Teaching with Multi-Genre Text Sets


When I left college and entered the world of teaching, I had big ideas of what I wanted my classroom to look like.  My teacher prep program prepared me for many of the things I faced over the first couple of years and I truly did feel prepared.

I remember meeting with my mentor my first year and she shared with me the way most of the teachers had been teaching the curriculum.  As she started to share with me that the teachers taught units by genre, being that the class was a genre based course, they taught short stories, novels, poetry, etc.

I listened respectfully and then shared with her my plans for what I wanted this 9th grade genre based class to look like.  It was not at all what she had just described.

Looking back, I have great respect for my then mentor, colleague and now friend because in no way did she shoot down my plans.  She fostered and encouraged my want to teach the course in a way that was based off of essential questions, incorporating various genres within each and every unit.  This idea allowed students to interact with multiple genres of texts throughout the whole year, not just at one point in isolation.

And so was born my method of teaching that I’ve grown to love so much.  Teaching with multi-genre text sets.


In no way is teaching by genre a bad thing, it was just not what I wanted to do. One of the facets of teaching that I love, and I think is dying away, is the ability to be creative as a teacher in planning and delivering lessons.  As teachers we all have strengths and weaknesses and what may be a strength to one teacher may be a weakness to another.

Teacher autonomy enables us to play to our strengths and create an atmosphere for learning conducive to our teaching philosophies.

My philosophy is best summed up by Mark Van Doren’s quote, “Teaching is aiding in the art of discovery.”

My classroom is an active place, filled with discussion and negotiation of meaning.  Teaching with multi-genre text sets helps create this type of atmosphere.

What are multi-genre text sets?

Basically, each of my units are centered around one essential question.  For example, “Is it our similarities or differences that matter most?”  Throughout the course of this unit, we will look at novels, short stories, poems, plays, non fiction pieces and videos that all are interrelated and indirectly strive to answer this question.  During the study of these texts, students are interpreting, analyzing and connecting what they are reading to the various texts and to the essential question.

Essentially, students are in charge of creating a lot of the meaning and connection while I’m there to guide them in this process.

I’m passionate about this way of teaching because I’ve done it this way from the start, tweaked it upon reflection and have found lots of success with it.

Not only that, but other teachers have collaborated with me and have actually changed the way they designed their course to this way of delivery.

There is so much power in allowing students to read and analyze multiple types of texts and to discover meaning within and among them.  I’ve watched it happen and it’s an amazing thing to witness.

What does one of these units look like? 

Well, just to give you a glimpse into what I’m talking about below is just a sample of one of the units I’ve taught following this method.


Essential Question: How accepting is society of those who are different?


  • To Kill a Mockingbird (novel)
  • 12 Angry Men (play)
  • I Too Sing America (poem)
  • The Road Not Taken (poem)
  • The Great Debaters (video clips)
  • This I Believe (Personal essays)
  •  and more…


  • Persuasive writing
  • Reflecting writing


Like I said earlier, one person’s strength may be another’s weakness.  By no means is there one way that is “the right way” to teach.  But I encourage you to find a method that is fulfilling to both you and your students and you will see them blossom in front of you!


Stay tuned to DailyLessonPlan.com because these units will be posted soon for you access!



Have you used this type of teaching before?

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