Genre is not a medical term – although it has a lot in common with scientific classification.  I recently became intrigued with the whole subject of literary genres, partly because I was doing a course on The Art of Reading, and partly because an online book discussion group I moderate got into quite a controversial spat about genre.  (Read more about Genre or Pigeonhole here.)

So what is the big deal about genre? 

Why do kids need to know anything about it (besides finding a book in a store that just might be categorized and shelved by type instead of author)?

For me, genre is the perfect vehicle for a vast study of literature.  Just as soon as kids hit that magic age where they are reading more complicated stories – 3rd to 5th grade, or age 8 to 12 – that’s the time I like to hit them with the big ideas in writing.  What kind of story is this?  Do you like stories with fantastic creatures, or tales of survival?  Why?  Why not?  What elements make a story really exciting to you?  Can true stories be told in a fictional way?  The list goes on and on…

Enter my “Let’s Talk Lit” program.  I just put this together for the coming school year with my own children.  They are both ready for deeper discussions and longer reading times with great books, and I want to expose them to as many different types of genre as possible so they can both fine-tune their reading preferences and expand their tastes.

In “Let’s Talk Lit”, the focus is on defining the featured genre, brainstorming for stories (include movie titles!) that fit within the definition, read a book that fits well within the category, and respond to the reading.  Along the way, literary terms are discussed, author devices are analyzed, and the student becomes the writer as they journal and review their way to greater understanding.

We kick off the year with a total Genre Overview, using these flowcharts I created (thanks, Gliffy.com!) to help kids see the relationship between Fiction, Nonfiction, and all the sub-genres therein.

Literature Genres & Subgenres Chart

Note: Now available at TeachersPayTeachers

Genre Identification Chart

Note: Now available at TeachersPayTeachers

Each section begins with a Genre Preview that students complete to generate their ideas and prior knowledge about the type of writing they will now study:

Then students choose a book that fits within the genre, using the Genre Response Sheet to record their reactions and thoughts about the book.  (This is one I made for Graphic Novels, but you could revise it to reflect the characteristics of any genre.)

A bookmark system helps keep everything organized as they work through the year, they can refer to the bookmarks as they write about their experience in their journals.  (They also get to “rate” the book, write reviews, and do other activities that put them in the driver’s seat.)  Print them out on cardstock, and don’t forget page 2 for the back side.

Of course, all of these genres have their own cover sheets and specific activities to reinforce language arts skills.  You can easily put your own version of my book together using printouts from the internet or resource books you already own, and making simple decorative pages on colored paper for the “chapters” on each genre.  Don’t forget to include plenty of writing activities, perhaps keeping a journal for writing prompts (we’re doing an UnJournal).

You can find some of these pages in the Topics & Free Printables section.  Enjoy!

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About kbnelson

Karen Nelson is the author of several nonfiction titles for the educational market and recently released her collection of short stories, AFTER EVER AFTER. She has served as Curriculum Coordinator for GoldMinds Publishing, writing educational materals for their Young Adult line of books. She has been a regular contributor and columnist for The Ozarks Mountaineer Magazine, and her articles, stories, and poems have appeared in numerous journals and periodicals. She serves on the board for the Readwest Foundation, is the technical editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles Magazine, and was on the inaugural staff of University of Arkansas' online literary magazine, GRAVEL. Karen spends her days alternating between teacher, mom, writer, and entrepreneur.

3 responses »

  1. […] using this in our “Let’s Talk Lit” year-long study of genres, and on our book summary bookmarks to help keep track of the plots of […]

  2. This information is invaluable. When can I find
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