Introductory activities

This guide will refer to a reading journal throughout. The reading journal will be used across a number of activities. Students can have their reading journals in their English exercise books (perhaps they can start from the back pages, moving in) or they can be provided with or buy their own smaller exercise books for this purpose. Alternatively, students can have an electronic version on their device (computer or tablet). It is important that this is a space that is their own. You might like to have your students use it completely as their own space, not needing to be submitted, and being used just as a quiet space for their thoughts. Alternatively, a reading journal is a good formative assessment exercise and tool that can be used throughout a unit to ascertain where students’ thinking is at with regard to their learning in the unit. If you use this formatively, make sure that you share your thoughts with your students so that there is rich conversation occurring.

Key terms

Here are some key words to progressively give students as they study this unit. Have them compile a glossary at the back of their workbooks (or perhaps even have a separate workbook just for glossary entries throughout the year), and give them a new set of words to look up each lesson. You can give more capable students more difficult words, and developing students simpler words and so on. They should set out their glossary as follows:

Word  Guessed definition Definition Origin Related words
maritime To be connected to  the sea. Seaborne travel or trade. From Latin, maritimus, from ‘mare’ (sea). marine, mariner, marinate


An interesting feature of The Deep – and one that is common to most graphic novels – is that all the text is written in block capitals, uses quotation marks sparingly and only for specific purposes, and uses only basic sentence structures and punctuation. Italics and bold or enlarged text are also used for emphasis and special effects. Students should keep this in mind for the activities that follow later.

For this exercise, some words have been capitalised and others not. In examining each word, students can discuss why some words are capitalised in this list, and why others aren’t.

  • maritime
  • discovery
  • The Deep
  • dragons
  • Nekton
  • map
  • history
  • plesiosaurs
  • extinct
  • creature
  • predator
  • Aronnax
  • White Knight
  • submarine
  • amateur
  • monster
  • insurance
  • family
  • terror
  • livelihood
  • ruin
  • hamlet
  • menace
  • assault
  • serpent
  • accident
  • precede
  • nautical
  • trench
  • pressure
  • Rover
  • guarantee
  • saber (sabre)
  • incredible
  • region
  • tremor
  • propel
  • depth
  • defiance
  • destroy
  • fetch
  • damage
  • misconstrue
  • Eocene
  • secret
  • sentinel
  • ancient
  • Atlantis

English Oxford Living Dictionaries is a good website to research these different meanings, which can then be recorded and kept in students’ reading journals.
(ACELA1782)   (ACELA1537)   (ACELA1539)

Understanding graphic novels as texts

Before really launching into the novel, it is worth revising with students how to read graphic novels as texts. Nowadays, schools are much more open to different text types when it comes to student learning, and most students should have been exposed to graphic novels during their primary school years (indeed, there are a lot of such texts and accompanying resources on the Reading Australia website). However, it would help to revisit the way that meaning is made via this medium and being very open and dialogic with your students about the types of skills they need to use in order to understand them fully. This discussion will not only help them think about their thinking, but it will improve their information literacy.

Activity one

Start off by posing some questions to your students about the genre of graphic novels. Put students in table groups and assign a scribe and a spokesperson. The scribe must record the group’s thoughts and the spokesperson must contribute the group’s answers during the whole class discussion. Ask that as a group, they come up with at least forty words per answer.


  1. What does ‘graphic’ mean?
  2. What is a graphic novel?
  3. How does a graphic novel differ to a comic book?
  4. What are some graphic novels that you know about or have read?
  5. What things do graphic novels have that other novels do not have?

Give about fifteen minutes for table groups to answer these questions. Ensure that you record time and give them reminders at each five-minute interval and then two minutes before time is up. Once time is up, go around the room, giving each table one question to contribute. It is good practice to make the rest of the group record the other groups’ answers so that each student has a good mix of answers.
(ACELT1803)   (ACELY1765)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)   (ACELY1724)

Activity two

Watch the YouTube video ‘What is a Graphic Novel?’ as a class (it’s under five minutes) and ask each student to write down:

    1. Three new things they have learnt.
    2. Three things they already knew.
    3. Something they found interesting.
    4. Any interesting words or phrases used in the video.

As a class, discuss all the students’ answers. It is particularly good for students to hear what each other finds interesting (these should be relatively unique for the group).
(ACELT1620)   (ACELY1765)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)   (ACELY1724)

Activity three

While comic strips and comic books are distinct from graphic novels, it is worthwhile taking a look at a comic strip with your students to introduce them to the layout, panelling, and flow used in graphic novels. Provide students with a short comic strip from a newspaper or online comic (this is easily googled, or Nedroid is a simple, light-hearted series) and discuss the following points with them:

    1. How do we know in what order to read and view the comic?
    2. What do the images tell us?
    3. What do the words/dialogue tell us?
    4. What is missing in this and what is the story outside of this smaller one?

