Teaching…Genre, without boring your students

The Situation

You are introducing genre to your students.

The Solution

When introducing genre, you should focus on variety. There are many genres out there that students may have watched or read before, but may not be directly familiar with the terminology. Your job is to ensure that students understand why a piece of writing or film falls under a particular category. This is the starting point for exploring genre. Once students have this grounding, they can begin to work on nuanced skills like adapting a text from one genre to another.

Check out a step by step guide for introducing genre to students.

  1. Start with providing a broad definition of genre to students. This should include a discussion of music, film and writing. Tell students your favourite genre of film and music and encourage student to discuss their favourite genre. Encourage students to consider why they are drawn to that particular genre – the conventions such as the characters, plots, conflicts and themes might be a point of discussion.

2. Next, you will begin introducing a variety of different genres to students. You can present this as a stations activity and have placards printed and spread across the room, or you might choose to have more control over the activity and go through them individually and using a cooperative activity – the choice is yours!

Start by presenting a definition of your chosen genre. The one below I have focused upon is fantasy fiction. First, present the definition to students and quiz them on the key terms. For example, “supernatural phenomena”, “mythological creatures” and “magical” might be a point of discussion. Talking about these key words will be important when connecting to conventions of the text.

Record each of the narrative conventions up on the white board ‘character’, ‘setting’, ‘theme’, ‘plot’ and ‘conflict’. Inform students that a genre is like a container or a bucket. Each container holds narrative conventions – refer to the list. For example, the characters and settings in a fantasy fiction story will be different to those in a horror story.

Now, ask students to record the types of narrative conventions they would expect in a fantasy fiction. This is your chance to access their prior knowledge and provide some important vocabulary that will ground their study of genre.

Encourage students to draw from all media that have seen that might fall under this category. Some students may have a limited understanding, while others might have a great deal. For this reason, use a cooperative learning strategy to encourage the sharing of ideas.

Once students have sufficiently brainstormed what they know about fantasy fiction, you are ready to move on and have them read an example of the genre.

Have students focus on the following two points:

  1. How has the writer hooked in the reader?
  2. What aspects of the text suggest that it might be an example of fantasy fiction? Have students highlight/annotate from the text to identify their examples.

Provide students with 5-10 minutes to complete this activity – this will depend on the ability of the classroom.

Once student have practised as a whole class on fantasy fiction, you might like to split them into groups and work on other genres. Below I have outlined Science Fiction and Fairy Tales.

Depending on your year level and focal point for learning, you might like to change the types of genres. For example, you might focus on

(Subcategory within a genre) or hybrid genres (Blending conventions of two different genres). The purpose is for students to under the nuances and differences of genres. Genre may appear to be surface level, but should be a detailed and in-depth discussion when talking about narrative conventions.

Lesson Summary

  • Students have been introduced to the definition of genre and the idea that genres are a category of film, music or novel.
  • Students have been introduced to narrative conventions.
  • Students have begun identifying the conventions of a genre within a variety of texts.

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