Beyond "What I Did on Vacation": Exploring the Genre of Travel Writing
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In this lesson, students are introduced to the genre of travel writing. After reading and analyzing short examples and discussing conventions of the genre, students engage in some guided travel writing activities. They brainstorm events and/or personal experiences that might make a fun piece of travel writing and select one event for freewriting. They then turn their notes into a travel article, using a list of characteristics of good travel writing to assess their writing as they work. They peer review and revise drafts of their writing before publishing it using an online multigenre tool.
This scalable lesson can be completed in a few days as a short mini-unit, before a school break as a chance for students to do some real world writing, or over a longer period of time as an extended unit with integrated research.
- Elements of Good Travel Writing: This handout lists characteristics of good travel articles.
- Multigenre Mapper: Students can use this online tool to create multigenre, multimodal texts, including three types of writing and a drawing, in response to the Gettysburg Address.
- Suggested Reading in the Travel Writing Genre: This reading list includes books and magazines in the travel writing genre.
From Theory to Practice
In her book Thinking Through Genre, Heather Lattimer discusses genre study as "an inquiry into text form" (4). One of the ways to help students see the structural and rhetorical features of a piece of writing is to immerse them in the study of various genres. By studying a wide array of genres, students are better able to see the many decisions a writer makes as a matter of purpose, audience, and form or genre, rather than as arbitrary teacher-established rules. Lattimer suggests, "A genre study is not about reading a particular text; individual texts are read and discussed for the purpose of developing strategies of comprehension appropriate for the genre" (4). Dean states, "Even if we can't develop the full contextual aspect of some genres because of the restrictions of the classroom situation, it is helpful for students to know that not all writing is the same. They can learn the concept of genres." (45) By reading and writing in new genres, students gain strategies for reading new kinds of texts as well as insights into different ways of producing texts.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 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.
- 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 nonprint texts.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Read and the Analysis of Travel Writing and note how the characteristics apply to “The Visit.”
- Consider how travel writing might fit into your larger conversations with students about writing. For example, using travel writing as part of a genre approach to teaching writing can allow teachers to compare and contrast it with other forms of writing. There is a strong overlap between travel writing and personal narrative, as good travel writing centers on good stories and engaging voice and style. Mixed in with that, however, is the description and informational aspects of expository writing. Travel writing also often overlaps with persuasive writing, making emotional appeals to entice readers to take particular sorts of trips. Seeing travel writing as a hybrid genre not only will give students an additional form to work in; it will help them see aspects of familiar forms by comparison.
- Make one copy of the Analysis of Travel Writing and Elements of Good Travel Writing for each student.
- Test the Multigenre Mapper on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- learn the conventions of the travel writing genre.
- attempt new methods of generating personal writing.
- practice process-based writing and writing for an audience.
- integrate research with personal experiences and reflection.
- Ask students what they know about travel writing and what they expect to find in travel writing. List their comments on the board or on chart paper. Save this information for use later in the session.
- Hand out copies of “The Visit,” or have students access it online. Alternately, you can share another piece of travel writing with students from your class textbook or another source.
- Hand out copies of the Analysis of Travel Writing to each student.
- Have students read “The Visit” and then answer the questions on the Analysis of Travel Writing, either individually or in small groups.
- Discuss the article and student responses to the Analysis of Travel Writing handout.
- Ask students to compare that they found in the reading with their observations and expectations at the beginning of the session. Encourage exploration of the similarities and differences.
- Hand out a Elements of Good Travel Writing to each student, and discuss these elements as they apply to the reading.
- Review the Elements of Good Travel Writing handout from the previous session.
- Have students watch the short clip "Developing Travel Writing" from BBC.
- When they finish reading, ask students to brainstorm a list of events and/or personal experiences that might make a fun piece of travel writing.
- Give students a few minutes to share their lists with their peers.
- Have students select one event from their lists and write down, using freewriting and brainstorming techniques, everything they can about it during the remainder of the session. If time is short, have students complete their notes for homework. Ask them to bring their notes to the next session.
- Allow students a few minutes to review their notes from the previous session and make any changes or additions.
- Explain that these notes are source material for students’ own travel articles.
- Have students compare their notes to the Elements of Good Travel Writing. Ask them to identify any characteristics that are not present in their work or that need to be strengthened.
- During the remainder of the session, ask students rework their ideas into a draft, making sure specific sections of their writings focus on the key elements:
- Try for a clever attention grabber (explain that this may be the last or most difficult part).
- Give enough background information to set the context: Where were you? Why were you there? Why was this event important?
- Clearly describe the setting. Use details that appeal to multiple senses.
- Clearly describe an important person (alternately, an animal or thing) in the story. Make sure that your reader will understand who the key people are in the article.
- Look for places where you can add dialogue. If the event happened a long time ago, dialogue does not have to be direct quotations. Suggest students focus on the general comments and feelings in their dialogues.
- Mix in personal reflections with the telling of the story.
- Try for a clever attention grabber (explain that this may be the last or most difficult part).
- Ask students to bring a completed draft of their travel article to the next class session for peer review.
- Have students share their revised drafts in small groups of two to four students.
- Ask peers to evaluate the articles by comparing their characteristics to the Elements of Good Travel Writing.
- Encourage students to share supportive feedback and praise as well.
- Have students revise their work using feedback from their peers to create a final draft.
- If desired, allow time for students to publish their travel writing using the Multigenre Mapper to incorporate drawings into their final work.
- Have students research the location in their writings and then incorporate relevant information into the finished versions.
- Read additional travel writing. Some suggestions are included on the Suggested Reading in the Travel Writing Genre handout.
- General interest magazines often carry travel pieces as well. Discuss the kinds of travel writing that are included in non-travel magazines such as Cottage Living and the differences between these and articles found in travel magazines such as National Geographic Traveler. Use this comparison as a basis for a discussion of audience and purpose.
- For some additional ways to write about travel, consult Ten Ways to Write about Your Vacation, which includes writing prompts that can be used as starting points or as more polished pieces.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Assess students’ finished travel writing by comparison to the genre conventions established during discussion and in the Elements of Good Travel Writing. Finished pieces can be shared with peers, family, and/or the school at large via a “travel” edition of a school publication.