(ACELA1528)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELY1765)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)   (ACELY1724)

How to read graphic novels

There are some things to know about the features of most graphic novels. Students will need to learn the following key features:

  • Panel: a box or area that contains the images and dialogue of the characters
  • Speech bubble: a circular or oval shape that is usually extending from a character. It contains dialogue that is spoken aloud
  • Thought bubble: a circular or oval-shaped cloud, usually extending from a character with other circles. It contains thoughts of characters that are not spoken aloud
  • Jagged bubble: a pointy speech bubble extending from a character, usually demonstrating aggression or a loud voice
  • Gutter: the blank space in between panels
  • Caption box: a box containing narration for the story.

(ACELA1531)   (ACELY1721)


  1. Provide students with the definition of the above features and give them, separately, the names of the features. Ask your students to match up the definitions with the names of the features.
  2. Show students a page of the text that does not contain any thought bubbles and ask them to write a thought bubble for one character in each panel. They will need to consider what is happening on the page and think about what context they are presented with in order to capture each character’s thoughts.

In addition to these features, authors of graphic novels often visually present text in different ways in order to communicate meaning to the reader. Here are some examples:

  • Italicised text: emphasis of word/s
  • Bold text: higher volume of words
  • Larger text: higher volume and emphasis of words
  • Progressively larger or smaller text: sentence gaining or losing volume, emphasis, etc.
  • Text that is placed on a curve or angle: words that are spoken with a varying tone or volume.


  1. Ask students to go through the novel and pick out examples of each of these types of visual features in the text and have them sound them out with a partner.
  2. Have students write a note to a friend in the class by using a series of visual features in the text to provide meaning as to how what they are saying would sound. Invite students to read one another’s notes aloud to a partner or to the whole class. 

When students are nervous about reading graphic novels, it is almost always because they just do not know how easy it is to navigate meaning on each page. You will have to show them how to read across the page and how to apportion time between the words on the page with the pictures. Some tips to share with your students:

  1. Start by focusing on one thing first – pictures or words. Read or view a page, and then go back and do what you missed out – words or pictures.
  2. Take note of things such as facial expressions in characters and the way that words look.
  3. Follow panels from top to bottom, and left to right.
  4. We are naturally used to reading books from the top-left of the page, progressing down to the bottom-right. The same applies to graphic novels.
  5. Speech bubbles should be read in this same way – starting with the top-left speech bubble in a panel and progressing to the right as you move to the bottom-right of the panel.

(ACELA1531)   (ACELA1532)   (ACELA1764)   (ACELT1621)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELY1765)   (ACELY1724) 


Personal response

There are three chapters plus an epilogue to The Deep: Here Be Dragons, so the most obvious way to divide up reading would be to go by chapters and epilogue.

Chapter 1

Discussion questions to run as a class:

  1. Discuss the use of adjectives to describe the atmosphere in the opening scene (pages 1 to 3). How do you know these adjectives are appropriate?
  2. How do you know that this group of people is a family?

Questions for students to answer on their own and then to share with a partner:

  1. Name at least five members of your own immediate or extended family and write three adjectives next to each of their names to describe them.
  2. Who is a member of your family that you get along with the best? Why is this?
  3. What family activities do you enjoy?
  4. What sort of a relationship do you think the Nektons have with one another? Find evidence on pages 10 to 13 to explain your answer.

While reading Chapter 1 with your students, point out the following to them:

  • examples of zooming in on characters to highlight emotion or action – have students contribute to what emotion they think is being zoomed in on (examples can be found on pages 2, 3, 5, 11, 12, 13 and 24.)
  • the sepia tones used on page 15 to communicate an historical flashback
  • the use of onomatopoeia on pages 2, 7, 8 and 12
  • multiple panels communicating movement, seen notably on pages 2, 7, 9, 12, 16 and 19
  • the use of jagged-cornered speech bubbles to signify that dialogue is through electronic (radio) means, seen on pages 19, 20, 21, 22 and 24
  • the full, double-page spread on pages 22 and 23, large-scale in size to highlight the monstrosity of the creature in comparison with the Aronnax.

Reading journal entries:

  • ‘I think this story is about…’
  • ‘I like this about the story so far…’
  • ‘I’m not so sure about this…’
  • ‘If I were to change one character, it would be…because…’
  • ‘I find the following interesting about this story…’

Chapter 2

Discussion questions to run as a class:

  1. Who do you think are the good people and bad people in this chapter? Why do you think this?
  2. What do you think the backstory is between Kaiko and Trish (pages 33 and 34)?
    1. What are the reasons not to keep their finding a secret?
    2. What reasons are there for keeping it a secret?
    3. Which is the right decision and why?

