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The Multi-genre Adventure. “Ms. Griffith, I want to write dialog so Joey and Billy will be more real to my readers. Will you help me?”. What is a multigenre paper?.

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the multi genre adventure

The Multi-genre Adventure

“Ms. Griffith, I want to write dialog so Joey and Billy will be more real to my readers. Will you help me?”

what is a multigenre paper

What is a multigenre paper?

“A multigenre paper arises from research, experience, and imagination. It is not uninterrupted, expository monologue nor a seamless narrative nor a collection of poems. A multi-genre paper is composed of many genres and subgenres, each piece self contained, making a point of its own, yet connected by theme or topic and sometimes by language, images, and content. In addition to many genres, a multigenre paper may also contain many voices, not just the author’s. The trick is to make such a paper hang together.

Tom Romano, Blending Genre, Altering Styles, 2000


Theory as cited by Tom Romano

Blending Genre, Altering Style, 2000

Jerome Bruner (1986):

paradigmatic ‘’thinking:’ facts, analysis, chronology and logic

narrative ‘’knowing:’ stories, poetry, drama, painting and movement

Peter Elbow (1990): “…showing--not telling; rendering experience, both real and imagined…”

Tom Newkirk (1997): “…such rendering ‘penetrates’ experience taking readers inside a present moment, present because narrative thinking lets us experience the writing…”

Louise Rosenblatt (1978): “…literature offers readers a chance to engage in a ‘lived through experience,’ an experience that has been penetrated…”


Tom Romano on multigenre writing:

“In such writing, it is often solely up to readers to reflect upon meaning and make abstractions. Authors of narrative thinking ask readers to live the page. And we leave the world. Essays, too, of course may contain narrative thinking, though often they do not…. Multigenre papers, however, as I conceive them, demand that writers think narratively. Writers must meld the cognitive with the emotional…

Genres of narrative thinking require writers to be concrete and precise. They can’t just tell in abstract language. They can’t just be paradigmatic. They must show. They must make their topics palpable. They must penetrate. And that is what multigenre papers enable their authors to do.”


Day One

Romano/ high school:

Share the article and poem about Count

Basie. Let students respond to each other

and share their thoughts. Discuss the characteristics of each genre as a class and how it affects the reader.

Griffith/ middle school:

Brainstorm places you would like to visit if you could go anywhere in the world you wanted to go. What would you want to know about the place before ‘Daddy Bigbucks” buys you ticket? Allow students to work in groups of three then share questions with class.


Day Two

Romano/ high school:

Share an entire multigenre paper in class. Divide the genres among the students to practice and perform for the class. Discuss the meaning of each piece and the author’s style and intent. Make connections to theme, imagery, language, personas, tone, mood…etc.

Griffith/ middle school:Share an entire multigenre paper in class. Model one dramatic performance then volunteers will read, practice and perform the other pieces. Use samples from previous years’ students. If none are available, use examples from Romano’s book. Discuss the author’s purpose and the effect the pieces have on the reader.


Day Three

Romano/ high school:

Topic choice workshop. Share the topics other have chosen. Brainstorm a list of possible topics and generate a lot of talk about writing possibilities.

Griffith/ middle school:

Demonstrate how to collect information and paraphrase. Review how to use the library resources and document resources. Review fiction, nonfiction and poetry.


Day Four

Romano/ high school:

Students will submit their topics in writing with a brief rationale of why this subject is suitable for study. Peers can help generate ideas and give suggestions. Submit rationales for teacher feedback. Above all, validate topic selections.

Griffith/ middle school:

Students will write a plan and generate some possible writing and art ideas for their project. Discuss ideas in groups then submit plan for teacher feedback. Above all, validate topic selection. Teacher can give suggestions for ideas and resources.


Day Five

Begin multigenre writing workshop in earnest.

Romano/ high school:

Focus on lead piece first because “multigenre papers are so unconventional, it is crucial that their authors ground readers immediately, orient them to the terrain, establish the central tension.”

Suggestions for consideration: tone and topic; photographs; theme and topic; defining moment


Griffith/ middle school:

Teach a mini lesson and demonstrate:





Point of View

I begin with a short, nonfiction article from the newspaper. We discuss and identify topic, task, audience, purpose and point of view. I demonstrate how to use my research to create an article about my topic.


