Maggie Kay Hall-Librarian, Mother, Life-Long-Learner and Literacy Advocate
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Have you ever read, heard, or learned something (like an Aha Moment mentioned under the Notice and Note blog) that made all your schema come together and finally concepts just started to make sense? Well, that’s what this book and its teachings have done for me as a developing educator!
Heinemann only publishes books from the best of the best in the field of education. In my opinion, the two authors of this book, Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell are genuine gurus in the field of pedagogy as it relates to literacy studies and practice.
What is a genre study?
“To become competent, literate members of society, students must be able to navigate multiple genres (p 10).”
In a genre study teaching model and format, students explore literary genres by completing a series of genre studies, each spanning two to three weeks. The concept of genres is introduced through class discussion, during which students determine the main characteristics of various genres. Students are then assigned a genre to explore, and they use interactive notebooks to record evidence that their book fits the assigned genre. Finally, students complete a book review and share summaries of the books they read with their classmates. Conducting studies of multiple genres can help students to achieve a better understanding of their characteristics. “Students learn how to learn about different text types so they can apply the process again (p 6).” Learning about genre takes a long time, so you repeat this process over and over across grade levels as students develop more complex understandings (p 241).
What is the value of genre study for readers?
The ability to read across texts is a critical competency for a literate person. You want for your students to learn to think analytically about a topic, idea, or theme by synthesizing information from several texts. Thinking across texts makes understanding richer and helps readers take multiple perspectives; it also helps you become more critical in your reading.
Steps in the inquiry process for genre study:
What are the genres in literature?
“An important aspect of literacy instruction is convincing students that they need to distinguish between fiction and nonfiction, and equipping them with the skills and genre knowledge necessary to do it (p 58).”
The primary genres covered in this book include the following:
Traditional Literature (including folktales, fairy tales, fables, epics, legends, ballads, and myths)
Modern Fantasy (including simple animal fantasy, low fantasy, high fantasy, and science fiction)
Forms of Poetry
Multiple Choice Questions
Short Answer Questions
Extended Response Questions
“The more students know about how stories are structured, the easier it will be for them to comprehend what they are reading (p 62).”
The strategic actions required for reading:
Writing about what we read:
Writing about reading supports memory and expands understanding. Functional writing also includes the use of graphic organizers, diagrams, and outlines. This type of writing about reading supports analytical thinking. One of the added benefits of writing about reading is that students can become much more self-aware of their literate lives. Having written records helps students to reflect on their reading habits and realize how they have grown over time (p 374). When students have a chance to become writers themselves, they begin to notice how other authors work (p 392).
“Learning to respond powerfully to books is one of the great truths that students will learn in school. Writing reflects their thinking and their learning lives (p 334).”
Writing is an excellent way to help students internalize the many characteristics of genre.
Food for thought-direct quotes and notes from the author(s):
“Strategies are note discrete; they don’t happen one at a time and you cannot teach them one at a time. You employ these interrelated and complex strategies in a fluid way, your attention most of the time focused on your search for meaning (p 53).”
“Realistic fiction serves children in the process of understanding and coming to terms with themselves as they acquire human-ness (p 73).”
“New worlds and new interests lie waiting for children between the covers of informational books (p 148).”
“For me poetry has always been a way of paying attention to the world (p 191).”
“We want our students to make a lifelong commitment to reading and writing. And so, we begin by painstakingly caring about the literacy landscape, and then we proceed to do the best literacy teaching imaginable (p 239).”
“No single literacy activity has a more positive effect on students’ comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability, and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading (p 313).”
Fountas, I. & Pinnell, G. (2012). Genre study: Teaching with fiction and nonfiction books. Heinemann: Portsmouth, NH. pp 2-385.