Questions for students to answer on their own and then share with a partner:

  1. Why might the discovery of a monster affect the ‘livelihood’ of the people living in the small hamlet?
  2. Why might Trish not be helpful in this hamlet?
  3. Why is it important that Antaeus stays back on the Aronnax while his parents and sister go exploring?

While reading Chapter 2 with your students, point out the following to them:

  • the difference in framing and tone on page 27 to depict a television news segment (and that the camera filming the ‘amateur footage’ is obviously dropped in the second panel and illustrates hysteria and confusion)
  • the different types of characters of the hamlet, including:
    • the old, wise man
    • the young, reckless man
    • the scared fisherman
    • Trish (the reporter)

Be sure to point out the way that they are visually depicted, along with their dialogue and how this dialogue is presented, when discussing their character profiles.

  • the low angle used on page 31 to illustrate the Nekton family as authoritative, regal, etc.
  • the imposition of the helicopter, symbolising the imposition of Trish, on page 33
  • the framing of Trish being thrown into the water on pages 36 and 37 depicting movement and blow-by-blow action using a variety of perspectives
  • the way that Trish is drawn on the third panel on page 37 as small, insignificant
  • the zoom in on page 39 to demonstrate the significance of what Antaeus says
  • the sheer size of the trench on page 41, along with its darkness – the only light coming from the submarine (the submarine, providing the only light in an area previously not discovered)
  • the fact that Antaeus accepts that it is not his turn to go exploring
  • the progression of the creature on pages 48 and 49 to build tension
  • a cliffhanger is used on page 50 to end Chapter 2. The radio dialogue goes unanswered, building tension.

Reading journal entries:

  • ‘The character I like least is…because…’
  • ‘I think that I am most like…because…’
  • ‘I think that what will happen next is…’
  • ‘If I were to run into an enemy like Kaiko, here is what I would say or do…’

Chapter 3

Discussion questions to run as a class:

  1. How would you feel being stuck in the Rover?
  2. What does Fontaine do as an act of defiance? Why does she do this? Was she right in doing it?
  3. What message is communicated by Jeffrey finding William, Kaiko, and Fontaine? (That everyone, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, can make a difference; that persistence reaps rewards.)
  4. Why do the Nektons announce their finding of the sabre-toothed herring in the end?

Questions for students to answer on their own and then share with a partner:

  1. Do Antaeus and Fontaine actually dislike one another? Why/why not?
  2. How do we know that Jeffrey is smarter than what meets the eye?

While reading Chapter 3 with your students, point out the following to them:

  • the close-ups in panels to depict the tight, enclosed, and trapped environment the Nektons find themselves in (namely on pages 54, 55, 56, 60 and 61)
  • the diagonal gutters used on page 55 to illustrate the Nektons tumbling and not being upright within the Rover
  • the combination of upside-down panelling and blurs used on pages 56, 57, 60 and 61 to highlight the Rover being lodged upside-down
  • the blurring on pages 58 and 59 to mimic the tension of the earthquake
  • the blurring of panels on page 60 to demonstrate the earthquake and dislodging of the Rover
  • the recurrence of a double-page spread on pages 62 and 63 to illustrate the sense of isolation of those on the Rover
  • Fontaine’s desperation on page 66
  • the vertical panels used on page 69 to help illustrate Jeffrey’s descent into the depths of the sea (and the look of determination on his face)
  • the sense of unity the Nekton family exude on page 74 as they deliver to the press conference together – they stand proud and tall together.

Reading journal entries:

  • ‘If I were Fontaine, I would have acted in the following way…’
  • ‘Jeffrey shows us that…’
  • ‘I found the following things funny in this novel…’ (describe at least four things)
  • ‘I expected the ending of the novel to be like this…’


Facilitate a class discussion about this section, primarily around what might come next. Some prompts for you to use:

  • Where have we seen Nereus before? Why is it interesting that he has re-emerged?
  •  Why might Nereus know Antaeus’s name?


  1. Have students look up the definition/story of Nereus and write a summary.
  2. Ask students to write why the character Nereus might be named this.
  3. Have students look up the story of Atlantis. Ask them to distil their research into ten dot points about the fictional island.

Reading Journal entries:

  • ‘I think that Nereus is actually…’
  • ‘I wonder…about the Nekton family.’
  • ‘This is what I think will happen next…’

(ACELA1537)   (ACELT1619)   (ACELT1620)   (ACELT1621)   (ACELT1803)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELT1623)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)   (ACELY1724)


Outline of key elements of the text


The Deep: Here Be Dragons is the first story in Taylor’s and Brouwer’s The Deep series. In it, we are introduced to four members of the Nekton family, the latest generation of a long line of sea explorers, or ‘aquanauts’. Once some unusual seismic activity is recorded off the coast of Greenland, the Nektons travel there aboard their high-tech submarine, the Aronnax, to explore reports of a sea monster. Keen to uncover any answers the region may be hiding and discover if the reports are true, the family pull together all their resources and band together to both preserve and explore the real unknown that is the deep sea.