How to Identify Genre Possibilities

Romano/ high school:

1. Examine a multigenre text like Avi’s Nothing But the

Truth and let students work together to identify

different genres.

2. Brainstorm a list of genres, subgenres and modes of

expression. For example: instructions for media

components, CD covers, music video scripts,


3. Read an example of a style of writing like “stream of

consciousness” and allow students to “try it out” by

writing a short selection in class.

4. Get ideas from class work readings.


Griffith/ middle school

1. Brainstorm a list of nonfiction and fiction ideas.

Discuss how art could be integrated to enhance

the writing. Some genre naturally include art like

picture books, comic books, and reports that have

graphs and maps.

2. Share examples of different genres from

newspapers, magazines, novels, plays, and media

connections like news or talk show scripts.

3. Demonstrate how to write different types of

nonfiction in a “nonfiction seminar.” Do

minilessons about titles, leads, organization,

illustrations, graphs, charts, parts of a book,…etc.

4. Demonstrate how to write different types of

fiction in a “fiction seminar.” Teach minilessons

about story elements, suspense, character

development, language, point of view,


Success is in the “cans,” not the “cannots.”


Cognitive Struggle

Romano (high school) identifies a problem with the “open-endedness” of the multigenre format. Some students need more structure than others. The analytical thinkers may struggle with imagination and creativity. Romano points to a need to develop many kinds of skills so that students will be able to go beyond the mere factual: “No matter what professions they enter, facts and analysis are not enough. If our decisions are to be both sound and humane, we need to understand emotion and circumstance, as well as logic and outcome. Writing in many genres helps minds learn to do that.”


Griffith (middle school) notes that struggling readers and writers will need extra support and scaffolding before they can be successful with this kind of writing. It is good to have graphic organizers of many kinds to aid them in prewriting and planning. They will need to learn the importance of prewriting and how to take take good prewriting and turn it into a first draft. They will also need many opportunities to conference with strong writers and the teacher for additional support.


Things to Consider:

Romano (high school): playing with different types of dialog; the development of “persona” in expressive writing like a diary entry; turning a narrative summary into a “dramatic scene.”

Griffith (middle school): texts written from differing points of view; a character sketch written in biographical style; a short “mirror” piece written with plain verbs and adjectives then a second piece with altered connotation using specific “vivid” verbs and “awesome” adjective (denotation vs.. connotation)



Romano (high school): Use “quick writes” to discover topics for poetry then web images to create the pictures for you words; “found poems;” haikus that “have a quality of actuality…of the moment seized on and rendered purely…;” photograph poems; prose poems; poems for two voices

Griffith (middle school): Shape poems; cinquains; rhythm/rhyming poems; humorous poems like Shel Silverstein; limericks; “bio” poems; simile poems; nursery rhymes; “rap” lyrics



Romano (high school): Assessment takes the form of grading “guides” that allow teachers and students to assess the multigenre paper based on criteria that has been agreed upon like “completeness,” “mechanics,” “content,” “format,” “documentation.” Students should also be expected to complete a self-assessment as well as receive a teacher assessment.


Griffith (middle school): Students use rubrics, a type of grading guide, that includes criteria and a scale of accomplishment to self assess. The teacher and students agree on the criteria, and the students have the rubric before they begin writing. The teacher and student conference about each piece during the writing and upon completion. The teacher gives specific feedback, and both teacher and student negotiate the grade. The finished work can also be assessed using a rubric based on how well the pieces “hang together.”


Final Thoughts

Romano (high school): “I revel in seeing human minds at work. There is no right or wrong about this. It is simply remarkable to see people make meaning, regardless of their age and the meaning they make. We teachers--if we are paying attention to those whom we teach and expecting more of them than rudimentary thinking and memorization--see this common miracle of sense making all the time. No wonder we take the plunge…significant learning comes when students launch their own dives and teach the teacher.”


Griffith (middle school): I’m not really sure where the multigenre paper will take me, but I have had a glimpse of where it is taking my students. We recently took the TAKS benchmark, a practice test to have an opportunity to discuss the new format. “Jon,” a special education student, wrote his response to the prompt in dialog, and he carefully explained to me how he crafted his writing piece. He was an author, and he knew it! I got responses in diary form, narrative form, letters to friends and relatives--one student wrote using a metaphor from her Mexican American culture. I have discovered I am no longer driving--I am in the backseat, and I’m just along for the ride!