For Educators – FAQ

Editor’s Note: Below are our three most frequently asked questions from educators about teaching and literacy:

How do I teach the term “genre?”

Question: “How do I teach genre … what that word means to kids in grades 2-4?”

GENRE: pronunciation: zhän’ra:

Genre, defined as “a type or category, as of art, literature,” is closely related to the math and reading skill of classification (classify by color, shape, use…). Therefore, the same techniques you already use when having children sort objects by appearance, function, or any other characteristic can also be adapted when conveying to the children this literary term.

Keep in mind that cognitive development plays a role in when a child achieves the understanding that something can be a member of two or more classes at the same time. For example, a book can be classified as an adventure and as fiction. To simplify the concept for those students not yet successful in this skill, you may want to spend some time writing class charts in which students sort books by title, subject, genre, or any other feature discussed in the class.

How do I teach folktales?

Question: “I am creating a unit on folktales and would like some information on how I can incorporate this unit with various cultures throughout the world?”

FOLKTALE: a story handed down orally from generation to generation. Folktales include fairy tales, myths, legends, and tall tales.

The teaching techniques best suited for a unit on folktales include the following:

  • focus less on the characters and more on the strong plot; stress the story line – how the story started, the problem or conflict, and the resolution.
  • have students compare different versions of the same folktale (folktale variants), or rework the tale to fit their own culture or generation.
  • encourage students to write new endings to old tales, considering the consequences of a character’s behavior or other aspect of the story.
  • help students develop a classification system finding similarities and differences between and among their cultures and those of the countries you mentioned, comparisons about the stories’ lines or plots, etc. Charting your month-long unit with these specifics may add to your discussions in character education, ethics, and multicultural issues.
  • consider word origins and cultural expressions, both in reference to the folktales and in consideration of the expressions your students use every day.

You may want to devote an entire classroom wall to this project, charting or graphing some of the issues discussed above. In addition to these analytical issues, remember to include the more concrete issues such as cultural food, clothing, art, and customs.

 
 
Note: some of the information above was taken from “Creating Reading Instruction for All Children,” by Thomas G. Gunning
 

How do I teach the alphabet?

Question: “When promoting literacy, how do you recommend I teach the alphabet?”

Within educational circles during the past three decades, there has occurred a great debate concerning the order in which the letters of the alphabet should be taught. One faction believes that these tools of literacy should be introduced in sequential order, correlating with the ABC song every kindergarten child croons. Others believe that letter discrimination occurs best when letters are introduced in groups based on visual or auditory similarity. (For example: q with p, h with n, or b with d …)

Several years ago Yale researchers published the results of a study concerning children with dyslexia, a learning disorder affecting up to 20 percent of Americans. The results supported the importance of teaching phonics and establishing an orderly system through which children could associate letter names with letter sounds. These findings, in conjunction with other research on learning and the brain, point to introducing the ABC’s sequentially. This method seems to hold an advantage in brain organization and auditory/visual discrimination association (see How Young Children Learn.)

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