Often we are called to share our knowledge of genres with language arts classes. This year our 8th Grade English classes were embarking on a unit of genre study. They were to learn about some specific genres, read and analyze them in class, and then write their own story that uses the conventions of their chosen genre. They came to the library for a genre focused session and to get a book that would inform their understanding. My goal was to give the students more tools for finding books on their own, but through the lens of genres. I had done the genre game earlier in the year with 6th graders, so I wanted to do something different. I reflected on this generation of “digital-natives,” so I thought I would anchor the lesson around the symbol and function of the hashtag.
So I created a graphic organizer that is a large hashtag. Each square had a category to capture about a genre the students were studying. At the beginning of class I posed the question of what is a hashtag and how does it function in our current media landscape. Students quickly shared how it serves as a grouping mechanism to identify similar concepts. I then used the hashtag as an analogy to how genres have been functioning in the literary and library world much like the hashtag of the current instagram generation. I then passed out the graphic organizer and randomly gave students one genre to go into depth about. There were a couple of questions students could answer on the graphic organizer to activate their prior knowledge before I showed them some tools we have in our catalog and online databases. This helped me see what they already knew about genres.
I also had a simple Libguide that I had created to guide the process. The first content box on the Libguide had some links to genre definitions. These websites helped students find out about the characteristics and elements of genres. I modeled how to look these up and then write the information on the hashtag graphic organizer. To complete the other areas like “notable authors” and “example titles” I showed students how to use our subscription to Novelist Plus. I demonstrated to them that you can look up books by genres to get ideas and recommendations for reading. So they spent some time working through Novelist Plus and writing down examples. I also showed them how Novelist Plus cross-references with our catalog, so they would know if we had that book in our collection. After students completed their hashtag graphic organizer I made a quick matrix on the board so that we could share the characteristics of each genre that way students had exposure to the major conventions of each genre. Then students had time to explore the shelves in the library and apply their new skills of finding books by genre.