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Writing Genres

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

As students prepare to write, they need to think about the purpose of their writing: Are they writing to entertain? to inform? to persuade? Setting the purpose for writing is just as important as setting the purpose for reading, because purpose influences decisions students make about form.

One of the most important considerations is the genre or form the writing will take: a story? a letter? a poem? an essay? A writing activity could be handled in any one of these ways. Students learn to use a variety of writing genres; six are described in the table below. Through reading and writing, students become knowledgeable about these genres and how they’re structured (Donovan & Smolkin, 2002). Langer (1985) found that by third grade, students respond in distinctly different ways to story- and report-writing assignments; they organize the writing differently and include varied kinds of information and elaboration. Because students are learning the distinctions between various genres, it’s important that teachers use the correct terminology and not label all writing as “stories.”

Genre Purpose Activities
Descriptive Writing Students observe carefully and choose precise language. They take notice of sensory details and create comparisons (metaphors and similes) to make their writing more powerful.
  • Character sketches
  • Comparisons
  • Descriptive essays
  • Descriptive sentences
  • Found poems
Expository Writing Students collect and synthesize information. This writing is objective; reports are the most common type. Students use expository writing to give directions, sequence steps, compare one thing to another, explain causes and effects, or describe problems and solutions.
  • Alphabet books
  • Autobiographies
  • Directions
  • Essays
  • Posters
  • Reports
  • Summaries
Journals and Letters Students write to themselves and to specific, known audiences. Their writing is personal and often less formal than other genres. They share news, explore new ideas, and record notes. Students learn the special formatting that letters and envelopes require.
  • Business letters
  • Courtesy letters
  • Double-entry journals
  • E-mail messages
  • Friendly letters
  • Learning logs
  • Personal journals
Narrative Writing Students retell familiar stories, develop sequels for stories they have read, write stories about events in their own lives, and create original stories. They include a beginning, middle, and end in the narratives to develop the plot and characters.
  • Original short stories
  • Personal narratives
  • Retellings of stories
  • Sequels to stories
  • Story scripts
Persuasive Writing Persuasion is winning someone to your viewpoint or cause using appeals to logic, moral character, and emotion. Students present their position clearly and support it with examples and evidence.
  • Advertisements
  • Book and movie reviews
  • Letters to the editor
  • Persuasive essays
  • Persuasive letters
Poetry Writing Students create word pictures and play with rhyme and other stylistic devices as they create poems. Through their wordplay, students learn that poetic language is vivid and powerful but concise and that poems can be arranged in different ways on a page.
  • Acrostic poems
  • Color poems
  • Free verse Haiku “I Am” poems
  • Poems for two voices
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