What students need to know and do
First year students need to demonstrate knowledge of different genres or varieties of literary forms and be able to articulate some key features of these forms. This involves understanding the concept of genre and how it influences forms of writing and the identification of different genres and their features.
Student barriers to learning
Students may not be able to understand the idea of genre and how it influences writing. They may have difficulty distinguishing between genres and “themes” and may struggle with the terminology used in literature and criticism to discuss genre and the different genres of literature.
Students may dislike or be intimidated by some forms/genres, such as poetry, and this can influence their responses in class and in assessments.
Our teaching strategies
We need to explicitly introduce students to the concept of different genres or forms of writing and to the idea of genre as a “contract” between writer and reader. This should help them to see how texts circulate and are experienced in the world. Students can be exposed to some exemplary texts in genres such as poetry, short fiction, drama, novels, film, television, popular fiction. Students can be asked to identify some key features of each form, and to discuss the relationships between form and content. We may need to introduce and clarify the literary terminology associated with the key features. Ways of enabling students to develop skills around the idea of genre include: selecting one theme and enabling students to explore how it is played out across different genres; studying several texts from one genre; and focusing on the origin and formation of genre to help students to recognise or categorise texts through the interplay of difference and similarity.
Students can be encouraged to explore why they may enjoy some genres more than others and to deepen this response with more critical thinking.
We need to design assessments and activities that ask students to write about different genres and their features, and possibly also design assessments and activities that involve writing in different genres or forms. For instance, first year students could be asked to write a sonnet. Or the task could be to write in a popular genre, which is usually enjoyable for students and builds confidence.
Teachers can provide a glossary of some basic literary terms and create some exercises designed to give students practice in identifying and understanding them.