When you think of genre, perhaps the words that come to mind are fiction, non-fiction, mystery, poetry, etc. But at the true core of genre, there are really two main categories that all text falls under: Narrative and Informational. So, this is where I begin the focus for genre. It’s important for students to understand the difference between text that tells a story (narrative) and text that teaches information (informational). Once students are comfortable with the two main branches of genre, I shift the focus to the branches that fall under Narrative, which are realistic fiction and fantasy. Text that tells a story either could happen in real life with realistic characters, settings, and events (realistic fiction), or could never happen in real life with characters, settings, or events that are out of this world (fantasy). All of the other, more specific genres, come later in the year during Writer’s Workshop.
I like to spend a sufficient amount of time on each strategy to allow for an introduction, modeling, scaffolding, independent practice, assessment, and reflection. Therefore, I spend approximately 1 week on each strategy and follow a similar instructional routine. This is day 1 of Genre Week – Introducing the Strategy.
Connection: I always start by connecting today’s lesson to something kids have previously learned so that it triggers their schema and background knowledge. Since this is the first they are learning about genre this year, I make a connection to something they are all familiar with: music. I use my Ipod to play a short clip of a classical song and ask what type of music it is. Then I do the same with a country song and then a rap song (school appropriate of course!). I lead a discussion with the students about what distinguishes each type of music from the other and then I introduce the term GENRE.
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “This week, we will be focusing on genre, which is a type or category of literature.” I tell them that it is important to understand the genre of a text so that they can read with purpose and have greater comprehension. I use an anchor chart to add the terms Narrative and Informational with an explanation of each.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I show them a few different books and we discuss as a class which genre each book belongs in and why. Some good text samples to use include a textbook, a picture book, a student writing sample, a research report, etc.
Link to Ongoing Work: During this portion of the mini-lesson, I give the students a task that they will focus on during Independent Reading time. Now that I’ve introduced genre, I tell them that when they are reading today, their job is just to notice the genre of the books in their browsing boxes. I want them to decide if each book tells a story or teaches information. I also want them to notice how many of each they have. Are all 5 of their browsing box books narrative? Are most of them informational? This will help them see the genre they are most attracted to, which says a lot about a reader. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will meet with their assigned reading partner to discuss what they noticed. I remind them that I will randomly choose a few students to share so that they make sure to complete their task.
Transition Time: Every day after the mini-lesson, students get 5 minutes of Prep Time to choose new books (if needed), find a comfy spot, use the bathroom, and anything else they might need to do to prepare for 40 minutes of uninterrupted Independent Reading. I set it up that way so that students have no reason to get out of their spots. They are expected to have 5 books in their browsing box at all times so if they finish a book they have others to choose from without moving around the room. They are also expected to have a pencil and sticky notes in their browsing boxes in case they need them for the day’s task. I strongly encourage them to use the bathroom so they do not need to go during reading time. At the end of the 5 minute Prep Time, I do a countdown, 5 4 3 2 1, Level 0 (referring to volume level). By the end of countdown, students must be in their spots and silent with all of the materials they need to sustain their reading. They must follow the distance rule of arm’s length apart from any other student. They are not to get out of their spots for any reason so that they can focus on their book and their task. Because I use Independent Reading time to work with students one-on-one or in small groups, I really stress to the students that the teacher is not available to everyone during this time. I encourage them to problem solve on their own and hold all questions or comments until the end of Independent Reading time. All of this takes practice but once it is all in place, Independent Reading becomes a magical time when students are engrossed in their books and the teacher is free to meet individual needs of students through conferencing, strategy groups, or guided reading.
Guided Practice: Today, I would be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to explain the genre of the book they are reading. This is also when I could pull students for assessments, one-on-one reading, strategy groups, or guided reading groups.
Closing: At the end of 40 minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to notice the genre of their books. I ask them to repeat the word, genre. They were asked to decide if each book is narrative, tells a story, or informational, which teaches information. Then I ask them to meet with their reading partner to share what they noticed about genre. After partners have had a chance to share with each other, I ask a few students to share with the class. It is also important to explain that diversity as a reader is important so they should try to balance the genres to be a well-rounded reader. I then tell the class that we will focus on genre for the rest of the week. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.