Overview and Common Core Connection:
While researching material and resources for this lesson, it dawned on me: that while I was aware of the different genre types, and made it a point to explain the elements of each genre type we read to my students, I had never thought about why it is important to actually teach students about the different types of genres. Other than enjoying different types of literature or learning how to navigate different types of informational texts, learning about genres help students develop and make connections to the world around them. Wide reading from different genres in the literature category exposes children to characters, cultures, settings, and new vocabulary.
By teaching about genres, students will be able to recognize the type of reading they are doing and will be able to adjust their reading style. For example reading directions is a different type of reading for leisure. As students become more skilled at recognizing different genre types and the understanding how to read them they will be able to learn new information faster and make connections to prior knowledge easier.
Emily Kissner, a 4th grade teacher from Pennsylvania, explains the importance of teaching students genre and sums up my ‘ah-ha’ moment:
“When students know that a text is created by a writer for a certain purpose and look for features that will help them understand that purpose, they can easily learn new information from the text. Teaching students how to cope with new genres will prepare them for a lifetime of reading.”
In this lesson I introduced my students to actually looking at different genre types to determine what type of story they were reading. To do this I compared two types of literary stories by Laura Numeroff that depict realistic fiction and fiction/fantasy. I explained to my students that realistic fiction can happen (but often did not really happen), and that fantasy can have things that can't happen in real life (such as animals that talk and act like humans). Not only did I want my students to think about different genres, but I also wanted to show them that authors often times write different genre type stories or text. My students then worked in pairs to determine if text quotes from different Laura Numeroff books would be considered realistic fiction or fantasy.
I began this lesson by holding up a copy of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and What Grandmas do Best, and reminding my students that nonfiction meant it happened/happens in real life, that realistic fiction meant it could happen in real life, and that fantasy meant that it could never happen in real life. I explained today we were going to read the two books in my hand and determine which one was a fantasy story and which one was a realistic fiction story.
Before I read from If You Give A Moose a Muffin and What Grandmas Do Best, I instructed my students to listen to the how the words were clues to the genre. I then read, the first page from If You Give A Moose a Muffin, “If you give a moose a muffin, he’ll want some jam to go with it.” Then I asked, “Would you really give a moose a muffin?” The uniformed answer was “no.” I then read the first page from What Grandma’s do Best: “Grandmas can play hide and seek, make you a hat, and take you for a walk,” and asked “Do Grandmas really do all that?” My students agreed most grandmas did. With that I instructed my students to listen to what else grandmas did as I finished reading the story, showing my students the pictures as I read and using my best grandmotherly voice.
When I finished reading What Grandmas do Best, I had them whisper in their hands one or two things they did with their grandma that was the same as in the story. When they were finished I had them whisper to me (Demonstration: Whisper to Me) one thing they do with their grandma that was something like what was in the book. When they finished this activity I had them stand up and stretch before finishing reading If You Give A Moose a Muffin.
Once I finished reading If You Give A Moose a Muffin, I told my students that authors use different genres to write different types of books, such as the two we had just read. I then posed the question, “Why would an author do that?” After a moment to think I had my students share with their rug partner. When they were finished sharing I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select three students to share with the class. Some of the answers that these students came up with included: so authors could write more books, so authors could write different types of books, so authors could be more interesting, and so authors could try new things. After agreeing with all their answers I added authors use different genres for different types of writing to teach us about different things in life.
I then had my students think about the mouse and the grandmas we just read about, pointing out they were from two different genres, and gave my students a moment to think about this question: Why would Laura Numeroff would write two stories with two different genres? After a moment to think about this, I had my students turn to their rug partners and share their answers with their partners. As my students shared with each other I listened in on some of their conversations, which sounded like they were comparing Grandma stories. Not know what to expect, I called them back to a whole group and used the magic cup to select a student pair to share their answer with the class. These two students shared that Laura Numeroff wrote If You Give a Moose a Muffin for fun, because it was funny. She wanted children to think about their grandmas when they read What do Grandma’s do Best, because some grandma’s live far away. The rest of the class agreed, and a few added the grandma story was not suppose to be funny because it was about families, and the moose story was not real because moose are too big to come in the house.
I then had my students stand up and take a stretch. When they finished stretching I had them partner up to finish the collaborative activity. There are many ways to pair partners up, and sometimes you want a more proficient partner to model language or procedure to lower student. Sometimes you will want a less formal way of pairing up students just to get them used to working with a variety of classmates. For this activity, we opted for the less formal partnering, and I just had students number off to get a random partner. I feel working with different classmates all the time strengthens the social bonds in the class, as well as helps both students become more focused on their work rather than who they are working with.
Once they were partnered up, I had them sit at their desks with their partner. To do this I instructed them to sit at the partner’s desk they were closest to. Once they were all settled, I displayed the Is it Fantasy or Realistic Fiction? activity sheet on the Promethean board and explained all the reading passages were from books Laura Numeroff wrote, their job was to read each passage with their partner and decide if it was a fantasy statement, or a realistic fiction statement. I then had my students read the directions as a whole group. After they read the directions I passed out their copies of the activity sheet.
As my students began working I met briefly with each student pair to check their progress. As seen in the video, Meeting with Student Pairs, this is a quick meeting to make sure they understand what they are doing, and then off to the next set of students. When my students began to finish this activity, I handed each student pair one of Laura Numeroff’s books to read quietly while the rest of the class finished their work.
Once all my students were finished, I used the magic cup to select two student pairs to display their finished activity sheet on the doc-u-cam and explain their answers. As they read their answers the rest of the class showed me they agreed with the answers by showing a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).
After this activity my students transitioned into the independent practice part of the lesson.
During the independent practice part of the lesson, my students are grouped by their reading levels and rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through different ELA activities. Besides working with me to develop their reading comprehension and fluency skills, my students write in their journals about what they just did during the guided and collaborative part of the lesson.
In today’s journal my students described the difference between fantasy and realistic fiction in Laura Numeroff’s books If You Give A Mouse and Cookie and What Grandmas Do Best.
As each reading group came to my reading table I quickly checked their journals for completeness. This student, Journal Sample from High Reading Group, is clear on the reason why the story What Grandmas do Best is a realistic fiction, because the words could happen, but the pictures were not real pictures.
To earn a sticker my students told me 2 to 3 reasons why authors write or use different genres when they are writing.