Empowering Writers

August 2015 Lesson of the Month

One of the first strategic skills taught to all writers in every grade level is genre. Students must have a clear understanding of the different types of writing to support their own text as well as to inform their reading comprehension. In this lesson, students will categorize books and written text into Narrative (Character/Problem/Solution and Personal Experience), Expository, and Opinion or Persuasive writing. They will make predictions using the covers of books and also reveal the organization and author’s purpose of books and sample passages.

Here’s what you’ll do:

First, review the teacher background for the genre study from your Empowering Writers guide. Teach the genre lesson in your guide as a pre-requisite for this Interactive Genre Lesson, supporting Narrative Character/Problem/Solution, Narrative Personal Experience, Expository, and/or Opinion/Persuasive writing.

Next, gather a collection of picture books or novels all relating to a theme and including narrative, expository and opinion writing genres. Entertain numerous themes and collections of books.

For example, choose an assortment of books all about weather. Place the books on a table or desk. On another table/desk, place a collection all about ocean animals, still another variety about life cycles and another about seasons. YOU PICK THE THEMES, and ENCOMPASS 4-5 DIFFERENT TOPICS. (Check out our online Literature Connection or look ahead in the Essential Guides for great theme ideas).

After the books are all placed on separate tables or desks about the classroom (I usually number each table and refer to them as stations), divide the students into cooperative learning groups and give each group multiple copies (depending on the # of themes chosen) of “WHAT’S THE GENRE?”  Each group will travel from table to table examining the collection of books. They will first decide on a theme for the array of books and then determine the genre and author’s purpose of each selection. The group will complete a “WHAT’S THE GENRE?” handout for each of the tables.

When all of the groups have completed the rounds, have the participants compare their determinations. If there are discrepancies, have them turn through the pages of the book for a closer look at the genre, noting the organization as well as the author’s purpose.


For upper grades, especially in schools/classrooms that have Empowering Writers consistency, try using reading passages or magazine articles to replace the books in this Interactive Genre Lesson. The side x side text found in the Empowering Writers Guides would be a great start for locating some of these reading samples.


For added depth to this interactive genre lesson give each cooperative learning group a different theme and have them go to the school library and find theme-related Narrative Character/Problem/Solution, Narrative Personal Experience, Expository, and/or Opinion/Persuasive books or writing samples.  Give them the option of finding picture books, novels and/or magazine and newspaper articles as samples.

New K-1 Lesson:

Beginning, Middle, End

After the first few weeks of school, have the students create a beginning, middle, and end tri-fold page (fold a sheet of plain white paper into three equal sections and label each with beginning, middle and end).

Talk with the students about what they do at the beginning of school each day – the calendar, birthdays, counting, etc. Then have them recount what they do in the middle of the day – lunch, recess, music, a cartoon, etc. Last have them think about what they do at the end of the day – sing a song, play a game, pack their backpack for home, get on the bus, etc. MODEL this on the board or chart paper by dividing the area into three sections and labeling each with BEGINNING, MIDDLE, and END. Draw or write about what they do in the beginning, middle and end of the school day using the student’s responses as the sample.

When the MODEL is complete, let the students draw or write their own depiction of the BEGINNING, MIDDLE, and END or their day at school, borrowing from your sample or creating their own ideas for the assignment.

Teaching Tips:

The beginning of a new school year is the perfect time to have the students write a narrative story and an expository piece before the instruction begins. Adhere these to the front of each pupil’s writing portfolio (this can be as simple as a manila folder). There is no greater feeling than when a child points out how “awful” his first writing attempt was compared to his growth. Besides, when they notice on their own, you know they are learning.

Make your writing plans early. The Empowering Writers team has worked diligently to provide you with invaluable support when it comes to creating your writing lessons. Check out our “Year-At-A-Glance” documents for each grade level, Scope and Sequence support, and alignment tools all found on our website under the TOOLBOX icon.