William Nekton is the father in the Nekton family. He is young-at-heart and naturally adventurous. It is his leadership that drives his family to explore and develop their innate sense of mystery and adventure. William likes to study maps, and while he enjoys the benefits of the high-tech equipment and machinery that the Nekton family uses on their quests, he also sees the potential in studying the artefacts and history that can be uncovered during their research.

Kaiko Nekton, the mother in the family, is also adventurous and headstrong. Kaiko is assertive and takes control of situations. Kaiko has a good sense of humour and a playful nature that enables her to connect with others. Kaiko has a deep concern for nature and the environment, and she is not afraid of getting into trouble if it means doing the right thing. The name ‘Kaiko’ is an Hawaiian name that means ‘sea with strong current’. As her name suggests, Kaiko is a strong character.

Fontaine Nekton is the daughter in the Nekton family. She has a dry wit and can be sarcastic. She bickers with her brother, and might seem a little critical, but she has a big heart and loves her family. Like her mother, Fontaine is headstrong and is not afraid of making unpopular decisions if the situation calls for it. The name ‘Fontaine’ is a French word for fountain or natural spring. In this way, you could assume that Fontaine’s character has a natural energy and pure heart.

Antaeus Nekton is the son in the Nekton family. He has a vibrant and inquisitive energy. When he sets his mind to something, he works hard to achieve it. Antaeus has a bubbly and friendly personality, and he likes to make jokes. He does not like sitting around – exploring is what he loves to do. Antaeus, in Greek mythology, was the half-son of Poseidon (god of the sea) and Gaia (the personification of the Earth). Famous for fighting against Hercules, Antaeus was always an opponent who wanted to fight bigger and stronger enemies. With this, you could assess Antaeus Nekton as a fighter who never gives up.

Trish is the glamorous and tenacious reporter for Channel 3 Eyewitness News. She likes to think that she uncovers dark secrets that the world deserves to know, and she does this without any regard for the environment. We know that Trish likes to find big stories that will stun or scare audiences, and this is more important than the wellbeing of the wildlife or nature that she reports on. In the past she has compromised the safety of sharks in order to get a story on them to make them seem more vicious than they are.

Nereus is a mysterious character who has some sort of connection with the Nekton family. He seems to know a lot about the line of explorers in the family indicating that he may be a distant relative or once-acquaintance of William’s ancestors. He is wise; he is a voice of reason among the residents of the hamlet, and he seems to know a lot more than he is willing to share.


  • family is of utmost importance
  • discovery is exciting
  • never lose hope
  • the environment should be respected and cared for.


Synthesising task

Ask students to write a character profile for a new addition to the Nekton family. They should do some research into the name of their character (it should be meaningful, like the existing characters). Here are some suggestions if students are stuck with where to look into potential names: 

Things that the character profile should include:

  • name
  • description of the origin of the name (at least 100 words)
  • age
  • appearance
  • likes and dislikes
  • ten adjectives to describe his/her personality
  • hobbies/pastimes
  • a 100-word description of their new character’s personality.

Students should present these as posters that can be displayed around the room. They can do this on paper or do it on their laptop or tablet using Canva (online poster maker) or Poster Maker (iPad app).
(ACELT1625)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1725)   (ACELY1726)   (ACELY1728)

The writer’s craft


Set out in three chapters plus an epilogue, the novel can be viewed as episodic. This is relevant to students’ study of the novel, as learning can be separated and students can analyse each chapter as separate stories.

In addition to the chapter structure used in the novel, historical flashbacks and contextual asides are used to provide information of relevance to the main storyline. It is important that students understand the function of these episodes within the novel. Have them complete the table below.

Episode Description Purpose
Opening, pages 1 to 3 Two fishermen off the coast of Greenland are in a storm and their boat gets attacked by an unknown creature from the sea. This opening establishes the main point of contention in the novel, that an unknown creature is out there, which will later be discovered by the Nekton family.
The 1734 back story, page 15
The news report, page 27
The earthquake, pages 58 and 59

(ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1724)   (ACELY1765)

Perspective and voice

The novel is driven by third-person narrative and dialogue. As is the case with most graphic novels and comics, the reader observes the action being told as a sort of a report unfolding. A mixture of narration, dialogue, and imagery is used to progress the story; it is worthwhile inviting students to examine the different voices and tones of each.

