If you ask me, teaching the reading genres is an absolute must if we want our students to become life-long readers. I was one of those kids that didn’t particularly love or enjoy reading as a kid. I couldn’t tell you the names of any books or novels I read in elementary, middle, or even high school – all I remember is that I didn’t like them.
I always thought I just wasn’t a reader.
But once I got to college I realized that wasn’t the case… I just hadn’t found the reading genre I LOVED to read. It was probably the Harry Potter series that first turned me on to reading. I read the first five books in a matter of weeks. For the first time in my life I was absolutely hooked on a series. I would stay up all hours of the day and night trying to get through a book.
That’s exactly what we want to have happen to our students. We want them to be absolutely OBSESSED with reading.
But that won’t happen unless we expose our students to a wide range of reading genres. Not every student is going to love the Harry Potter books like I did. Some kids fall in by reading non-fiction, other students become readers thanks to graphic novels, and some kids realize they love the combination of history and fiction and could read historical fiction all day.
Ultimately, we want our students to be come avid readers and I can pretty much guarantee that unless they actually LOVE what they are reading, that won’t happen.
So, if you are ready to dig in deep into genre, here are some teaching tips:
Introduce your students to a wide range of reading genres.
At the start of every school year I make it a point to focus on genre the entire time we are setting up our reader’s workshop. I try to select a wide range of genres to incorporate into our daily mini-lesson or read aloud. This allows my students to be exposed to genre starting on day one of school.
I try to make sure the picture books I am reading come from a different genre. That way each time I read a new book, I’ll take a few minutes to introduce and discuss the attributes of that genre. I like to use Genre Anchor Charts to help me introduce each new genre. These anchor charts help me give a student-friendly definition of each genre and highlight the attributes of the genre.
Once we have introduced the genre, I like to give students a copy of the anchor chart to glue in their reading notebooks so they have their own copy to refer back to during the year. I also like to keep the anchor charts posted in our classroom.
Having the anchor charts posted all year long means that every time we read a book as a class, we can take just a few seconds to discuss and review the genre. The constant review of the reading genres is a great way to show students how important it is to pay attention to genre.
Give your students practice identifying the reading genre of texts they read.
The ultimate goal is for students to be able to pick up a book, read the back cover, scan a few pages and instantly know if it’s a genre they will enjoy reading. Well, this only happens, if students have a chance to practice identifying the genre of the texts they are reading.
One way I like to do this is by doing a “Genre of the Day activity with my students. Sometime during the first month of school, I like to round up short reading passages that are all from a different reading genre. Each day we will read one passage together, and I will have my students try to identify the genre before I reveal it to them.
This process of reading and thinking about the genre helps students pay attention to the unique attributes of each genre so they can easily identify them on their own. They start to realize that fairy tales usually begin with “once upon a time” and mysteries usually have a lot of foreshadowing and informational texts often times have text features and realistic fiction follows the basic story mountain.
When we start to discuss the attributes and characteristics of genre as a whole group, students begin to notice the same things while they read independently. And doing a genre of the day routine is a great way to kick off the year. This is also a good routine to help students realize that sometimes passages can be categorized as multiple genres.
Help your students understand the genres they read.
Comprehension is the ultimately goal of reading. If your students are not understanding what they are reading, there is no chance that they are going to enjoy it. If we want students to enjoy reading, then we need to make sure they have the tools to comprehend what they read.
By focusing on teaching the reading genres, students start to realize that we need to read with a different set of skills or strategies depending on the genre. When students know HOW to read different genres, they will probably start to enjoy them more.
I like to give my students the following tools to help improve them understand the different genres they read:
Genre Specific Question Stems: I love giving my students a set of question stems that are specific to each of the reading genres. These are great for class discussions or independent reading responses. Students realize that they questions they should be thinking about when they read a poem are completely different then when they are reading a biography. Having a set of genre specific questions lays the foundation for students to understand the genre they are reading.
Genre Specific Graphic Organizers: This resource is just as helpful. I like to give my students a set of genre specific graphic organizers. This helps them focus on the attributes that are unique to each genre, AND, they also start to realize that there are some similarities across the genres. For example, students will start to realize that historical fiction, science fiction, and realistic fiction, all follow the same narrative plot structure, but the characters, setting, and events are dramatically different across these three genres.
Challenge students to read a variety of genres.
We can talk about reading genres all day long, but the reality is, if our students don’t ever actually read different genres on their own, then they won’t discover which ones they like and which ones bore them.
To help my students jump right in to discovering their personal favorites, I like to start the year with a Genre Challenge. I would usually challenge my students to read at least 10 different genres during the first quarter. They could be chapter books or picture books or even magazine articles. I wanted to give them enough time to actually read the books and not rush through them just for the sake of the challenge.
This was a great way to get kids to read something outside of their comfort zone and really helped students explore all the fun and exciting reading genres in our classroom, school library, and even the public library.
Remind students to explore different reading genres all year long.
If you can’t already tell, I’m a huge believer in the idea of spending time focusing on genre at the beginning of the year. BUT, we don’t want our genre focus to end with the first quarter.
I like to keep reading genres a focus of our reading block all year long.
One way I make sure we focus on genre is by having a genre specific word wall. I have found that by having a word wall dedicated to the reading genres, helps students remember to tryout and read different genres. It’s also a helpful reminder to me to make sure I am picking a wide range of books to read for my read aloud and to use for mentor texts during my mini-lessons.
We all can easily get in a reading rut and only read the books we are comfortable and familiar with, but there are SOOOOOO many wonderful books out there and the more visual cues we have set up in our classroom the better.
Another way I like to remind students about genre is by giving them some daily accountability. I like to have students indicate what genre they are reading for the day. These genre reading accountability bookmarks are a great tool to incorporate into your independent reading block. It helps remind students that they should be reading more than just one genre.
I hope you are getting so excited to help your students dig a little bit deeper into all the different reading genres. I promise you that you have a classroom full of life-long readers. You just need to help your students figure out which genre they absolutely can’t get enough of. To make teaching genre just a little bit easier, I put together a bundle of genre resources in my TPT store – many of them were mentioned in this post. You can check them out right HERE. I can’t wait to hear how focusing on genre will transform your reading instruction.
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Reading Genre Inventory
This reading inventory is a fun way to help students figure out what genre they should read next! Students can go through this “choose your own genre” inventory several times and get different answers each time. It’s such a fun way to help students explore different genres.