We’re sitting down with writer Anna George today. Not only is she a fantastic writer but a great classmate to swap writing with!
Since her first first rudimentary letters scribbled on construction paper, she has written two full novels, and is currently in the process of revising her latest one, “A Wolf in the Hallway”, a young adult fantasy based on the story of “Beauty and the Beast”.
When she’s not writing, Anna teaches language arts, literature, and literacy to teens. Anna is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies.
I asked Anna to share her take on teaching writing in the classroom using multi genres.
Multi-Genre in a Multi-Media World
By Anna George
As August begins, I find myself thinking about the upcoming school year. Last year, I taught 115 eighth graders, and I picture them as they prepare to make the harrowing step into high school.
A seasoned co-worker recommended I create a “multi-genre” project for my students to complete—I won’t lie—I hesitated. What did she mean? Multi-genre? And will my students take to it? I decided to go with it.
Each student was assigned a specific Holocaust-related research topic, such as Anne Frank, Dachau, or Kristallnacht. The student then completed a great amount of research on their topic in the library and on the computer.
I then provided my students with several different multi-genre options that they could use to present their research. Students were to choose three multi-genre options, the most popular being the poem, memoir, and illustration. Some of those options were newspaper articles, memoirs, illustrations, comic strips, poems, songs, plays, interviews, scrapbooks and yes, even a persuasive essay (which, you won’t be surprised to find out, no one chose).
The results were astounding. With their final products, all five of my classes created what they called their “Holocaust Museum”. Throughout my classroom, I displayed their projects, and on the afternoon of the “museum opening”, they had the opportunity to tour and examine all of their hard work and effort. There were some truly moving pieces, exquisite paintings, and magically enough, some remarkable writing! Though the students obviously beamed with pride, so did their teacher.
I then wondered how I might apply this to my own writing.
Processing multi-genre knowledge in a multi-media environment:
As I’ve been taking on the task of writing a young adult novel, I began to think of how my students read and process books, articles, and text in general. My students work within a fast-paced reading environment. On their computer screens, they might have up an instant messenger box, a Facebook newsfeed, a YouTube video, or a newspaper article—all at once. Meanwhile, their TV is flashing across the room and their phone is buzzing by their side.
There is a multitude of ways that students take in and process knowledge. This constant influx of information may seem overwhelming at first, but they’ve adapted well. We as writer’s must too in today’s world.
How using multi-genre can benefit your writing:
Once I began considering multi-genre for my own writing and their reading, I realized I already use it within my creative process. I’m a pretty big fan of the scrapbook for inspiration. I like to visualize my characters, my settings, the animals, even specific objects and places. When I find visual examples of what I’m looking for, I tend to print them out and cut and paste them into a scrapbook, just so I can turn a page and visualize my thoughts (quite literally) when my mind begins to wander.
When I began to think of adding multi-genre elements to my writing, I knew that I needed to scrap the illustration idea. I’m really not much of an artist. But newspaper articles, poems, diary entries, and letters were all still at my disposal. Instead of dedicating scenes to describe an event that happened, such as a naval ship sinking off the coast, I could use a newspaper article; a quick flash of information for my reader to get the main idea. Once they were aware of that event, I could move directly into the consequences with my narrative and dialogue. Letters might have a great amount subtext that reveals more about the character than what is actually written. When I write in third person, a brief diary entry allows me to break into a new and perhaps more interesting and pertinent voice.
As I begin to conclude my first draft of this young adult manuscript, I’m excited to see where my multi-genre inquiry takes me in revisions to come!