My students got their first real dose of multigenre writing this week. Last semester’s students toyed around with it just a bit, but this semester’s group is really getting fully immersed in this new strategy I have decided to take on. My goal is to transform the type of writing my students are doing, from simple summaries, to multigenre writing. To do this, I am having students read news articles that relate to what we are doing in class, and respond in the multigenre form. Before, I was simply having students summarize, and sometimes answer a question, in paragraph form, so this is definitely a new challenge to the kids and myself as well!

I prepared myself for introducing the assignment. It seems as though high school students are so not accustomed to writing outside of English class, that asking this of them sends their already-hormone-crazed bodies into shock. So, I knew I was going to hear it when I told them that not only would they have their typical writing to do, but this time it would be in poetry! As expected I did receive some moans and groans. Mostly “I hate poetry!” or “I’m going to fail! I’m bad at poetry!”

I had decided to ease them into this change by doing Found Poetry. I felt it was a fun, and likely different, type of poetry for them. Sure enough, none had seen this strategy before. The article they read was on desalination plants and their expense and inefficiency contrasted with an extreme need for water in drought-ridden California. I showed them an example I had written and they were off! I made sure to let them know that there were no specifications; on length, tone, rhyming, etc. The only thing I requested is that they did capture the idea of the article. Since it was still a biology assignment, I did not want just random word found poems. Again, I wanted them to respond to the article. Here are a couple final products:

California. Carlsbad. Drought.

Desalination. Salt. Water.

Fresh. Expensive. Environment.

Fish, Organisms, Death.

LA, Storm water, No Imported Water

Future. Water Supply Guaranteed

And another:

Desalination

56 Million Gallons of Water

Into Drinking Water

Expensive, 1 Billion Dollars.

With a lot of environment risks as well.

80 Percent of Organisms

Sucked in and Killed

And one more:

The Pacific Ocean.

Seawater into drinking water,

water scarcity a thing of the past.

With a lot of environmental risks,

there’s a lot of challenges to it.

Returning the water is tricky,

like oil and vinegar.

Being innovative and open-minded,

to produce a solution.

All in all, for a first try, I thought they did really well! I even got a few “That wasn’t so bad!” and “That was kind of cool!” comments afterwards. One thing I wish I had done a little differently would be to provide them more examples. They seemed to model theirs quite closely after mine. Of course, that’s not a horrible thing, and we’ve learned that good writers model after others, but I do want them to understand that there isn’t a wrong or right form, and allow their creative juices to flow! I am looking forward to trying out other multigenre forms. What other multigenre forms have you tried with your students? I would love to hear suggestions!

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3 thoughts on “And the Race is On…

  1. I love how you used found poetry in your class. I think it is a not so scary form of poetry that students of all ages can respond well to. I love how even as a high school teacher you modeled and understand the importance this part of teaching for your students. I have found that persuasive writing can light some fires with older kids. When I was teaching social studies, the most successful writing of the year, came from my students creating pieces that included posters as well as a written pitch of which material from early civilizations (stone, iron, bronze; etc) was the most successful and is still important in modern times.

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  2. You and your students jumped into the world of multigenre writing this week! Wonderful! I was surprised that they hadn’t heard of found poetry. I think this was SUCH a smart choice for a first genre. You let them ease into the idea of doing more than traditional “informational” writing in science class. The third poem seems especially strong.

    Have you thought about “infographics” as a genre? Infographics seem to be one of the newest ways for journalists to explain complex science ideas using pictures and words. If you’re interested in learning more, here is a website with mentor texts, explainers, and links for software, sites, and tools for creating infographics: http://www.schrockguide.net/infographics-as-an-assessment.html.

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