Narration is the third-person telling of the story that advances the narrative. It contains an all-knowing (omniscient) tone that gives incomplete descriptions of the action to make way for the reader to actually observe the action. The overall tone of the narration appears to be in a mock-reporting style, sometimes light-hearted, jumping in and out of the story to give objective updates and details.

The dialogue very obviously carries tone, as it is the spoken word of each character. Through the use of selected words and expression, the reader is able to discern how the character speaks, and a certain profile of the character is drawn through this, too.

The imagery used in The Deep: Here Be Dragons very strongly conveys tone and perspective, typically to present action, characters’ attitudes, and to move the story along. When analysing the imagery, it is important to draw your students’ attention to things such as:

  • facial expressions
  • movement
  • angles
  • colour
  • shot types

All of these things are very likely to communicate certain attitudes or ideas to the reader.

Activity 1: Writing narration

Give your students each a page from a newspaper with a photograph/image on it. You should carefully select images that would be appropriate depending on your group of students. Ask them to write a caption for the image that contains one of the following tones:

  • light-hearted
  • serious
  • informative.

Ask them to then continue a story from this initial image, drawing two images that would follow this first image. They should caption the next two images using the same tone selected for the first image.
(ACELA1529)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)   (ACELY1724)   (ACELY1725)   (ACELY1726)

Activity 2: Understanding character through dialogue

Ask students to complete the below table by referring to characters in The Deep: Here Be Dragons:

Character’s name Adjectives to describe them Reasons for these choices Words to describe the tone presented by this character

(ACELT1619)   (ACELT1620)   (ACELT1621)   (ACELT1622)

Activity 3: Analysing imagery

Assign each student a double-page spread of the novel to analyse. Ask them to write a report on this double-page spread by commenting on whatever facial expressions, movement, angles, colour, or shot types they can detect on the spread. The Edge Learning Centre has a good resource on the different shot types that can be used in graphic novels. While intended for photographic angles, has a simple resource to help students understand some of the main camera angles that are also used in graphic novels.
(ACELA1764)   (ACELT1621)   (ACELT1803)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELT1805)

Activity 4: Combining imagery and spoken language

Split students into pairs and invite them to go around the school and take four photographs on their mobile phones, depicting a simple scenario. Each of the four photographs should use a different angle and shot type. Here are some simple scenarios you might like to suggest to them:

  • a person tripping over some rubbish
  • a person hiding from someone
  • a person seeing a friend and waving
  • a person picking up some rubbish and putting it in the bin
  • a person helping someone else.

Invite them to come up with their own scenarios, too. Students should print off the four photographs and use a combination of narration and dialogue to tell the simple story. Encourage them to try to convey a tone within their story, for example, disgust, at picking up someone else’s rubbish, or happiness in seeing a friend.
(ACELY1765)   (ACELY1804)   (ACELY1720)   (ACELY1725)   (ACELY1726)   (ACELY1728)


Text and meaning

With any thematic study of a text, it is important that the teacher ensures that students fully understand what exactly is a theme. Students should be taken through the difference between what happens in the novel (the events, what the characters do and say, etc.) and what it all means. It is safe to say that themes are underlying messages or ideas in a text, and they are rarely clearly defined or written for the reader to see. It is then up to the reader to try to work out what the greater meaning is behind the text. Below are four themes that can be easily observed in the novel:

  • family is of utmost importance
  • discovery is exciting
  • never lose hope
  • the environment should be respected and cared for.

There are obviously many ways to explain themes that we find in texts, but it is often helpful for students to see purpose in a text’s themes when we express them in action statements like those listed above. In order for students to adequately grasp the place and importance of each theme, have them complete the following activities.

Activity 1: Reflecting on themes

Ask students to write each theme on the top of each ‘theme’ page and then set out their pages with the following subheadings:

  • What I think this theme means (student’s self-reflection prior to discussion or explanation about the theme)
  • What a friend thinks this theme means (students share their thoughts with a partner or friend and record one another’s definitions)
  • Class discussion about this theme (discuss the theme as a class, and encourage students to take down notes or key words/phrases of things they are learning; you may need to encourage them to jot down certain points)
  • Characters who demonstrate this theme (students should reflect on which characters ‘live’ this theme, or characters to whom action happens that highlights this theme in the novel)
  • Events or actions in the novel that demonstrate this theme (students should reflect on which events or actions in the novel occur that encourage thought about this theme)
  • Quotes from the novel that exemplify this theme (students should find words from the text that they think help deliver the message of the theme)
  • A twenty-word message statement about this theme (pose the question to the students: What is the author’s message about this theme? and ask that they try to distil this message into no more than twenty words).

