I have learned more about genres in the past 5 weeks in this course than I have my lifetime. During this course specifically, I was able to take the new knowledge I was learning and directly relate it to previous notions and many times misconceptions I had to develop a clearer, deeper understanding of each.
During presentations and through reading Tompkins, I have learned about many text structures that were never explicitly discussed elsewhere in my education career. For example, although I had previous notions regarding the text structure of a letter (whether personal or business), and I understood text structures we find in most narrative writing such as plot, setting, etc, I had no idea that biographical writing included specific text structures as well. I learned that biographical writing contains different structures that each have very specific characteristics. For example, personal narratives, memoirs, and autobiographies all have different characteristics however they are all considered biographical writing.
Most of the genre’s discussed I had a surface level understanding of, but gained a deeper understanding as I read and participated in presentations. My own presentation, for example, was on persuasive writing. Before research, I knew the basics about persuasive writing, such as persuasive writing has a beginning (stating belief), middle (reasons why you believe it), and end (repeat what you believe). However, I learned that the above example of the structure of a persuasive writing piece can be easily manipulated. For example, a more complex student may choose to include the other side of the argument and why that side is not reasonable. Although I had the baseline understanding of what persuasive writing is, what I failed to realize, is that persuasion is a part of my everyday life. Not a day goes by that I do not try to persuade someone in my life (including myself!) one thing or another. That is the umbrella idea that really hit home while learning about each genre: We were not just learning about reading and writing genres, we were learning about how they are a part of our everyday lives.
Letter writing is another genre I assumed I knew what I needed to know about it to teach it, however I was drastically wrong. I knew the basic text structures of a letter, and how they may change slightly to become tailored to the specific audience they are meant. I learned that not a day goes by that I do not write a letter, whether it is a text message, email, etc. I learned that each text structure needs to be explicitly taught and modeled, and no two types of letters should be taught on the very same day. In fact, I think many of my misconceptions came from the fact that when I was introduced to this genre as a child, it was all introduced at once. I learned about personal letters, business letters, post cards, etc in one lesson, which lent me to believe the different types of letters are more similar than they truly are. These presentations not only helped clear up any misconceptions I had to begin with, but they also gave me hands on methods I can use when educating my own children on each specific genre.
Although I feel much better about each genre specifically, I worry I may be using the wrong educational techniques to teach the genre’s in my own classroom. For example, just this week in clinic I was told that compare and contrast graphic organizers, as well as specific concept maps and KWL charts, should not be used with narrative text. It makes sense now that these organizers require specific information that a student cannot correctly obtain from a narrative writing piece simply because they need concrete details. I student taught, taught my own classroom, and worked with students in clinic over the past years with that misconception that plays a large role in student understanding. My biggest fear is that I am going to teach ‘wrong’, without having the correct knowledge on a specific topic. Therefore, these genre presentations aided in my understanding of writing drastically. I now feel confident I can make decisions in my own classroom regarding teaching these genres accurately and appropriately, and aid in students understandings of each.