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What Are the Best Tips for Teaching Genre?

By E. Reeder
Updated May 23, 2024
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Teaching genre is an important facet of elementary, secondary and college English and literature courses. Students need to have an understanding of the differences between various types of literature, because this will help them to read, understand, appreciate, interpret and create those forms. Teachers can have students read several examples of a genre and analyze them and their characteristics as a class, create charts or other graphic organizers to illustrate the characteristics of different genres, have students pick their own examples of a genre to read and analyze independently, and assign students to create their own examples of literature from various genres, whether independently or in small groups.

Students will arguably read and analyze many different genres during their academic careers. This is one reason that teaching genre is significant and should be done in an appropriate manner. Some knowledge of the differences between these genres is vital. It is useful to know some of the typical characteristics of a particular genre, as well as the fact that there is a difference in perspective between some types of nonfiction.

One way of teaching genre to begin with is to have all the students in a literature class read the same work. If a class reads and analyzes one or more dramas as a group, the students can learn common information, such as the characteristics of the genre and the differences between a play and a prose fiction narrative such as a short story or novel. Activities that cause students to become actively engaged, such as acting out the literature, answering questions during discussion in small groups, or creating visuals from the literature can help them to better understand it and the genre it represents.

After a literature class has read several examples of genres together, students can then be assigned to pick out and read examples of literary works from various genres. Giving students the independence to read and analyze different types of literature on their own can deepen their understanding and strengthen their powers of analysis, interpretation and synthesis of information. Students can be assigned common thought-provoking questions that relate to each genre that will help them analyze the works they have read.

Graphic organizers can be useful in teaching genre. In small groups, students can create posters, charts, or diagrams that give details about the various genres they have studied. The groups can then present their graphic organizers, which should contain detailed but concise information, to their classmates and hang them on the wall of the classroom as a reminder.

Having students create their own examples of literature that conform to the common characteristics of a certain type of literature is another way of teaching genre. Individually or in small groups, students can brainstorm, write and perfect examples of different genres, such as poetry or short stories. They can then present their work to the class. Having students create their own examples often deepens their understanding of a genre.

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Discussion Comments
By umbra21 — On Oct 05, 2014

@browncoat - Most of the time when someone is teaching genre in middle school or high school they are going to have assigned texts anyway and it's just a matter of getting the students to think critically about their characteristics.

I would also touch on the history of different genres, if possible, as a way of providing context for where they came from and why.

By browncoat — On Oct 04, 2014

@KoiwiGal - It's important to remember and to teach your students that genre is, to some extent, subjective and there are many cases where it's difficult to draw a line stating that something is of a particular genre. This is especially true when you start investigating the diversity within genres. One person's magical realism might be another person's science fiction or fantasy and crossovers between genres are also common.

Also when it comes to teaching literary genre, you have to somehow define literary work in the first place, something that I don't think has ever really been done satisfactorily. Most people tend to take the stance that they don't know how to define it but they know it when they see it, which makes it difficult to teach well.

By KoiwiGal — On Oct 03, 2014

If your students don't have a lot of time to spend on genre, you might want to use short stories as examples rather than novels. Every genre has many amazing short stories that can be helpful in teaching genre. They can also be useful in showcasing the range that can exist within a particular genre, which is something that might be more difficult for them to grasp.

I would also attempt to give them different formats, like poetry, graphic art and so forth, so that they can really figure out what the actual rules are that identify different genres.

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