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Super Girl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade

Super Girl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th GradeSuper Girl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade
Written by:
Landry Q. Walker
Illustrated by: Eric Jones
Publisher: DC Comics
Format: Softcover, 144 pages, Full Color, $12.99
ISBN: 978-1-40122-506-3
Lesson plan by Dr. Katie Monnin

For anyone who has ever wondered if the young adult, middle-level superhero graphic novel could appeal to today’s students, look no further! I am pleased to introduce you to the brilliant, contemporarily appropriate (not to mention hilarious!) Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade. The clever writing of Landry Q. Walker and his subtle understanding of today's young adult population will surely capture your students' interests. Even the artwork is contemporary and smart. The spatial-brilliance of Eric Jones not only leads the young adult reader from one well drawn moment to the next, but also reinforces the significance behind why we should teach today’s young adults to be both print-text and image-text literate.

Cleverly breaking some new ground in recreating a traditional comic book known around the world, Walker and Jones' Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade is impressive in both its scope and originality. As someone who has always had a specific allegiance to Superman, I thought the plot was respectful and creative in its links to the Superman legend. 

In the beginning, readers find a young girl running away from her parents after an argument over grades. And where does she go? Where any young adult Kryptonian would go to melodramatically make her point about wanting her social life, and not her grades, to be her parents #1 priority: to hide on her father's soon-to-be-launched rocket-ship.

Before her parents can figure out where she is – even before she herself realizes the danger she is in – the rocket launches and Supergirl is now stranded on earth! With Superman as her mentor and a new status as eighth grade student Linda Lee, Supergirl's struggles for truth and justice in the eighth grade will appeal to a whole new generation of young adult readers.

Both familiar and hilarious, Linda Lee's first few struggles involve not only finding a loyal friend, but also figuring out how NOT to see through other people's clothes!

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Similar to her cousin, Superman, new eighth grade student Linda Lee (a.k.a, Supergirl) must do double-duty as a supposedly normal human who just so happens to also be able to save the world, and her school.

Setting: The part in the title about "cosmic adventures" pretty much sums up the setting. This graphic novel takes place on earth, in space, and even in multi-dimensional time travel.

Characters: Supergirl (Linda Lee), Supra Girl, Superior Girl, Principal MXYZPTLK, Super Man, Lex Luthor, Comet (a super-powered horse), Streaky (an intelligent, somewhat feral super-powered cat), and schoolmate and supposed friend Lena Thorul

Themes: Friendship, Family, School Life, Adolescence, Heroes and Villains, Good and Evil, Loyalty, Identity

Traditional Literature Pairing Suggestions: Tall Tales (i.e., Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill), Aesop's Fables, Beowulf, King Arthur Legends, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Homer's Illiand and/or Odyssey, Arabian Nights, the many cultural retellings of the Cinderella story, the original Superman comic books

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle School & High School English Language Arts

Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*

- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE

1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works. 

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate and appreciate texts.

4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes. 

5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Suggested Reading & Writing Strategies:

·As a teacher, I read Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade with a strong urge to teach students what it means to both read and write graphic novels; for that reason, all of the above NCTE standards can be paired with the following reading and writing strategies. 

·To fully understand what it means to read and write graphic novels, teachers should first introduce students to the appropriate terminology for reading and writing the graphic novel format. A few teacher-friendly sources to help you do so are: Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel by Dr. James Bucky Carter*, Teaching Graphic Novels*, and This Book Contains Graphic Language by Rocco Versaci*.

·After students understand the graphic novel format, teachers can next apply the reading strategies they already know and use with print-text literacies. For example, teachers can use a KWL chart and ask students what they Know about superheroes (both textually and visually), what they Wonder about superheroes (both textually and visually), and, finally, after reading, what they Learned about superheroes (both textually and visually). The point: any traditional reading strategy can be adapted to consider the significance of literature that relies on both print-text and image text.

·The same adaptive technique can also be applied to any of the traditional writing strategies used by Language Arts teachers. For instance, since the premise of Super Girl is a retelling, students can be asked to complete any of the following writing strategies: copy change, alternate ending, a switch in telling the story from another character's point of view, and so on. Just like reading the graphic novel format and paying attention to the significance of the print-text and the image text, these writing strategies would also call on students to think in terms of print-text and image text.  They would write, in short, both print-text and image text.

*Carter, J.B. (2007). Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page,

            Panel by Panel. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

*Monnin, K. (2010). Teaching Graphic Novels. Gainesville, FL: Maupin House.

Ogle, D. (1986). KWL: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository

            Text. The Reading Teacher 32, 564-570.

*Versaci, R. This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics as Literature. New York,

            NY: Continuum.

*NCTE/IRA. (1996). Standards for the English Language Arts. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.