(ACELT1620)   (ACELT1621)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELT1623)   (ACELY1719)   (ACELY1721)

Activity 2: Presenting the messages of themes

Ask students to select one theme from the text and prepare a two-minute expository speech that argues the message of this theme. They should lay out their speech in the following way:

Part 1: Introduction Briefly introducing the theme and what will be discussed in the speech
Part 2: The message Delivering the message and why it is important
Part 3: Text example Present examples from the text of this theme
Part 4: Real world example Discuss a real world example of the message of this theme
Part 5: Personal example Provide a personal anecdote of how this theme relates to self
Part 6: Concluding remarks Summarise key ideas and finish

As part of their assessments for the speeches, students should complete a peer review that articulates what was learnt from another peer’s speech on a different theme.
(ACELT1620)   (ACELT1621)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELT1623)   (ACELY1719)   (ACELY1720)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1804)


Rich assessment task 1 (responding and creating)

Creation of a graphic novel strip

This task is designed to bring together students’ study of character, theme and the form of the text. It should be given about a week’s worth of class time for the planning and execution of it. Students should be encouraged to create completely original work, whether this be done by hand on paper or electronically using ICT. The break-down of about five hours’ work is below. Consideration should be given to one’s own school context and timetable when apportioning these steps.

First hour: Planning Ask students to come up with two characters of their own creation. They can be human or animal (or alien). They should write a quick character profile for each, ensuring that there is distinction and potential tension between the two characters. Have them include:

  • name
  • age
  • appearance
  • likes and dislikes
  • relationship to the other character
  • what motivates them.
Second hour: Classical unities  In order to ensure that students keep their comic strips short and concise (and not to think too big or grandly with them), ask them to plan out their stories using Aristotle’s Classical Unities. These are often used in drama, and provided the structural basis for a great many ancient Greek plays. Having students using them when writing their own stories can help keep their ideas contained. They are:

  • Unity of time (action occurs within a 24-hour time period)
  • Unity of place (action occurs within a single physical space)
  • Unity of action (only one action occurs, with minimal to no subplots)

Depending on your group of students, you may wish to simplify this structure or make it more challenging. Some able students might want to read further information on the unities as a way to add drama and excitement to their comics.

It is important that students select one theme that has already been studied for this text and to present this theme in their strip in their own created contexts.

You should move around the class and check in on the students’ work. They should also be given opportunity to share their ideas with their peers.

Third hour: Sharing of ideas This hour should be spent with each student presenting their ideas to the whole class. Things that you should look out for:

  • strong character development
  • solid unities of action, time, and place
  • a clear message or lesson (theme).
Fourth and fifth hours: Creation of strip There are many graphic novel templates that can be found on the internet, and they have varying layouts and structures depending on what you want students to include in their strips. Alternatively, Canva is an online program that students can use to create their strips electronically.

Students should have at least six panels of varying sizes, in their strip. Other things you may wish to have them include are:

  • a mixture of narration, speech bubbles, and thought bubbles
  • visual features in text to demonstrate expression or emotion
  • a mixture of shot types and angles.

On completion, students’ graphic novel strips should be displayed around the school or classroom.
(ACELT1620)   (ACELT1621)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELT1623)   (ACELT1625)   (ACELY1719)   (ACELY1720)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1804)   (ACELY1725)   (ACELY1726)   (ACELY1728)

Ways of reading the text

An eco-critical reading

Depending on your own thoughts about the text and the group you are working with, you might like to examine the text using an eco-critical lens to encourage reflection on how literature represents nature, the wilderness, and humankind’s interaction with these things.

To keep an eco-critical study simple enough for Year 7 students, consider these main points about this approach:

  1.  Eco-criticism is an earth-centred approach to studying literature.
  2.  Eco-criticism examines the connection between human culture and the physical world.
  3.  Eco-criticism asks us to consider the world around us and critique the way we interact with the environment.
  4.  An eco-critical lens invites the reader to view the way that nature is presented in texts.

Activity 1: Considering the ‘wilderness’ of The Deep: Here Be Dragons

Central to the eco-critical lens is the sense that the wilderness can be presented in different ways. In ‘old world’ representations of the wilderness, we are often encouraged to think of nature and the wilderness as a threat or place of exile. Conversely, ‘new world’ representations of the wilderness present it as a place of discovery and sanctuary. Invite your students to consider these two perspectives of the wilderness in The Deep: Here Be Dragons by doing the following:

  1. What imagery is used to make it appear threatening?
  2. What light and colour are used to make it appear threatening?
  3. How do the characters interact with this threatening wilderness?

and then conversely:

  1. What imagery is used to make it appear like a sanctuary?
  2. What light and colour are used to make it appear welcoming?
  3. How do the characters interact with this welcoming and safe-feeling place?

