Thursday, October 15, 2015

Luck of the Draw - Using Creative Writing to Understand Genre

Hello! Susie here from Anchored in Reading ready to talk about writing and genre. When I first started teaching years ago, I am embarrassed to say, I never really provided opportunities for application. I would teach a lesson, provide some type of practice, and finish the lesson with some form of assessment. At that time I taught Learning Support Reading and Math. Things were moving along smoothly, but we weren't really learning a whole lot. It took me a couple of months to realize why we weren’t making progress, but the light bulb finally went off. Application.  I needed to give an opportunity for application. In many cases, especially with struggling students, a quick practice is not enough for true learning. Since then, I find myself creating opportunities for students to apply the new material they are learning. This can sometimes prove challenging, but very beneficial!  (Yes, I realize this is obvious now, but it certainly wasn’t then! I had many ‘duh’ moments when I first started teaching!)

The same goes for teaching genre to middle school students. I start my lesson with a PowerPoint.  Students take notes in their interactive notebooks (IRNs - see pictures below) as I discuss important characteristics of each genre. We talk about books we are currently reading, or have read, and the type of genre for each book. We look at the books in our classroom library and try to identify the genre of a few. I continue my lesson by reading excerpts from books and ask my students to identify the genre of the passage I am reading. 

By this point, I have saturated my students with information about genre. They are really starting to develop an awareness of what genre is. To give thorough instruction on genre, however, I can't stop there. The final part of the lesson, the application part of the lesson, always proves to be my fave! In a bowl (very high-tech) I have multiple slips of paper folded with a specific genre on it. Each student pulls one slip of paper and writes the genre they pulled on the top of their paper. I tell them they are NOT to tell anyone around them which genre they pulled.  

I then instruct my students to write a paragraph or two in the genre they pulled. This writing should be creative and will be shared with the class. I tell my students not to worry too much about spelling or producing a fabulous 5-paragraph essay. Just write.  For some reason, my students, even the group of kiddos who do not like to write, love this activity! Perhaps, it's the freedom they feel writing the way they want to write.  The anticipation of which genre they are going to pull adds to the excitement.  Before my students start writing, I share my example with them and we dissect my paragraph to determine the genre. Then, my little birds take off! 

After about twenty minutes of writing (sometimes longer, we usually need to continue the next day) we share our writing with the class. As a class, we have to determine the genre type of each students’ writing.  Almost all of my students want to share their writing and they all like trying to guess the genre. 

Application. I finally have application. 



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