Genres, Genres Everywhere
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
- Recognize different genres by their characteristics.
- Books from a variety of genres (poetry, mystery, folk tale, etc)
- Reference chart listing the various genres and their definitions
- Books with an ocean or ocean animal theme from different genres (See Our Best Books for Teaching This Unit for ideas)
- Large strip of bulletin board paper for a genre chart for student responses
- Index cards or construction paper (for flap book)
- Typing paper (for flap book)
- Markers/colored pencils/pens (for flap book)
Set Up and Prepare
- Write genre headings on the large strip of bulletin board paper.
- Make signs with four different genres printed on them.
- Cut index cards in half length-wise.
Step 1: Introduction: "In science you've been studying the topic of oceans and you have read some non-fiction books, both for information and as a reference. You seem so interested in oceans that I thought we'd continue that theme in our language arts class and see if we can explore the ocean further through other genres. What are some genres, or types of literature, other than non-fiction that you are familiar with?"
If students only respond with "fiction," scaffold, or build links, by showing a variety of books from other genres and allow the students to classify them for you. Students can also be reminded of other stories the class has read aloud. Write the genres on the overhead or the board as the students give them to you. This will show you where the "holes" are as far as what genres they truly know.
"We're learning about genres because it is fun to see the various ways similar ideas can be expressed. We will also be publishing a class book that we will share with other classes. We're going to be making a 'flap' book, but we need to be very familiar with genres in order to do this well."
Step 2: Read a book from one of the genres you have listed. For example, How The Tides Ebb and Flow or The Magic Fish would be good for the folklore genre. Discuss how students know that this was folklore. Reread the beginning. Point out that folklore usually has a very distinctive style for the beginning and also note the difference between folklore and fantasy. (Folklore involves stories that have been told over and over for generations, while fantasy stories have been written more recently.)
Step 3: After reading the selection, add to the top of the bulletin board paper chart, "Different Typical Beginnings or Characteristics." Chart the genre you just read. Use the genre types as headings and then fill in typical beginnings under each. Revisit this chart after each reading.
Once upon a time.
She never knew she could fly.
Where has Susie's pen gone? It was just here.
Leave this up in the room. As the students are reading and they notice another typical beginning, the students can add to the chart.
DAY 2, 3, 4, etc. (Until examples of different genre are completed)
Continuation of genre lessons: Each day choose an ocean-themed book from a different genre to read and emphasize (see Our Best Books for Teaching this Unit for suggestions). You can read excerpts, especially from the beginnings of the books, to point out important characteristics of each genre style. You might want to choose a contrast to emphasize differences (i.e. after folktale, read fantasy; after realistic fiction, read historical fiction).
- This might take a full class period.) Review the genre characteristics chart and then roll it up. In class, have the students choose a partner and get together. Tell them to take paper, pencil, and anything else they think they might need to do an assignment on genres. (They'll ask a ton of questions. Don't answer.) Then explain that they are going to become genre sleuths. With their partner, they are to write what they would consider a typical sentence showing a specific genre's characteristics. They may make one up or use books they have with them. They may only use what they have with them. They are to write both the sentence and the specific genre that it represents. Challenge them to do as many as they can. Give them an appropriate amount of time. When the time is up, they can "challenge" the class. Each group can read one of their sentences and the other students can try to guess what genre is being read. Ask students to explain how they came to their answer. If they guess correctly, they are the next to read. In a large class divide the group in half and have each half conduct the challenge within their half-group.
- Now the students are ready to make the class "flap" book. Each pair of students is responsible for designing the layout of their page. They can do this in the computer lab or by hand. The partners will put at least five of their best sentences on cards, using a separate card for each sentence. One end of each card is pasted or stapled to their page. Under each card, the team writes the correct genre or answer. The cards can be placed anywhere on the page and the page can be decorated. Once the book is completed, share it with other classes. (The "flap" is the flap of the card after it is lifted to read an answer.) The students really enjoy reading the Flap Book that was created by last year's students.
What were the students doing? Did they seem confident or hesitant? Were there specific genres that gave them difficulty? Were the children able to apply what they learned? How could you make this clearer? What short mini-lessons could you provide to help with problem areas?
After you've read an example from each genre and have filled in the chart, you can assess student understanding by playing "Four Corners". Tape or tack up four genres (for example, mystery, folklore, biography, poetry), one in each corner of the room. Give the class a characteristic or read a typical beginning from a genre. For example, "Once in the beginning of time . . ." At your signal, have the students WALK to the corner that best fits the question or in this case, the opening sentence. Then have them briefly discuss why they chose that corner. Do this for about ten minutes. If you have a large class make eight stations or "corners" with two sets of the four genre signs. This will cut down on crowding into one corner.