Remember that nature and wilderness can be natural or man-made.
(ACELA1764)   (ACELT1619)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)   (ACELY1724)

Activity 2: Considering the animals of The Deep: Here Be Dragons

Another important aspect of eco-criticism is examining the relationship between animals and humans in texts. The Deep: Here Be Dragons has a selection of characters with different perspectives on the dark secrets of the sea, with the obvious frontrunners being the members of the Nekton family who are the aquanauts keen to uncover the sea’s secrets and preserve nature. Most secondary characters in the novel seem afraid of the unknown and are petrified of the sheer magnitude of what is in the water. This is not assisted by the news reporter, Trish, who appears to revel in building hysteria and making her audiences react to the uncertainty of what is in the deep.

Below are some relationships that are worth examining:

  • fishermen and fish
  • fishermen and the huge creature
  • Antaeus and Jeffrey, his fish
  • Trish and the wide-mouthed shark (as part of Keiko and Trish’s backstory)
  • Antaeus and the huge creature
  • The Nektons and the sabre-toothed herring.

As a class, read the sections of the novel that examine these relationships and discuss the differences in each type of relationship (for example, the fishermen’s relationship with fish is one of livelihood and necessity, whereas Antaeus’s relationship with his fish, Jeffrey, is one of friendship and trust). With each of the above relationships, ask students to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the nature of this relationship?
  2. Who possesses power in this relationship?
  3. What do we learn from this relationship?
  4. Should a relationship continue in the future?

(ACELT1619)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)   (ACELY1724)

Activity 3: Making ethical environmental decisions

The eco-critical lens also invites the reader to consider the ethics of human interaction with nature and the environment by examining how characters play roles as active environmentalists or not. This encourages a reflection on one’s own attitudes towards nature.

From the outset, the Nektons can be seen to treat the environment as something to be explored and understood. They harbour a deep respect for the sea and it would seem that their exploration of it is for the education of mankind. They hold press conferences and aim to dispel unwarranted fears about what is in the sea. They are also depicted as respecting the locations they travel to and they do not destroy any aspect of the deep sea landscape. The do not try to capture the once-extinct sabre-tooth herring and instead appreciate it for the discovery that it is. The Nektons also do not try to defend themselves against the huge creature and accept that they enter into danger the deeper they go. Even though the huge creature could kill them (and it appears that it does try to), the Nektons’ attitude towards it is not of aggression or even fear. They respect that they have entered into the huge creature’s space and that with this comes the threat of the wild.

Invite students to consider the choices that the humans make in the novel with regard to the environment. Run a class discussion where you examine each character, including secondary (even nameless) characters and record what sorts of choices are made that impact the environment. Here are some examples:

Character Choices made Potential impact
Antaeus Very enthusiastic to go out in the White Knight to explore the blue whale carcass. Takes Jeffrey with him for ‘exercise’. The environment is respected and treated as something to be explored.
Trish Calls the huge creature a ‘monster’ that will ruin the livelihood of the people in the hamlet. The environment and its inhabitants are scary things for which human beings are the victims.



Have students write down the character and choices first, and then invite them to consider the potential impacts. These should be regarded as the ‘messaging’, as in, what attitudes could readers take from understanding these choices?

Further information on the eco-critical literary perspective can be found at the Purdue Writing Lab’s section on Eco-Criticism.
(ACELT1619)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)   (ACELY1724)


Comparison with other texts

There are very many graphic novels currently published whose subject matter is the environment and sustainability. Do some searches or visit your local book store to see what is appropriate to your class’s age and interests. Picture books might be appropriate, as students can do a comparison of form as well as a theme.

Comparing The Deep: Here Be Dragons with The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

Activity: Reading The Lost Thing

Invite students to record their thoughts in their reading journals as you all read The Lost Thing together. You might like to give them prompts, such as:

  1. How do the people in the story interact with one another?
  2. How is the landscape/nature represented?
  3. What is confusing?
  4. What do you like about this book?

Run a class discussion where you get every student to contribute something that they like about The Lost Thing. Ask the students to consider the differences and similarities with the way that both The Lost Thing and The Deep: Here Be Dragons use visuals to convey the following:

  • isolation
  • connection
  • the landscape (natural or man-made)

Teachers will find the the Reading Australia teaching resource for The Lost Thing will be helpful here.
(ACELT1619)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)   (ACELY1724)

Comparison with other adaptations

In December 2015, an animated adaptation of The Deep graphic novel series aired in Australia on 7TWO. DVD rights to the series were later secured by the ABC and DHX Media. Episodes are available on ABC iView.

