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Authentic Purposes and Audiences. Inquiry Project Red Cedar Writing Project Summer 2012. “Too many classrooms lack a colorful, compelling context for reading and writing. ” Nell Duke. Why Teach Genre with a purpose?. Our natural predisposition to learn and use genre

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Authentic purposes and audiences

Authentic Purposes and Audiences

Inquiry Project

Red Cedar Writing Project

Summer 2012

Too many classrooms lack a colorful compelling context for reading and writing nell duke
“Too many classrooms lack a colorful, compelling context for reading and writing.” Nell Duke

Why teach genre with a purpose
Why Teach Genre with a purpose?

  • Our natural predisposition to learn and use genre

  • Advances in Genre Research and Theory

  • Genre serves purposes (advertisements convinces us to buy something)

  • Genres are part of a larger social conversation (language is inherently social)

  • Genres comprise all text

  • Genre can be oral or visual (speech genre, toast at a wedding) (graffiti symbols, hidden picture books)

  • Genres evolve within cultures (continuously changing)

  • Reading and writing are genre specific

  • Readers and writers engage in different processes to different degrees when reading different kinds of text

  • The same student can be much better at comprehending or composing one type of text than another

  • Different genres have different features

  • Some effective approaches to reading and writing are tailored to specific genres

  • The release of the Common Core State Standards

Five basic principals to any genre we teach
Five Basic Principals to any Genre we Teach:

  • Design compelling, communicatively meaningful environments

  • Provide exposure and experience

  • Explicitly teach genre features

  • Explicitly teach genre-specific or genre-sensitive strategies

  • Offer ongoing coaching and feedback


  • Students in other classrooms studying same topic or a related one

  • Students in younger grades who are interested in the topic

  • New teachers who will be teaching unit

  • The larger school community

  • Local businesses relevant to the topic

  • Local nonprofits relevant to the topic

  • Electronic or paper pen pals

  • Readers of websites

  • Book authors, publishing companies, entertainers, website authors

  • Family and friends or even teacher’s family and friends

How will teaching genre with purpose change my teaching
How will Teaching Genre with Purpose Change my Teaching?

  •  I will move away from stock assignments that don’t work

  • I will move beyond the constraints of “genre study” (genre is learned through projects, large and small that employ one or more genre for real purposes)

  • I will motivate and engage my students

  • I will empower my students with reasons to read and write better

  • I will move students away from cookie-cutter texts

  • I will balance the genres I teach and ask my students to use

  • I will help students use genres for their own purposes

Teaching narrative with a purpose
Teaching Narrative with a Purpose

  • Family History Project: Read different genres and texts: fictional stories, written and oral nonfiction narratives, family trees, wall placards linked to set up a quilt museum. (Keeping the quilt by Patricia Polacco) Video tape oral history interviews (parents involvement) The Whispering Cloth By Shea) Teach features of narrative, format of and purpose of placards using models

  • Write and illustrate modern day fairytales, personal narratives, or other children’sstories to share with younger children. (can donate books to pediatrician’s office)

  • Create comic strips on and enter in the Facebook wall competition . Post on to classroom blogs

  • Write history books of community or other historical events and place in public library, school library, local bookstores.

Teaching biography with a purpose
Teaching Biography with a Purpose

  • A class-authored biography to inform rest of students and faculty about the person for whom the school is named

  • Group created biographies of community members whose lives exemplify important character traits to be used to teach younger students about character development.

  • Individual biographies that document the lives of students’ favorite family member that they can give to that person

  • Group created biographies of people students know that have made a difference in the lives of others to be posted on website encouraging other children to become advocates for their community

Teaching procedural genre with a purpose
Teaching Procedural Genre with a Purpose

  • Earth Day How to Books to be written and sold at stores to raise money for a recycling program for the school.

  • How to organize your desk

  • Students write reader-friendly technical manuals about how to use a particular technology. (Could be used for younger students to use as a reference, books to be used in the computer lab)

  • Write procedural texts for a school event

  • Collect and publish procedural texts on things their families know how to do- hobbies, cultural traditions, technical skills, collect family recipes and publish in a cookbook

  • Research craft projects and write how to and publish in a school newsletter

  • Create, collect, and publish texts that teach classmates a favorite hobby

  • Students write a manual of classroom or school procedures to give to new students (lunchtime procedures, the words to school pledge, map of the school, school rules etc)

  • Create board games and instructions featuring the regions of the United States and have other students play their games. (keep them for indoor recess)

Teaching informational genres with a purpose
Teaching Informational Genres with a Purpose

  • Books Hope: Create books for students in foreign schools that provide English-language instruction

  • Need to know books…. Flu season, book on germs? Upcoming field trip

  • Human Body Texts

Teaching dramatic genres with a purpose
Teaching Dramatic Genres with a Purpose

  • Putting on plays (

  • Writing one act plays

  • Public Service announcements, soap operas, newscasts, documentary films

  • Readers Theater or

Teaching persuasive genre with a purpose
Teaching Persuasive Genre with a Purpose

  • Television commercials

  • Advertisements

  • Editorials (supporting a political position)

  • Blog postings (urging people to think in a particular way)

  • Proposals for funding or policy change

  • Formal letters (convince local businesses to donate bins for a recycling project)

  • Oral presentations (convince 3rd graders they are going to love 4th grade)

  • Magazines (convince young people to make healthier choices)

  • Create videos (issues such as peer pressure, bullying, preventing the spread of illness, not smoking etc)

  • Book Reviews

  • Speeches (lobby principal, administrators, the district or school board for programs that students want to save)

Genres to explore
Genres to Explore

Advertisements Letter comic

Brochure/Pamphlet eulogy memoir

How-to-book newspaper magazine

Editorial book review novel

Opinion column parody poetry

Script commercial speech

Skit photo-essay obituary

public service announcement children book

So now what
So Now what?

Based on my inquiry, I am excited to be teaching writing in the fall. I have many new ways for students to have an authentic audience to motivate them to write. One thing I learned is that students will care more about their final writing piece if they know that someone other than the teacher will be reading it. My favorite way that this will change my teaching is students will feel empowered to read and write better, and that is my ultimate goal. In addition students will develop the habits of mind while writing.



  • Duke, Nell, Caughlan, Samantha (2012). Reading and Writing Genre with a Purpose in a K-8 Classroom. Heinemann. 

  • Andrew-Vaughan, Sarah, Fleischer, Cathy (2009). Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone: Helping Students Navigate Unfamiliar Genres. Heinemann

  • Routman, Regie (2005). Writing Essentials: Raising expectations and Results While Simplifying Teaching. Heinemann.