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Exploring Genre Characteristics

By Rhonda Stewart on October 18, 2013
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

The first unit that I am responsible for teaching in reading workshop is Turning Every Kid Into a Reader. During this unit, my students look at their reading habits on their journey to becoming lifelong readers. The habits they examine are:

  • How often they read (my students are required to read a minimum of 30 minutes, five times a week as well as keep a document/reading log)

  • Where they do their best reading

  • How they select books

  • Why they abandon books, or what in a book holds their interest

and most important: 

  • Why they read

It is my hope that my students are not just reading because it is homework, but because they hope to gain something important and learn something new.

Recently we have looked into the various genres of literature and their characteristics. I had an "aha" moment while looking through the October Scholastic Middle School Reading Club Flyer. I thought since students are already familiar with these flyers, so why not assess their knowledge of genres using it? For those of you who order from the Scholastic Reading Club, you are probably wondering why the books aren't already organized by genre. The answer would be, they are. But consider this: would students notice that some books fall into more than one genre based upon its characteristics?


Reading Club Genre Scavenger Hunt Activity

Small group activity – three to four students per group

Time: approximately 40 minutes

Materials needed for each group:

•         poster paper

•         Scholastic Reading Clubs flyer

•         book bin (genre-specific)

•         magic markers, crayons, colored pencils (your choice)

•         scissors

•         glue



1. Provide each group with poster paper titled with the genre that you would like them to focus on, as well as a related genre-specific book bin, and magic markers. Make sure that you have a different genre for each group. It adds variety during sharing time.

Each group is responsible for creating a list of characteristics for the genre that they have been assigned to. For example, if you give a group historical fiction, they have to find the characteristics of historical fiction and list them on their poster paper.






2. Using the book bin, students check to see that books meet the criteria that they have established for their assigned genre. (Using the book bin supports those readers who may have some struggles.) If they get stuck, they will be able to look at the book blurbs to assist them in creating the criteria list and make sure that their books really do fit.






3. Give each group a flyer from Scholastic Reading Club. If you are able to get your hands on different flyers, that's great, but it isn't necessary. Students go through the flyers and select which books they could place on their poster using their criteria as a checklist.



4. Cut and paste the books that are approved by the group on the poster. One thing that I found  interesting was that while sharing and previewing their classmates' work, students learned that some books seem to go across genres. For example, Catching Fire was placed on the adventure, science fiction, and fantasy posters. 


As my students worked, something unexpected happened. They began to jot down books on their wish list of books to read in the future. They were actually noticing what books were in the flyers and discussing them with each other. As their teacher, I was really excited about the buzz this activity created about books. This activity not only helped me assess their knowledge of books and genre, but gave me insight on how my students view books and even if they want to read them.



Pearls of Wisdom — Make sure to circulate around the class so you can keep them on task. Be mindful of time so that you are not rushing to complete.

Comments (3)

Thank you Ms. Stewart. I noticed that you wrote about students exploring "why they read." What are some strategies you can recommend for parents and teachers who want to push students to "read for a purpose and knowledge" as opposed to "reading because it's homework"? Thank you!

I love how the students began making wish lists of books to read! I keep one myself. Have you ever investigated book sites like goodreads for your students?

Great idea! I've been looking for a way to engage my 4th graders in reading certain genres. This activity might also help them keep our book bins organized. Thanks!

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