Thursday, September 20, 2012

Genre Introductions


     At the beginning of each school year, I know I need to acclimate my students to books. Since I teach intensive reading, many of my students are reluctant and struggling readers; that means that they have not been around or fans of books, so my classroom library is a bit overwhelming. The best way I have found to introduce my students to my classsroom library and books in general is a mini-genre study. The way it works is I spend each day introducing a genre. I separate my genres into the main 7- realistic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, informational nonfiction, biography, and traditional literature - and 3 formats - graphic novels, poetry, and short stories. (Updated to include poetry as a format after much discussion with teachers and students [you can see some below].) Thus, the mini-study lasts approximately 10 days including 1 review day and 1 assessment day.
     Each mini-study goes the same: First, I introduce the genre and we enter the definition onto a tree map. Then, the students brainstorm aspects and examples of the genre using a circle map. For example, if we are doing "Fantasy", it will include things like: magic, vampires, Harry Potter, Twilight, Amulet, talking animals, dragons, couldn't ever happen, etc.
      Following our discussion of each genre I would read a picture book of that genre and then we'd discuss how it is said genre. The picture books I used were:

Historical Fiction: Titanic Cat by Marty Crisp
Titanicat
Biography: Martin's Big Words or John's Sweet Dreams by Doreen Rappaport
Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or John's Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon
Realistic Fiction: First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
First Day Jitters
Fantasy: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Where the Wild Things Are
Traditional Literature: Lon Po Po by Ed Young
Lon Po Po
Science Fiction: Zathura by Chris Van Allsburg
(though we discuss how this one could be considered fantasy as well)
Zathura

Poetry: Falling Up by Shel Silverstein (read Strange Restaurant)
Short Story: Nightmare by R.L. Stine
Graphic Novel: Into the Volcano by Don Wood
[Did not read the whole books, used them to show the format]
Falling Up Nightmare Hour: Time for Terror  Into The Volcano

     After each picture book, I use this opportunity to show students how to respond to writing like I am going to ask them to when we start our reading workshop. Thus I model a journal entry after each picture book.
     Next, I allow my students to access the classroom library. Each student gets to pick two books of the discussed genre.  I then do a book pass where students pass around the books they chose. With each set of books, the students get 2 minutes to preview the book and decide if they want to add it to their "Books to Read Someday" list. 
     The last thing we do, and this was new this year (an idea that I stole from my friend), was after students got the books they chose back, as an exit slip, they needed to tell me why the book they chose is the genre we are discussing. For example, if a student had Suck it Up by Brian Meehl they would put that Suck it Up is fantasy because it has vampires in it and vampires don't exist. 
     After going through all 8 genres and 2 formats, we review by playing the Pyramid Game and 4 corners and we finally end with an assessment which includes multiple choice, short answers, and students writing a story of a specific genre. By the end of the unit, students have a long list of books they want to read from all the genres and know how to find books in the classroom library. 

This is the beginning of cultivating readers.
Happy growing!

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