Beyond "Words, Words, Words": Transforming the Traditional Research Paper into a Multigenre Project

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SWBAT analyze their topics to identify and choose genres for their multigenre projects.

Big Idea

"I am large. I contain multitudes." --Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

This year I had students use their traditional research papers as the basis of their multigenre projects if they chose the multigenre option. To offer an incentive for the multigenre project, students could omit two upcoming essays from their required assignments. 

Past years, before our state-mandated senior project, I required all students to complete the senior project. Thus, I had some additional requirements for the project, including a project proposal, a letter to the reader, and a reflection. I'll admit that these components really add to the project's effectiveness, but like most teachers, I have to work w/in state and district mandates. 

The lesson here offers suggestions for teaching the multigenre project, including relevant links and documents I've given to students in previous years. 

Additionally, I provide the following:

  • examples of individual genres students have created,
  • examples of complete projects. 

Those who really want to understand the origin of multigenre research projects should read the following books:

A World of Possibilities: Choosing Genres

30 minutes

What is a multigenre research project? How do I create a multigenre project? 

To introduce students to the multigenre project, I give them a letter that explains the difference between multigenre and traditional research. This letter, typically, functions as a model of the letter students write when I assign the project to all students. Multigenre Letter.

I'd prefer that students think of their own genre possibilities, but they want suggestions; I direct them to a list of genres on the internet. This list is dated in that it does not include many tech options. The Cool Tools for Schools wiki offers some excellent tech resources that students can use to create genres, but even it isn't complete as technology is constantly changing. Still, it offers a starting place. Additionally, I tell students about word clouds they can create w/ Wordle, Toon Doo, Voki, Thing Link, Survey Monkey, Padlet, Glogster, and anything else I've tried and like. 

I want students to think beyond traditional genres and incorporate technological genres into their projects. A group of students working together on an extended project about SAT testing created the following video and posted it to YouTube. They included a link to the video in their final project. 

One approach students can take is to create the genres first and then incorporate them into their final project. My experience at a freeskiing competition began as the inspiration for the paper Kiandre wrote. When we first discussed her topic, she shared this experience w/ me, which is why I encouraged her to choose the multigenre option.

Shapeshifting Genres: From Traditional Papers to Multigenre Projects

15 minutes

Tom Romano has several examples of multigenre projects on his website. I show these to students and keep the link to them on Moodle. His projects are different than my class requirement in that they focus on specific books and have few Works Cited entries. 

Since my students must fulfill both district and state research requirements, I must include these research components in the requirements I give students. 

Here I offer several examples of projects from students in my class this year: Jaycee S. senior project.docx is the project created by my homebound student. She created a Toon Doo for her project. She also created a video about her illness, which she uploaded to YouTube. 

Suzanne, our foreign exchange student from France focused her project on the benefits of traveling abroad and her year as an exchange student: Studying Abroad Multigenre Project is a more traditional approach to the project, yet it shows how students can construct arguments in creative ways. 

One student is keenly interested in the evolution of National Geographic. He worked diligently on his project, which I'm happy to feature here: National Geographic Multigenre Project. Because National Geographic isn't National Geographic without the pictures, the multigenre option serves the topic quite well. 

The use of technology means that simply printing out a paper won't work. I encouraged students to post their projects online. A blog works well for this, as Preston's Acute Senioritis blog, which he created to host his project, shows. Preston is an aspiring writer, so he focused on the importance of creativity in his project and featured some of his creative writing in the project. 

To keep students focused on their projects and to keep them thinking about how they will integrate the various genres into their arguments, it's vital to communicate with them often about their progress, including having them show what they're working on and how it will fit into the project. 

Assessing Multigenre Projects

Unless you want to create a rubric for each different genre a student creates, you'll need to take a holistic approach to grading. Inspired by the 3P grading system on the Teaching That Makes Sense website, I created a handout that explains how I grade the project: Multigenre Grading Criteria.doc.