Brainstorming about Genre, Josh B.

Prompt: What are some strategies or low-stakes assignments you might use to teach your students what genre is, and how and why we move between genres in order to reach our audiences and achieve our desired outcomes? Try to think of strategies that you might be able to use online.

Genre Awareness (First Steps?)

  • To prepare for class discussion and activities, I could ask students to read and annotate a three-page excerpt from The Bedford Book of Genres (Braziller, 2nd edition; pages 30, 32, 39). Doing so would introduce students to a framework for analyzing rhetorical situation and genre conventions. This specific excerpt provides a chart template, specific questions, and an engaging example.
  • In a low-stakes assignment or discussion, I could offer students a long list of genres. I could ask students to brainstorm which different “types of texts” they’ve read in the past two weeks. Then I could ask students to choose one specific text that they’ve read recently and fill in the chart mentioned above.

Moving Between Genres (Intermediate Steps?)

  • To prepare for class discussion and activities, I could ask students to read and annotate “Navigating Genres” by Kerry Dirk.
  • In a low-stakes assignment, I could ask students to find something that they had written in a previous class, for work, or on social media. Then I could ask students to fill in the chart mentioned above for that specific text.
  • In class, with blank copies of the chart, I could ask students to brainstorm in groups how they could move the information from that specific text into another genre for a new specific audience: Given a new audience, what could they really accomplish with this new text, in a new genre, and how could the text look?

Genre Awareness versus Audience Awareness (Early On, or Much Later On?)

  • I wonder how I could separate, organize, or integrate class discussions about genre awareness and audience awareness.
  • For example, I’m thinking of WIRED’s 5 LEVELS series (1 Season, 10 Episodes): “Can everything be explained to everyone in terms they can understand? In 5 Levels, an expert scientist explains a high-level subject in five different layers of complexity— first to a child, then a teenager, then an undergrad majoring in the same subject, a grad student and, finally, a colleague.”
  • In a given video, while all the conversations are part of the same multimodal text, and while the modes of live conversation within the video generally remain the same, each live conversation uses different rhetorical appeals and communication styles.
  • So perhaps I could use one of these videos to jump from choices in live conversation (across audiences) to choices in written texts (across audiences and across genres)?

One thought on “Brainstorming about Genre, Josh B.

  1. Patrick Redmond

    Hey Josh!

    I hope all is well with you and yours.

    I really like your idea about using a chart throughout the three sections. I think that familiarity for the students will be a great way reinforce the lesson as it progresses, and it will make it easier for them to transfer their ideas from the chart to a written assignment. The only thing I was wondering about was if it would be stronger to move the 2nd section to the end, and then have them “re-genre” their work. They might feel more comfortable thinking about their writing this way after they have investigated the in-depth video exercise that you are proposing.


Leave a Reply