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Lesson Plan

Letters and Learning Genre

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Letters and Learning Genre

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Deborah Dean

Deborah Dean

Provo, Utah

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Overview

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

 

OVERVIEW

This lesson combines a lesson on genre with an opportunity for students to write and experience how genre changes a situation. Students first share what they know about letters and discuss books that feature letters. They then compare and contrast letters written for different purposes and situations. Then, by examining letters in selected picture books, students see how genres have flexibility and can be used in different situations. Next, they practice this flexibility with genres by writing a story using a series of letters to tell the story—using a book they have recently read, rather than creating one of their own, so that they can see the effect of genre choice. Finally, students make final revisions to their letter-stories and share them with the class.

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FEATURED RESOURCES

Venn Diagram: Use this online tool to organize ideas for a compare and contrast essay, or while reading to compare and contrast two works of literature.

Texts Containing Letters and Letter Writing: This sheet offers a list of children's books that contain letters or feature letter writing.

Letter Generator: This online tool allows students to read about the parts of a letter. They can then write and print their own friendly or business letter.

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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE

Genres, once thought of as ways to categorize texts and therefore defined only by formal features, now are known in more complex ways, as ways of acting in specific social situations (Devitt). Because genres are social responses, they carry meaning beyond their form-the choice of genre also carries contextual meaning and frames readers' reception of it. When we read a fairy tale, we expect certain textual characteristics, and we position ourselves accordingly: we suspend logic for instance. But Anne Freadman also notes that the relation of formal properties of text with context (which together constitute a genre) "does not mean. . . that the formal properties of a genre cannot travel . . . . Texts plunder the features of a variety of genres. . . . Indeed, writing to a genre is itself a game, which can be played with more or less brinkmanship or bravado" (117). So, genres can be, and often are, engaged for purposes beyond those intended in their original situation. This flexibility inherent in genre is an important concept for students to understand as they develop as writers: it means they have choices as writers, even within genres, but it also means they have responsibilities to readers and to situations.

This lesson helps students see genres as they change through time to meet different purposes and also how a writer can use generic expectations in readers to carry messages beyond those originally intended, thus teaching the flexibility of genres.

Further Reading

Cope, Bill and Mary Kalantzis.1993. The Powers of Literacy: A Genre Approach to Teaching Writing. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

 

Dean, Deborah.  Strategic Writing: The Writing Process and Beyond in the Secondary English Classroom.  Urbana, IL: NCTE 2006.

Read more about this resource

 

Devitt, Amy J. 2004. Writing Genres. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

 

Freadman, Anne. 1987. "Anyone for Tennis?" The Place of Genre in Learning: Current Debates. Ed. Ian Reid. Geelong, Victoria, Australia: Deakin University Centre for Studies in Literacy Education.

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