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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Teaching about Genres

To begin, let me say that I don't address all my comments about teaching genres to whether or not they meet the Common Core State Standards.  Michigan (my home state) adopted the Core Standards a few years ago so they are the standards that I must teach.  Having said that, I don't plan every bit of my teaching around these standards.  For starters, the Core Standards aren't universally supported by education professionals.  Many in the field are concerned about their implementation across the country and the resulting impact on children.  Others are worried about their appropriateness.  The following link will take you to Appendix A from the Common Core Standards website: 

This link is a discussion of the research supporting key elements of the standards.

Today's post is a simple discussion of genre instruction (and not a post about whether too little or too much time is spent teaching about genres).  The above appendix document spends a great deal of time debating the need for text complexity in K-12 reading.  I don't debate this theory at all.  However, I argue that it matters in K-12 instruction whether or not students understand the difference between mystery, science fiction, and fantasy.  It matters that students understand what makes up a historical fiction novel.  Poetry matters.  The amount of classroom instructional time needed to teach about these genres makes their instruction a part of my reading workshop.  Plus, certain genres ARE required per my grade level's core standards!

To start, I'll tell you how I design genre instruction.  It starts with the idea that we study a genre a month. I write down all the genres on slips of paper, put them into a bowl and each month we draw a new genre.  Of course, I MAKE SURE that we pull certain genres at certain times of the year!  This allows for there to be a level of excitement in the classroom during the monthly drawing. ("Ohhh...I hope it's mystery this month!")  At the same time, someone always's just the way it goes!

Once a genre is drawn I spend at least two mini-lessons teaching about the properties of the genre.  We create a chart that hangs on the Reading Workshop bulletin board and students take notes in their reading journal.  Next, I require a monthly homework project linked to the genre.  Students are required to read a book from that genre as homework (They are required to read up to 35 minutes for nightly homework) and then create a project teaching about that book while using knowledge gained from a previous month's literary skills, strategies, or devices lesson.  So, students might make a character traits poster while reading a mystery.  They might create a conflict diorama while reading fantasy.  Student feedback on these projects has generally been positive.  They know at the beginning of the month their genre and their project.  This allows them to design the reading and the project around their month's schedule.

Throughout the month I check in with students on their project progress and we discuss the books being read.  Students may read these books in class or at home. (I just don't give class time for their project work.)  I also don't like to accept projects early...only because we usually have a "share day" where projects are set up and presented to each other in small groups, partners, or similar.

My favorite tidbit to share from genre instruction, as well as the reason I strongly believe in its necessity is that it helps to create lifelong readers!  I have had many students over the years tell me they wouldn't have ever read a "mystery, science fiction, etc.."if I hadn't taught about it and had a reading/project requirement.

I don't have any fancy handouts, worksheets, etc for this post because they aren't needed.  Simply know that genres necessary for your grade level instruction (see your grade level state or common core standards), teach about them, and decide how students will read these during your school year.

Here's to reading!

--Mrs. Perrien

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Oh my goodness...She's back to blogging about reading!


I'm back and with a purpose.  I have changed perspectives this year and will be attending Michigan State University this fall as a doctoral student.  Yay me!  I plan to focus on literacy instruction.  I'm super excited about this change in my career and in my life!

I plan to spend time updating this blog with all that I can share about classroom reading instruction--specifically the reading workshop method.  I won't bore with what I do those first few months.  (It's  already on my blog...) In fact, I plan to update my readers by focusing these next few weeks on genres and strategies rather than a day-by-day focus.  Follow along, everyone!

Here's to reading!