What are Genres? Identifying Elements of Different Genres

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SWBAT identify six genres and describe their basic characteristics.

Big Idea

Learning about the type of genres students read supports me and them in finding books that they may enjoy while also encouraging them to try new types of books.


5 minutes

As adults, if you’ve spent any time reading fiction, you may have realized that you have your favorites. It is important for students to also be able to describe what they like and then find what they want to read. They can gain more power over the books they select when they can tell the genre that they like to the librarian or the bookstore clerk.


This lesson teaches students the names of different genres as well as characteristics that describe those genres.


I start by asking students to describe the books they like to read. If it’s a class that is comfortable sharing out loud and have read a variety of books, I might call on students to share. Otherwise, I ask students to write down their thoughts in a learning journal, writing journal or reading journal that we use in class. This gives them time to think about what books they’ve read and what they liked about them.


I then ask students to share and I’ll write a few topics on the board, such as magic, war, fairies, friends, friends, etc. I tell them that there are so many different interests in our class and they are so many different books. Have a way to describe them makes it easier to find what we want to read. Today I’m going to teach them about genres.


10 minutes

I begin to tell them about the different genres by drawing a tree chart with fiction and nonfiction on the top. Underneath fiction, I section it out to 6 different genres. I choose these because students have read these types of books or have friends or siblings that have. There are more specific genres out there but most 4th graders will have very little experience with those.


  1. Fantasy: story with elements that could not be real such as magic and fairies.
  2. Historical Fiction: story written about real historical moments with most like fictional events or characters
  3. Realistic Fiction: story written with fictional characters but events that could happen in real life
  4. Science Fiction: fiction that is based on or heavily uses science as part of its plot.
  5. Mystery: story with a question that has clues that resolve the question or issue at the end of the book.
  6. Traditional Literature: fables, fairy tales, mythology


20 minutes

I have a stack of books that I have read with them as a class or a stack of books that I know they would be familiar with, even if they never read them personally, such as Harry Potter.


My students have a small lap white board that they can write on and share. If they didn’t have these boards, I might print and cut out word cards with each of the genres on it for them to hold up during this next activity.


I ask them to think about the elements of this book and refer to the list of genres to figure out which one it is. I tell them to write the genre down and then I ask the students to share out what they think it is. I also call on a student to explain their thinking. Basically, saying that Harry Potter is a fantasy book because it is all about magic and things that, as far as we know, can never happen.


We go through a few more books examples. I end with one that can fit into 2 genres, The Percy Jackson Series. I explain that parts of the book are fantasy and other parts are mythology (Traditional Literature). I use it as example that sometimes it will be hard to figure it out or to just pick one. If the book really feels like it is 2 genre types then they can indicate that.

 I send students to their desk with a check list to check off what types of books they have been reading based on their reading logs. 


5 minutes

I ask students to share any patterns they noticed. Are there any students who only read fantasy books, realistic fiction, mysteries, etc.? I ask these questions to help students become more reflective of the type of reading they are doing. They may realize that they only read one type of book and be encouraged to read a new genre. 

I explain that from now on, they will indicate the genre of the book they are reading on their reading log and they may try to read a book from each genre. This is another way to encourage students to notice what kind of books they are reading and to begin to read other genres.