Oh look at me go. I promised 5 activities using the Harris Burdick mystery portfolio as a jumping-off point, and I'm halfway there. Let me check my bag of tricks...and oh, yes, I DO have two more waiting in the wings! *phew*
What do you want to do today? How about genre writing?
Now, most of my 10th graders already come to me with a basic knowledge of genres, so a genre-based lesson might be best for middle (5-8) levels. Still, the great thing about writing workshop, though, is that it can be laid-back and FUN. You could still use this lesson as a fun (if you find it so) refresher on genres, without having to beat them over the head with loads of notes and definitions about genres, since the upper level kiddos have a handle on it.
We're going to skip any introduction because we're going to assume the kids already have working definitions of genres.
As a class, create a list of possible genres. You can keep them modern-library-categories like fiction/sci-fi/fantasy/historical fiction/mystery or get even more specific or challenging with persuasive, poem, nonfiction, drama, fable, etc. Break students up into groups - recommended for groups 2-4 (no more). Give each group one of the portfolio pictures. As a class, choose one genre; everyone will write a short blurb (or start a story) for their portfolio using the chosen genre.
After your assigned time is up (10-15 minutes?) read the stories aloud, and as a class, ask Were there any similarities that recurred throughout all the stories that we could identify as a characteristic of the genre?
This is basically just the opposite of Option 1. Once you've broken students up into groups, choose (at random or via class vote) one of the Harris Burdick pictures. Then, assign each group a different genre; they must use this genre to generate a story from that picture.
After your assigned time is up (10-15 minutes?) read the stories aloud, and as a class ask, How did you know the genre? What techniques are common to the genre that make it identifiable?
You can give these options as much or as little time as you want, really. If it were my classroom, I would probably do Option 2 twice. The first time, I would assign genres, so that kids are forced to challenge themselves a bit. Second time, I would probably change the picture and then let groups choose their own genres. And, of course, read aloud and talk about genre characteristics.
Extra Credit: I found this thread where teachers swapped ideas on teaching genre studies, especially in the middle levels. Thought it had too many fun ideas not to share!
Source: inspired by Classroom Poster - Literary Genres