The Thrills of Teaching Genre in Classical Education

Lately I have been thinking about genre as it pertains to preparing students in a publicly-funded charter school for the state test. Classical schools may be at a disadvantage when it comes to preparing for the reading STAAR because in the classical canon, we focus on only a few of the genres: poetry, historical fiction, history, fantasy. The big gaps are nonfiction text, contemporary realistic fiction, and modern fantasies of the type exemplified by Anne McCaffrey.

The genres we are covering we are covering well. The problem comes in when students who have not seeing a type of text, or a STAAR objective-based question confront them on the STAAR.  How can we expand the genres we teach and how they are taught in classical education? And why would we want to anyway, we already have them reading all the best books as it is?

I suggest a three-pronged attack of this problem. First, we should teach our classical textsusing at least some of the time, that is, we should teach topics such as character, plot, setting, conflict, and writers purpose. Next we should teach nonfiction reading objectives some of the time when we teach history and science. Important nonfiction text  objectives include finding the facts in the text, inferring the author’s intended conclusions, and using graphic sources pictures. Finally I suggest we use reading logs and have students read self-selected books at home. This will give the students experience, by choice, in reading modern fantasy and contemporary realistic novels. 

This may be surprising, however I have found a lot of thrills in teaching genre in classical education using these techniques. The students have responded with excitement to discussions of character and plot. They have enjoyed finding the facts and the author’s intended purpose, and despite their complaints, they have enjoyed their reading logs in their independent books, especially the books about dragons, it seems.

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