Genre Study: A Collaborative Approach
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Students explore literary genres by completing a series of genre studies, each spanning two to three weeks. The concept of genres is introduced through class discussion, during which students determine the main characteristics of various genres. Students are then assigned a genre to explore, and they use printable bookmarks to record evidence that their book fits the assigned genre. Finally, students complete a book review and share summaries of the books they read with their classmates. Conducting studies of multiple genres can help students to achieve a better understanding of their characteristics.
Genre Study Book List: This list offers numerous book suggestions organized by genre.
Mystery Bookmark: Students use this printable bookmark, one of a set customized by genre, to record evidence that the book they are reading fits into the mystery genre.
From Theory to Practice
As children complete their schooling, it is important that they are exposed to and immersed in many kinds of print and many types of literature. A genre study is one way to accomplish that.
As Smith wrote in 1991, "The analysis of different types of literature promotes cognitive development because it gives students an opportunity to apply similar skills and strategies, such as identifying themes discussed in one genre-fiction, for example-to other genres like poetry, reports, descriptive pieces, and plays."
Research also shows that the more experience students have in reading different genres, the more successful they will be in writing in different genres.
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.
- 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. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 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.
- 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.
- 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
- 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).
Materials and Technology
- Collect books for the genre that students will explore. See the book list for suggestions.
- Make copies of the Book Review handout and (if desired) the Genre Characteristic Handout.
- Choose the appropriate Bookmark Template for the book that students will read, make copies, and cut out the bookmarks. Alternately, you can create your own bookmarks for the genre to be explored.
- Familiarize yourself with background information on literary genre:
Definition from Dictionary.com:
Genre (noun) 1: a kind of literary or artistic work 2: a style of expressing yourself in writing [syn: writing style, literary genre] 3: a class of artistic endeavor having a characteristic form or technique.
When teaching children, how do we define literary genres? We can say that we divide literary works into genres as a way of classifying them into particular categories. The two major categories, or genres, are Fiction (about things, events, and characters which are not true) or Nonfiction (about things, events, and people which are based on fact). From those two major categories, we can classify even further. For example, Fiction can be divided into poetry, drama (plays), or prose (ordinary writing). Those categories tell us something about the form of the work.
Further, we also classify Fiction according to layout and style. There are picture books, which contain words and pictures, novellas or short novels, and short stories, which are much shorter than a novella.
Finally, Fiction can be classified by content and theme. Here is where we find our common genres: adventure stories, science fiction/fantasy, mystery, horror, romance, realistic fiction, and historical fiction.
One thing to keep in mind while teaching about genres: these categories aren't always clear-cut. You can have a crime/mystery story set in the future (science fiction) or in the past (historical fiction).
- For more detailed information about genres of children's literature, visit Children's Genres.
- Explore character, setting, and plot development with students in class before beginning this project. If additional resources are needed to prepare for this lesson, see the following ReadWriteThink lesson plans:
- identify literary elements of common genres.
- experience and develop interest in literature, which includes multicultural, gender, and ethnic diversity.
- improve comprehension by interpreting, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating written text in order to categorize text into literary genres.
Session One: Opening Activity
- Begin the conversation with the students by asking, "What is a genre?" There will be varied responses!
- Introduce the genres that the students will be working with. In our case, it is historical fiction, realistic fiction, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery.
- Using the names of the genres, have the students tell you what components are in each genre-looking at character, plot, setting, etc. It would be beneficial to use chart paper to keep a record.
- Then, discuss with the students the major components of the genres. What makes a book fantasy instead of realistic fiction? You can either share the Genre Characteristics handout, or elicit the information and have the students record information as it is gathered.
Session Two: Introduce the Project
- Set the targets for the students - what will they be doing in this project?
- The students will be introduced to a genre.
- They will be given a choice of books from that genre, and also given a Book Review handout, which focuses students' attention on the elements of the story.
- The students are also given a Genre Characteristics handout that is created by the class or themselves with three major components of that genre.
- They will have three weeks to read the book, complete the "review," and add details to their bookmarks.
- The students will be introduced to a genre.
- Explain the information that is gathered on the Book Review handout--major literary elements (plot, character, setting, etc.) as well as critique. Students can complete their reviews in their reader's notebooks, or can complete their reviews online using the Genre Group Book Review Chart student interactive.
- Demonstrate the interactive, showing students how to add items to the chart as well as how to print and save their work:
- On the first screen, type your name.
- Click Next to move to the chart screen and type your book review.
- Type your answers in each of the rows, using the information on the Genre Group Book Review handout.
- Demonstrate that writing is not limited to the size of the box shown on screen. Answers will scroll.
- When you've finished writing your responses, click Finish at the top of the screen.
- In the next window, click Print. Your answers will be displayed in a Web browser window.
- To print answers, choose the Print command from the File menu. To save your answers, choose the Save As... command from the File menu. Students can open the file later in a Web editor or a word processor that imports HTML (such as Microsoft Word or AppleWorks).
- Show students that the instructions for using the tool are available by clicking Instructions at the top of the screen.
- On the first screen, type your name.
- Pass out the customized bookmarks and demonstrate how to fill in the information on them, using one of the books you've gathered for the project. The bookmarks are customized for each of the given genres. On the front of the bookmark, there is a space for the students to write the title, author, and their name as well as to recreate the book jacket or draw a scene from their favorite passage. On the back, there will be a bulleted list of components of that genre. Next to each of the bullets, the students will be asked to write a page number showing where in their book the elements were illustrated.
- Answer any questions that students have about the project. Since they will be working independently, make sure that they understand the activity before concluding the session.
Session Three: Group Discussion
- After the three weeks, gather the students to discuss the books that they read.
- Ask students to share brief summaries of their books (without revealing the ending!). Then, ask them to share their book reviews and bookmarks, which include page numbers of passages from the books that illustrate why they fit into that genre.
- The bookmarks can be hung up with the chart describing the genres to further illustrate their characteristics.
- (optional) End the discussion with a book swap. Students are often anxious to read the books that their peers had talked about, so take the opportunity for them to share their books with others in the group.
You are sure to be a hit when exploring comics as a genre. See the ReadWriteThink lesson Comics in the Classroom as an Introduction to Genre Study.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Initially, students can demonstrate their ability to identify the elements of a particular genre in the group setting unless the Genre Characteristics handout is used. Otherwise the teacher can check completed bookmarks and book reviews to determine whether the students were able to find passages in the texts to support particular characteristics.
- To measure how successfully you expanded students’ reading interests, keep track of the books read by the students during the instructional part of the genre study as well as the “book swapping” that occurred at the end.
- The quality of each student's contributions in the group chart making to observe understanding of genre characteristics can give the teacher insight into each reader's ability. For example:
- Does the student retell the story using details listed in the book? For example, the character had a magic wand.
- Does the reader put together several details and synthesize the information to come to the conclusions that he/she presents?