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IMGALTTAG Volume VII: Understanding Nonfiction Genres


Real Heroes
Lorena Amos
Westinghouse High School

The purpose of this unit is to combine reading, writing, and learning so that students examine the concept of a hero/human, write about it, and authorize their own conception of a hero/human. According to the introduction in World Mythology, a hero is a model of human behavior for the betterment of the community or society. A hero is more thoughtful and sensitive because of his or her trials and decisions. In fact, because a hero is not perfect, her weaknesses are instructive.  Her inner battles between desires and responsibilities to the community guide her to become better. Her humanity is an inspiration for others to emulate. The deeds that a hero performs for the community or for her society give her everlasting fame. To be a hero is to be human.

This unit of lessons guides students to read, understand, apply, and write a narrative, describing their own personal heroes struggling and making choices to be humans in the world community. Students will listen, read, and analyze examples of heroes and models of effective writing. Students will make choices as to which practices to apply to their narratives. Some methods are standard and some procedures are innovative. Students will learn what it means to be a conscious, conscientious, committed, and competent reader – writer – learner -  human – hero.


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Developing Independent Learners: A Primary Genre Study
By Jacie Bejster

Primary teachers must read this unit! Young children can become self-motivated, creative writers. This curriculum unit is rich in both writing and reading. It provides students with the opportunity to become actively involved in their learning.  The unit provides examples on how to create an environement that will support writing. The series of lessons promotes both independence and collaboration through discussion and student choice.  A supportive classroom climate is developed within the lessons by sharing and celebrating the work of the students. Both teachers and students will develop the habits and processes of good writers through the Writer's Workshop style. Students will participate in meaningful writing experiences throughout the unit. The standards-based unit attempts to teach narrative writing, response to literature, informational reports and procedural writing by studying each genre. Students will also take an active role in the assessment of their writing with the use of various "student friendly" rubrics and checklists.


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Facing Challenges On Our Own: Literature and Portfolio Writing
Beth Hope

The unit, “Facing Challenges On Our Own, Literature and Portfolio Writing” utilizes the information I received through the, “Understanding Genre,” Pittsburgh Teacher’s Institute seminar in conjunction with the seventh grade Communications Curriculum for the Pittsburgh Public Schools. This unit will teach children how to create a Narrative Account, as directed by the Communications Portfolio requirements, with well-developed characters, and a powerful beginning, middle, and end. In addition, the unit focuses on teaching children how to write an effective Response to Literature, also a PPS portfolio requirement.  The unit, “Facing Challenges On Our Own: Literature and Portfolio Writing” will enhance and develop students’ writing skills, as well as comprehension skills, by reading, discussing, and analyzing three pieces of published literature. This unit incorporates the Communications Standards as well as fulfills the Pittsburgh Public Schools Portfolio requirements for creating a Narrative Account and a Response to Literature while utilizing criteria sheets and grading rubrics.


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The Road For Young Writers is Paved in Gold
(And Red, And Blue!)
Carrie Lee Lehman

The Road for Young Writers is Paved in Gold (And Red, And Blue!) is a writing curriculum designed by this researcher. The writing curriculum is geared toward the youngest of writers – kindergarten children. The curriculum is designed to guide student learning in a systematic way that supports their development. Students will be exposed to several genres of writing: personal narrative, response to literature, response to informational text, and report writing. Students will have opportunities to participate in writer’s workshop experiences that support different styles of genre writing. Children’s reading workshops will also incorporate genre themes to reinforce the relationship between the reading and writing processes. Themes will be introduced and studied in great depth to give students a thorough understanding of the genre study.


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Informational Genre:  Endangered Animals
By Diana Lininger
Pittsburgh Classical Academy

This curriculum unit, Informational Genre-Endangered Animals, is designed for middle school students. It may be taught at any grade level as all of its components are part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Communications curriculum. However, my target audience is sixth grade students. The purpose of this unit is to help middle school children respond to informational genre. Writing a research report should be exciting. Students should have a sense of discovery as they seek to answer the questions they have about a subject. This unit will enable the student to make sense of all the information and to personalize it. It will give them new vocabulary that will help them to become more proficient writers. Sometimes the writing of reports is the written transfer of research information from one person to another. Students seem to be passing along facts and are not interested in how the reader of the report will react or not react to the report. These reports will grab the reader’s interest and hold it by using descriptive language and using an authoritative tone. The unit will help my students and me to become a community of researchers as we gain new knowledge, share the information and then respond to it in writing a report.


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Giving Voice to the Interests and Knowledge of Students -
Mixing Narrative and Informational Writing
Lynn Marsico

This curriculum seeks to help students learn similarities and difference across major genres of nonfiction.  Specifically, activities are suggested that encourage young writers to mesh and mix narrative and informational writing. Blurring the boundaries of genre classifications at this very basic level is a first step to maximizing the use of genre as a pedagogical tool. The curriculum acknowledges that genre classification can be useful in the teaching of writing,  but also recognizes the importance for both teachers and students to understand that there are many ways to classify genres and that these classifications serve a variety purposes.

In addition to blurring the boundaries of genre classification, several other fundamental beliefs about teaching writing establish a foundation for this curriculum. The first is that if students are to produce high quality writing they must feel ownership of that work. This concept of ownership is tightly linked with the notion of empowerment through writing. When students are empowered through writing, the desire to make themselves understood takes on a new urgency. A second fundamental underpinning is the notion of audience, or writing for the reader. Although the concept of  audience may have been suggested to students, rarely have they been asked to keep the reader foremost in their mind as they write.

The curriculum unit was created for gifted seventh and eighth graders, but the ideas presented are adaptable to grades four through twelve and for any level of student.


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Understanding Nonfiction Genres: Empowering the Mind behind the Pen-Teaching Mind’s to Empower their Readers
By Alexis Tuckfelt
Fort Pitt Elementary

In the Pittsburgh Public Schools, every year students are required to complete specific requirements for a Standards-Based Portfolio, which teachers pass on to the next grade level. For second grade students, in the Writing Exhibit portion of the portfolio, there are four required entries focusing on three genres of writing: narrative writing, informational writing, and descriptive writing. This curriculum unit will provide teachers with a set of genre assignments that are suitable for teaching students how to successfully meet the requirements of this section of the portfolio.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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