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Developing Writers: A Workshop for High School Teachers

Different Purposes

Consider the role purpose plays in defining genre, as well as how working in many genres helps young writers develop a unique voice and style.

Purpose directly relates to the form or genre selected to express writers’ ideas. In this session, the teachers examine this relationship, presenting classroom examples of students working in many genres, including persuasive writing, memoir, and poetry. Their subsequent analysis underscores what students can learn by examining commonalities and differences among genres and the value of multigenre projects. In the writer’s workshop, the teachers tackle this question as well, selecting a genre or a combination of genres to share vivid events from their lives.

Key Points


Students need to inhabit the genre if they are to master it.

— Lucy Calkins

Lucy Calkins

These are the key points the teachers, educators, authors, and students consider:

This workshop focuses on the intersection between purpose for writing and the genre chosen to carry out that purpose. It explores the different genres in which students are now writing and what they learn about writing from these experiences. Multigenre texts and their creation are also investigated.

  1. The purpose for writing relates directly to its form or genre.
  2. Students need to have opportunities to write narrative, persuasive, and informative pieces. They need opportunities to amend their work mindful of their own thoughts as well as suggestions from their teacher and their peers.
  3. Students need to be aware of different writing genres. They need to know how they differ from, and are the same as, each other. They need a chance to read and analyze good examples of many different genres.
  4. Students need to know the defining parts of a genre, but they can also use those implicit expectations to breakthrough in their writing and mix genres or create multigenre pieces to grow as writers.
  5. Teachers can offer students different strategies to help them deal with writing in different genres.

Try this interactive activity, Workshop 4, to practice writing in different genres. It’s part of A Writer’s Notebook, an online writer’s workshop led by noted author Judith Ortiz Cofer.

Things To Consider

I always found that reading and writing in the same genre allows students to really understand its conventions.”

Lori Mayo

Lori Mayo

  • Want to brush up on your understandings and use of nonfiction genre in the classroom? Explore this hypertext, written by David Wray when he was a professor at the University of Exeter in England. Wray now lectures at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England.
  • English curricula throughout the country have always included exposing students to a variety of genre in both reading and writing. Which nonfiction genres do your student writers have a chance to explore and practice?

Check all the boxes that apply.

Informative essay
Memoranda and other business correspondence
Narrative nonfiction
Newspaper articles
Opinion essay
Personal letters
Persuasive essay
Professional letters
Research reports
Web site materials

Which literary genres do your student writers have a chance to explore and practice?

Check all the boxes that apply.

Fiction in verse
Historical fiction
Science Fiction
Short Story



  • What genres are “must-haves” in your curricula for young writers? With which genres have you had the most classroom success? Why?
  • Multigenre writing projects have taken the place of the more-traditional research report in some English classes. To find out more about this kind of writing, explore this article.

In the Classroom

Genre is the way writers express their worlds.

— Kelly Quintero

Kelly Quintero

  • Read ° Write ° Think, a site sponsored by NCTE, IRA, and Marcopolo, has several lesson plans you may want to consider to help your students learn about and practice writing in different genres. You can search their index of lessons to find relevant lesson plans such as:
  • Kelly Quintero uses this activity to help her students explore one genre of writing: the persuasive essay.
  • In multigenre pieces, writers express their ideas in a combination of genre pieces linked to a universal theme. Another related form is called mixing genres. In writing this kind of work, writers first learn about the traditional boundaries of a single genre and then explode them. This article, originally published in NCTE’s English Journal, shows how moving beyond generally accepted characteristics of the traditional five-paragraph essay can yield a powerful writing and reading experiences.
  • Victor Villanueva’s writing is considered by many to be an exquisite example of multigenre writing. Review or present to your students his Prologue from his classic work, Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color as you explore multigenre writing.
  • Have you encouraged your students to mix genre or involved them in a multigenre project? How did it turn out?

Additional Resources

Genre is a mask that can help you get across your story.

— Christopher Myers

Christopher Myers

List To or Read: 

On the Web:

In the Library:

  • Lattimer, Heather. Thinking Through Genre: Units of Study in Reading and Writing Workshops 4-12. Portland, ME: Stenhouse, 2003. Get more information.
  • Freedman, Aviva and Peter Madway, eds. Learning and Teaching Genre. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1994.
  • Johns, Ann, ed. Genre in the Classroom: Multiple Perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 2002.
  • Macrorie, Ken. The I-Search Paper. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1988.
  • Romano, Tom. Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2000.
  • Romano, Tom. Clearing the Way: Working With Teenage Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1987.
  • Romano, Tom. Writing With Passion: Life Stories, Multiple Genres. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1987.