Friday FAQs about Genre Studies

Hey y'all!! it really Friday already?!  These weeks need to seriously stop flying by now that it is summer.  I always feel like summer's almost over after July 4th passes and that is just around the corner! Is that silly?  I want to slow down and savor every lazy day!  Seeing that the week is ending, that means it's the last day to enter my 100 Follower Giveaway!  I'm excited to see the winner tomorrow morning! :)

Today, I'm answering all of the FAQs that came in this week about how I teach reading through genre studies.  Did you enjoy the "series" of posts all related to one subject?  I'm thinking about doing a similar series in July about my writing workshop genres and celebrations, if so!  Let me know!  Here goes...and if you have additional questions, just comment and I'll answer them.  I'm hoping that if some of you are wanting to change things up with how you teach reading, this will help.  Seriously, I couldn't go back to teaching reading any other is the BEST part of my day each and every day! :)

1.)   How do you start/set expectations for your genre studies with the children?

This is a great question, but kind of tough to answer since all of my genre units are so different.  I do spend a LOT of time during our first genre study (mysteries) modeling expectations.  I ALWAYS do mini-lessons and probably go "model overboard" but I like for them to know e.x.a.c.t.l.y. what I want them to do.  I feel it's way worth the time, to do this, and to model how they should read with a partner (sitting EEKK - elbow to elbow, knee to knee) how to share books (if necessary), how to share reading (sentence by sentence, page by page, etc), how to help each other, etc.

2.)   My classes have very diverse learners, as I'm sure your's do.  What kinds of products/learning do you expect from each learner?

I expect the same products from each learner, but am well aware that the quality of the product may differ, and that's okay.  For example, when we're creating our Non-Fiction Informational Chapter Books, I expect all students to complete all parts of this project (table of contents, chapters, glossary, photos, captions, etc.) However, my higher learners should be submitting a project with detailed paragraphs, captions, glossaries with definitions in their own words, etc. while my lower learners may only have a few sentences in each of their chapters, less detailed captions, and may need to use a book to help with definitions for their glossaries.  

3.)   How do you differentiate? 

Teaching through genre studies solves the problem of me trying to find materials for differentiation.  The whole nature of this approach is that each student is reading on his/her level at all times.  I am able to teach the standards that I'm required to teach them, while having them apply these standards using books on their own levels.

4.)   Do you use the basal to reinforce the standards being taught during reading, use any of the stories from the basal or just use your state standards and 9 week benchmark for achievement test to guide which standard and skill you will address?

No, I do not use the basal at all.  In fact, I don't even have them in my classroom any longer.  (YAY!)

5.)   Do your spelling, word work, and phonics go along with the genre study?  Or are they developed seperately?

My genre studies almost always integrate with a writing, science, or social studies unit.  My spelling/phonics and word work are completely separate.

6.)   How many books do you read during any specific genre study?

This depends greatly.  During some genre studies I will only use one main book for our mini-lessons throughout the unit (like mysteries), while others I'll use several (like non-fiction to gather information about our modeled topic sharks), and still others we will read many together (like folktales).  I also often pull in the genre during our read-aloud time to expose them to even more literature in these genres.  And, keep in mind that besides the books I read to the class, the students are actively reading these books at school and home during these studies.

7.)   Do you have available the books for the type of genre in your library?  Do the children group read, buddy read, read at home these genres? 

When I first started teaching with genres, my classroom library was very limited with some of these genres and I would have to collect them from the library to use.  However, I wrote several grants and have purchased books on my own (our local public library holds a "Friends of the Library Book Sale" twice a year where you can get like new hardcover books SUPER cheap (I'm talking 50 cents) and I always hit that up.  I've purchased a TON of non-fiction books there!)  So, now, my classroom library is well-stocked with books in these genres on all levels.  Students read independently (informational and biographies), with a partner (mysteries, poetry), and in small groups (fairytales, tall tales, fables).   They also often read these genres at home while we're learning about them in school to complete reading projects.

8.)   I am blessed with a very high achieving popultion of students and parents.  They are more than willing to read at home.  However, if I don't send the basal home of Friday with next week's homework packet (Holy Guacamole!!)  The sky falls, with parents calling and emailing as to which story we are reading this week, or why aren't we reading a story this week?  Here's my question, what type of homework reading practice do you use?  

I have always been blessed to teach at high-achieving schools with demanding parents (did I just call that a blessing??), also.  I remember those days with the phone calls about the basal, but that's what they're used to.  If you start the year out with genre studies, they will have completely different expectations.  In fact, one of my teaching buddies who also taught through genre studies with me was out for maternity leave one year and she let the sub use the basal while she was out because she used to teach and that was what she was comfortable with.  Well, when she returned, she said "These parents are driving me crazy.  They're all calling wanting to know what the "story of the week" is and when the reading text is coming home."  She had never had that problem before, but it was what her parents were trained to expect.

Besides the occasional reading project, I do not assign specific reading homework.  All second-graders are expected to read 20 minutes per night.  Most teachers send home a reading log, but I choose not to do that.  I tried it in the past, and it jut didn't work for me.  Either parents were just signing the log and recording the time for the whole week on Monday or the parents were too busy to sign and then the child suffered the consequence.  I figure, if they're going to read, they're going to read and a log is not going to make the difference.  I want my students (and families) to read for enjoyment and make it a fun, family routine.  I often send tips and ideas home to encourage this, rather than demanding a reading log.

9.)   Do you use thematic learning centers for each type of genre?  

Since I don't have "center time" in my classroom every day, my centers may not look like most.  But, I did make all of my centers relate to "mysteries" last year during our mystery genre.  It was pretty easy to do actually and made a lot of sense.  For example, in my "Dramatic Divas" center I just had all mystery readers theaters, in my "Word Whiz" center I had making words activities using vocabulary from that unit, etc.