Students may wish to compare this animated series with the graphic novel set. Discussion points could include:

  • the effects of animation on:
    • the narrative
    • characters and their traits
    • themes
    • the atmosphere and tone created
  • the ‘heard’ dialogue (with accents) as opposed to the visual text boxes and bubbles
  • the sound effects and background music

As an activity students could discuss and ultimately argue the case for their preferred form of the series.
(ACELA1529)   (ACELA1764)   (ACELT1621)   (ACELT1803)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELY1765)   (ACELY1724)


Rich assessment task 2:  (Responding and creating)

Zine on a ‘gamechanger’ (famous explorers or inventors)

To begin, a discussion on what it means to be a ‘gamechanger’ is necessary. Watch the following YouTube Videos and ask students to record notes as they view:

Discuss how these gamechangers affected the world, and what the world might be like if they hadn’t been born. Give students some time to do some research into other gamechangers, or into any person of interest to them. You might like to limit their research to Australian explorers/inventors with these resources:

A zine (pronounced ‘zeen’, short for magazine or fanzine) is a self-produced small magazine that is compiled of original or appropriated imagery on a single topic. They are great hands-on and self-directed products that students put together to present their understanding of a topic in multiple ways. The Conversation’s ‘Explainer’ series has a good explanation of what zines are. In a growing digital world where students are creating things on their computers and other devices, zines hark back to cutting and pasting and collating physical images and information on paper.

It is important to keep the students’ zines small-scale and contained. At most, five A4 pages of white paper should be used to create a booklet of twenty pages, front and back, including the front and back cover.

Students should research a famous ‘gamechanger’ and present their findings, thoughts, and creations in the zine. Here is what should be included:

  • a front and back cover
  • a contents page
  • a resources/further reading page
  • a personal blog of the gamechanger
  • a short biography of gamechanger
  • the gamechanger’s likes and dislikes
  • letters between the gamechanger and someone close to him/her
  • a graphic novel strip of the gamechanger’s most famous discovery or invention
  • a world without this gamechanger
  • an essay comparing this gamechanger with a member of the Nekton family.

Note: when using images from other sources, ensure that students understand the protocols and practices regarding the re-use of such images. All sources should be properly acknowledged and only freely available or Creative Commons’ licensed material should be used.
(ACELA1763)   (ACELT1619)   (ACELT1803)   (ACELT1625)   (ACELT1805)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)   (ACELY1724)   (ACELY1725)   (ACELY1726)

Synthesising core ideas

Post-study reflection

Activity 1: Reading journal reflections

Return your students’ attention to their reading journals. Split the class into groups of no more than four, and ask students to read through sections (that they feel comfortable with) in their groups. They should frame their sharing by addressing the following prompts:

  • ‘I didn’t know…’
  • ‘I know now…’
  • ‘I didn’t like…’
  • ‘I do like…’
  • ‘One character that my opinion changed on is…My opinion changed because…’

Then invite each student to write up on the white board one new thing that they learned throughout their reading of The Deep: Here Be Dragons. Discuss these contributions as a class.
(ACELT1619)   (ACELT1620)   (ACELT1621)   (ACELT1803)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELY1723)

Activity 2: Summative statements

Ask students to each write a 200-word summative statement about what they think the novel is all about. Ideally they should focus on a central theme, but overall, they should identify what message they think the author/illustrators are aiming to communicate. They should refer to their reading journals to help them with this.
(ACELT1620)   (ACELT1621)   (ACELT1803)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELT1625)   (ACELY1725)   (ACELY1726)

Activity 3: Library visit

Take your students to the school or local library with the prime purpose of exposing them to other graphic novels that they might be interested in. By encouraging them to consider what sort of graphic novel they will personally enjoy, you are asking them to consider their personal response to The Deep: Here Be Dragons and styles and themes that resonate with them.
(ACELT1619)   (ACELT1620)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELY1723)

Activity 4: Student feedback survey

It’s always beneficial for a teacher to gain important feedback on a unit of work from students on their completion of the unit. Set up a survey on Google Forms for students to fill out that asks the following questions:

  1. The title of this text was …
  2. During this unit I received feedback in the following formats (select all that apply):
  • verbal
  • written
  • peer-assessment
  • self-assessment.
  1. I enjoyed receiving feedback in the following formats (select all that apply):
  • verbal
  • written
  • peer-assessment
  • self-assessment.
  1. I challenged and extended myself in this unit by…
  2. Scoring between 1 and 5 (with 5 the highest rating), I would give The Deep: Here Be Dragons a score of…
  3. My favourite activity in this unit was…
  4. I would like to do more of…

By inviting students to provide feedback on the unit, you will encourage them to think critically about their own learning, why they enjoy the types of learning tasks that they do, and will also help shape what their future learning might look and be like.
(ACELT1619)   (ACELT1620)   (ACELT1803)   (ACELT1622)   (ACELY1721)   (ACELY1722)   (ACELY1723)