Teaching Non-Fiction Genres

I'm a firm believer that the best lessons come at the last possible moment. This is an example of such a thing.

In eighth grade, we're studying non-fiction. Today we were going to take some notes, but I also wanted my students to actually understand the ways these different genres work. However, we've also been doing

a lot

 of serious writing lately, and it's Friday and we needed a break.

We started by taking some notes on the different genres.


Then, students drew a topic out of a hat. Here are the topics I used today: Goldfish, Barbie and/or Ken, flower, computer, airplane, book, superman, paint, iPad, rubber ducky, light switch, Mr. Potato Head, desk, picture frame, television, spoon, pen or pencil, beanbag, car radio, ball, and garbage can.

Students flipped over their notes and wrote their topic in the middle of the rectangle. Then we began the process of three minute quick writes in each of the genre based on their topic. Afterwards, they shared in the table groups, and a few shared to the whole class. They made me laugh out loud. Here are a few of the things they had to write:

Biography Examples: 

"The ball spends its days in the sandbox at school, waiting for kids to pick him up and bounce him around. But one day, while he was sitting out in the sun, a group of kids came running towards him, and one little girl picked him up and ran to the field to play a nice game of kickball with her friends. Then the ball was happy."

"Rubber ducky spends its days sitting in your closet because you forgot about it when you were five."

Autobiography Examples:

My example on a car radio.

"Hello, I'm Ken, a.k.a. Barbie's ex-boyfriend. Yes, I know that we were together for fifty years, but I got tired of of her hunger for stylish people and I left her and now she has a new boyfriend named Nobody and he is a nobody. (Here's a hint, she's single!)"

"Dear Diary, Today some kids swallowed me (paint). I said nope and made him puke out his guts. I hate kids."

Personal Essay Example: 

"People ask me all the time, 'What's it like being a computer?' Really, it's not that interesting. I think, eat, sleep, breathe, and live numbers. So you can imagine that my life must be pretty ordinary. And it is--very routine, I mean. The only fun I have is glitching. Some people like to play pranks like ringing a doorbell and walking away.


 glitch. The silly humans don't even realize it.

Informative Article Example: 

"Breaking news: A hostage situation at the mall in SJ. Bill the pencil is holding Bob the desk and seven pens hostage. He is demanding that pens be not allowed to live in the U.S. and one million dollars. He is armed with an eraser and will start erasing hostages if the police do not meet his demands."

I had fun and so did many of the students. It was a good way to end the week!