10)  Do the children complete the majority of their monthly genre project in class or at home?

I used to have the children do these completely at home every month.  However, I HATE (can I make that any more bold?) when 2nd graders bring projects back to school that are P-E-R-F-E-C-T!!!  I do not want parents doing these projects, and it saddens my heart that they don't think their child is capable of doing it on their own!  I actually have a friend whom I had this very debate with this year...she was complaining about her child's project and exclaiming how glad she was that SHE was finished with it.  She said that she knew her daughter could do it, but it might not be as good as the others (because obviously, she knew the other parents were doing the projects, too) and she didn't want her daughter to feel bad.  *SIGH*  Can I just say that this is what is wrong with our society!?  *I digress*  Needless to say, I now have students complete MOST of the projects in the classroom (the story skeleton and tall tale can puppet are the two exceptions).  It makes my heart so happy to see them accomplish the projects on their own and to have "not-so-perfect" projects to showcase...and they're even MORE proud of them, because they did them on their OWN!

 11) How do you organize your genre materials?

A few years ago, I became {overly} organized and changed the way I stored my lesson plans/materials for all subjects.  When I moved away from daily/weekly lesson plans and shifted to unit plans it made sense for me to store everything by unit.  So, I purchased these great containers (pic below) 2 or 3 at a time (as I taught the units throughout the year) and began organizing by units and lessons.  Each unit I teach (reading, writing, math, science, and social studies) has a container.  Within that container are hanging file folders labeled by lessons (Lesson 1, Lesson 2, etc.).  Each file folder holds any sample projects and/or read aloud books, games, etc. that I will need for that lesson.  At the beginning of each unit, I just pull this container out, print all of the activities for the lessons and add those to the folders.  *Voila!*  The entire unit with all supplies at my more searching for that book you need or trying to remember where you stuck that sample project!  I've found this really useful for substitutes - it's all ready, even for unexpected absences! :)  Since the file folders are hanging and labeled generically, I can easily move lessons or activities around if I tweak the unit for the next year.  I store these containers on top of the cubbies in my classroom. There's no need for a file cabinet any longer (I mean come on, we all have electronic files now, right?)  I do still have mine in my classroom though, and I use it to store all of my teacher resource books, which frees up ALL of my bookshelves for our classroom library, which is always growing and I can never bear to purge because, well, I love READING...especially through genre studies!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I'm so sorry for the previous two posts...I kept finding spelling errors. :(

    LOVE your labeled storage! I am in the midst of trying to reorganize my files, since I have been assured that I am "safe" in 2nd Grade. My administration likes to "shake things up" and switch everyone around every year, so that has always made me feel like...if I could get switched, why do I even bother? I have realized that this is not helping ME to stay sane and organized. I am hoping that with new organization, I can feel much better throughout the year and not as frantic. Know what I mean??

    I love your ideas and suggestions. Keep 'em coming! I am TRYING to get away from the Basal, but I have a few teachers on my grade level that are kind of "stuck" on it, so it's been a slow process, but we did a LOT better last year. We only used the Basal story once a week, then supplemented with Mentor Texts. Since we do collaborative planning, we are all doing the same thing for the most part. :)

    I look forward to seeing your Writing posts, as I am going to completely change up how I'm teaching Writing this year. :)

    Sweeties In Second

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Love your new blog and I'm now a follower! Happy summer!
    Rockin' Teacher Materials

  5. It is really tough to make that first "jump" away from the basal,and especially hard when you team plan. It sounds like you're slowly chipping away at the them!

  6. Please please please do a writers workshop series!! I've loved your genre series and can only imagine I will feel that same about your writing one. My school doesn't have a writing program or structure for K-2. We just got a new principal and I desperately want to convince her that I can develop Units of Study vs. purchasing a basal type curriculum for writing!! MY 100 Follower Giveaway is all centered around amazing writing resources because that is the area I am set on shaping next year.

    ❤- Stephanie
    Falling Into First
    100 Follower {WRITE} This Way Giveaway

  7. Thank you for sharing your genre studies. I have learned so much from you. I also like the way you organize the units. I am working on doing the same with both writing and reading this year. I'm a binder girl, so files will be there, but I envision books, copies, and activies housed in the containers.
    Where Seconds Count 2nd grade blog

  8. I love how you organize your books for your genre studies!! That is exactly what I need to do to ensure that I have the right books for each unit at my fingertips. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips about genre studies!
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  9. This is great! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that with Common Core on it's fast approach, our district will loosen up on the basal a bit. I'm ready for some flexibility! :)

    The Learning Tree

  10. Funny, I feel the same way. Once July 4th gets here it seems that summer will quickly come to an end. Also, I have awarded you The Lovely Blog award! Stop by my blog to pick it up.

    Pencils, Books, and Dirty Looks

  11. I love your ideas! I would LOVE to read more on your writing workshop series! I think I convinced our new principal to order the binders I need, I would just love more detail on how it's organized. Looking forward to it!

  12. Hello!

    I'm very interested in doing the genre studys in my 2nd grade class this year. Can you help me figure out what all I need to do this. Should I just start one unit at a time? I tried to email you but it was making me open outlook and it wouldn't work. Please email me at so I can ask you directly. I wanted to also know who the 11 explorers that you cover are. :-)

    Amber Hagy

  13. Do you have a list of your strategies unit lesson plans and the picture books you use to model with??


    brockmeyer.katie (at) yahoo (dot) com


Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing ideas! I love to read your comments. I like to reply back by email, so make sure you have that option enabled so we can chat! :)

Back to Top