Last week on the blog I shared why I teach genre the first week of school. This week, I’ll walk you through what I do and how I do it when I’m teaching literary genres using stations. It takes my classes just a few days to get through all of my station activities, then we wrap up in a fun way. Here’s how it works:
- Day 1: Genre Introduction & Stations 1 & 2
- Day 2: Stations 3 & 4
- Day 3: Stations 5 & 6 (Choice)
- Day 4: Genre Scavenger Hunt & Quiz
- Day 5: Book Talks, Library Visit & Checkout, DEAR Time
Introducing Genre: Laying the Groundwork with Sketch Notes
On the first day, I introduce genre and hook students with their favorite music. We watch a Saturday Night Life Musical Genre Challenge skit. This one with Meghan Trainor & Jimmy Fallon is great, relatable, and clean, though I would stop it before Booty Wurk. After we talk about what genre is and why it matters (preference and expectations), I pass out their sketch notes.
I love to lay the groundwork for any unit I’m teaching using sketch notes. It’s no different when I’m teaching literary genres the first week of school! When I design my sketch notes, I start with the core content that I want students to walk away with at the completion of the unit. As a bonus, it makes for a great study guide!
Because I have students filling out their sketch notes at various stations around the room. I set expectations whole group before I send them off. With sketch notes, I always expect them to:
- Understand the content first by reading, rereading, asking questions
- Take notes on critical information
- Add color and doodles to call out the most important skills or content
- Monitor their time usage by watching the timer (I put a big timer on the projector)
Here are what my sketch notes look like:
Once I’ve introduced genre and set expectations, I divide students up into two groups and send them off a station. While I really have six different learning stations for students to rotate through, I find it easier to start with just a couple of stations per day.
Station #1: Genre Introduction
This station is a quick one. Students capture the definition and importance of genre and then identify some of their favorites. I usually hang out at this station and listen to kids/jump in on conversations. It’s an informal opportunity to get to know them as readers and find out some of their favorite books (so I can tailor my first few weeks of book talks!). I also find that they work so much slower the first few weeks of school, so this station offers plenty of time to get the train a-movin’!
Station #2: Genre & Subgenre Puzzles & Notetakers
The second station requires small groups or individual students to put together a quick puzzle before they can complete their notes. Why use a puzzle? Putting together a puzzle exercises the brain in ways that we may not otherwise do in the classroom. Puzzles require students to use both left and right sides of their brain, think logically, utilize their visual-spatial reasoning skills, and solve problems. It also turns an otherwise boring exercise into one that is hands-on (which many of my boys are constantly begging for!). Once they’ve completed the puzzle, they can take notes on the four main genres as well as their common subgenres.
Station #3: Genre Riddles
On day two, we do a quick review of what genres are, why readers should pay attention to them, and the various types. I remind students of the expectations while they are working in stations and send them off to two new stations!
Working together with a small group, students read each genre riddle and identify the genre described. Once they’ve matched all the cards, they put them in numerical order based on the number on the bottom right of the riddle card. After all the matched cards have been put in the correct sequential order, students will reveal the secret message!
Station #4: Genre Book Sort
On day 2, I also have students try their hand at sorting unlabeled books. Each group gets a stack of the rainbow watercolored genre cards pictured above and a stack of books. I make sure to give each group of students a well-rounded stack so they *theoretically* end up with at least one book from each genre. The instructions at the station tell students to read things like the title, the author, and the back blurb to get a feel for what the story is about. Then, armed with their newfound knowledge of each genre, students group books by genre and label them with the genre cards. I hangout at this station and get students talking about their thinking, explaining their rationale, etc.
Station #5: Genre Comparison
I change things up my final day of teaching literary genres using stations. My Tier 1 students who “have it” are asked to compare multiple genres using a Venn Diagram. Advanced learners are asked to either write creatively with a “Genre Meets Genre” story or think mathematically and plot genres on a graph according to certain characteristics. Meanwhile, I work with the students who need a bit more support and either complete incomplete tasks or take additional notes/review different genres. I send students home to study their sketch notes because our first “grade” of the year is the literary genre quiz!
Literary Genre Scavenger Hunt Review
One of my favorite ways to review is through a scavenger hunt that gets kids up and moving around the room. It’s a fun and interactive way to reinforce skills and provide additional clarification. For our last day on genre, I hang up the scavenger hunt posters around the room in a random order ahead of time. Each student gets a recording sheet and may start anywhere around the room! Students read the question on the bottom, note the number, then find the answer somewhere around the room. The scavenger hunt ends up taking them on a journey around the room and they end up back where they started if they get every answer correct! It takes less than 20 minutes and early finishers love to be the experts helping others.
We wrap things up with a quick quiz. Sixth graders are so nervous for their first official grade. It makes me giggle, but I also love how hard they work. I wish I could hold on to that enthusiasm all year long!
If you’d like to use any of the learning activities I’ve mentioned in this blog, you can find them all on my Teachers Pay Teachers store here, or by purchasing them from me directly.
Book Talks & DEAR Time
Next week, I’ll tell you how teaching literary genres using stations leads into my book talks and DEAR time throughout the year. If this isn’t the most treasured part of your Language Arts block, then you are missing out! Stay tuned.