Seven Approaches to Teaching Literary Genres

Discover several ways to make recognizing and remembering the different genres an easier task for your pupils.

By Mollie Moore



What is the difference between realistic fiction and historical fiction? Autobiography and biography? Fairy tale and fantasy? Understanding the genre of a story or passage can lead to increased comprehension of the text. Teaching genre can be difficult; here are some strategies that have worked for me.

1. Five Little Monkeys Reading in Bed

This picture book introduces genre with five monkeys who read several different types of books after their mother has told them to go to bed. After the monkeys go to bed, they begin to read a variety of books. Following each one, they react in a way that draws their mother’s attention. Naturally, they get in trouble each time. A short book, it is ideal for an introduction to a genre unit. For younger students, it can act as an introduction to genre.

2. Flip Books

To introduce the various genres, create a flip book with the class that students can use for reference. In it, include what each genre is, its key features, and a reference to a story that each of them will recognize.

3. Genre Flowchart

With your students, design a flowchart of questions that they can ask about a book to determine its genre. A wise starting question could be: Is the book imagined or factual? This will quickly divide the books into fiction or nonfiction. Depending on the age of the class, it may be advisable for the teacher to distribute copies of the flowchart later, rather than having pupils creating their own copies.

4. TV Shows and Movies

What do children today spend a large portion of their time doing? Watching television shows and movies. Capitalize on this by using movies and TV shows as additional reference points to teach the key features of various genres. Here are some possible examples:

  • Diary of Anne Frank—Autobiography
  • Downton Abbey—Historical Fiction
  • The Princess Bride—Fantasy
  • Maleficent—Fairy Tale
  • Good Luck, Charlie—Realistic Fiction

5. Silent Reading Book Requirement

As students move through the grades, they must read books independently. In conjunction with their independent reading books, a teacher can incorporate teaching genre in two ways. First, a teacher could require pupils to identify the genre of each book they read. Another option is to require pupils to read one book of every genre or books that belong to a set number of different genres over the course of the quarter, semester, or year.

6. Posters

Another way to remind a class about the various genres is to display posters about each genre throughout the room. Consider having the class design them in small groups. This could be a capstone group project for the end of a genre unit. Challenge the groups to include the genre's key features, a phrase or question to help others remember it, and multiple references. Laminating the posters can increase their durability so that they last until the end of the year.

7. Create Your Own Story

As a capstone project, allow pupils to use their imagination to create their own stories of a particular genre. This project permits a teacher to include other concepts, such as characterization, in the requirements for the stories. Additionally, this project could be just what is needed at the end of the school year to keep the students engaged in academics.

What strategies do you use to teach literary genre? Post your ideas to the Lesson Planet Community, so everyone can benefit!