own opinion. The student needs to have an own opinion which can differ from the teacher's or even the fellow student's opinion (Bakis, 2012: 4).

While doing research for this work I had the chance to read interesting essays written by people who did research on why and how to use graphic novels in the classroom. I came to the conclusion that each of the authors I mentioned above call attention to important points. However, in my point of view Monnin emphasizes the role of the teacher in changing the society's attitude towards comics too much. In contrast to Monnin, Bakis brings the students in the fore. I think that just as Bakis says that students need to make their own thoughts and articulate them. As long as they are able to defend their opinion they are on the path way to be mature adults. Apart from that, students have to be aware that there could always be other differing opinions, a fact they need to accept. It is also necessary to understand the connection of images and texts and how to make interpretations - as Burger points out - to make it possible for students to understand media which contain text and images since these are very common nowadays in nearly any part of life.

The graphic novel chosen for this work is The Arrival by Shaun Tan which tells a story of a father who leaves his family and enters a completely different world to work there. Firstly, I have chosen this book for my work because of my personal experience and interest in immigration in general, but also, I think that this topic is very current and any student somehow has a connection to it. Especially because of the huge subject of refugees seeking shelter in Europe, which has been a big discussion point for some time now. The book shows one reason to emigrate - and there are several - which is important to teach, since Germany is a multicultural country. It will help to create a peaceful and tolerant society, topics like migration could be very effective in order to have different perspectives. Secondly, the book gives a lot of options to be creative. The book is a wordless book and the students have to immerse in the panels to think of possible words for the text. That makes it possible for each student to make up unique dialogues, monologues or any kind of text without being wrong. Having so many options also leads to more self confidence - even for reluctant students. Thirdly, I am fascinated by the panels which are sometimes rather general and sometimes very detailed. This makes it even more interesting and gives options to look and work with panels from different perspectives which plays an important role in the lesson sequence.

2) Lesson Sequence

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

This sequence is planned for a 7./8. grade of a “Gymnasium”. The sequence is an introductory sequence. It has the topic labour migration. The main teaching idea of the sequence is that the students should enlarge their ability on describing and interpreting pictures in order to create their own texts as a part of the methodical competence by acquiring relevant knowledge and perspectives on migration as basic assumptions for the topic multicultural coexistence in a society.

The Fachanforderung requires the subject area of culture and history and the topic multicultural coexistence (Fachanforderungen, 2014: 29). To understand how a multicultural coexistence arises, students first need to know motives for that. Since labour migration is a widely known reason to emigrate, The Arrival seems to be a right introduction into that topic. Hence, different perspectives for migration could be compiled such as educational migration, transmigration or forced migration. In further sequences the topic discrimination (Fachanforderung, 2014: 29) could be covered as a possible result of migration; also as a reference to current affairs or as a link to the topic historical event or personalities (Fachanforderung, 2014: 29).


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Shaun Tan's "The Arrival". Interpretation and Lesson Schedule (7th/8th grade, Gymnasium)
Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel  (Englisches Seminar)
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lesen sequence, Essay, portfolio, Fachdidaktik, Lehramt, reflektier
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Dilan Erdogan (Author), 2018, Shaun Tan's "The Arrival". Interpretation and Lesson Schedule (7th/8th grade, Gymnasium), Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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