The Multi-genre Adventure
“Ms. Griffith, I want to write dialog
so Joey and Billy will be more real to
my readers. Will you help me?”
What is a multigenre paper?
“A multigenre paper arises from research,
experience, and imagination. It is not uninterrupted,
expository monologue nor a seamless narrative nor a
collection of poems. A multi-genre paper is
composed of many genres and subgenres, each piece
self contained, making a point of its own, yet
connected by theme or topic and sometimes by
language, images, and content. In addition to many
genres, a multigenre paper may also contain many
voices, not just the author’s. The trick is to make
such a paper hang together.
Tom Romano, Blending Genre, Altering Styles, 2000
Theory as cited by Tom Romano
Blending Genre, Altering Style, 2000
Jerome Bruner (1986):
paradigmatic ‘’thinking:’ facts, analysis, chronology and logic
narrative ‘’knowing:’ stories, poetry, drama, painting and movement
Peter Elbow (1990): “…showing--not telling; rendering experience, both
real and imagined…”
Tom Newkirk (1997): “…such rendering ‘penetrates’ experience taking
readers inside a present moment, present because narrative thinking lets us
experience the writing…”
Louise Rosenblatt (1978): “…literature offers readers a chance to engage
in a ‘lived through experience,’ an experience that has been penetrated…”
Tom Romano on multigenre writing:
“In such writing, it is often solely up to readers to reflect upon
meaning and make abstractions. Authors of narrative thinking ask
readers to live the page. And we leave the world. Essays, too, of
course may contain narrative thinking, though often they do
not…. Multigenre papers, however, as I conceive them, demand
that writers think narratively. Writers must meld the cognitive
with the emotional…
Genres of narrative thinking require writers to be concrete and
precise. They can’t just tell in abstract language. They can’t just
be paradigmatic. They must show. They must make their topics
palpable. They must penetrate. And that is what multigenre
papers enable their authors to do.”
Day One
Romano/ high school:
Share the article and poem about Count
Basie. Let students respond to each other
and share their thoughts. Discuss the characteristics of
each genre as a class and how it affects the reader.
Griffith/ middle school:
Brainstorm places you would like to visit if you could go
anywhere in the world you wanted to go. What would
you want to know about the place before ‘Daddy
Bigbucks” buys you ticket? Allow students to work in
groups of three then share questions with class.
Day Two
Romano/ high school:
Share an entire multigenre paper in class. Divide the
genres among the students to practice and perform for the
class. Discuss the meaning of each piece and the author’s
style and intent. Make connections to theme, imagery,
language, personas, tone, mood…etc.
Griffith/ middle school:
Share an entire multigenre paper in class. Model one
dramatic performance then volunteers will read, practice
and perform the other pieces. Use samples from previous
years’ students. If none are available, use examples from
Romano’s book. Discuss the author’s purpose and the
effect the pieces have on the reader.
Day Three
Romano/ high school:
Topic choice workshop. Share the topics other have
chosen. Brainstorm a list of possible topics and generate
a lot of talk about writing possibilities.
Griffith/ middle school:
Demonstrate how to collect information and paraphrase.
Review how to use the library resources and document
resources. Review fiction, nonfiction and poetry.
Day Four
Romano/ high school:
Students will submit their topics in writing with a brief
rationale of why this subject is suitable for study. Peers
can help generate ideas and give suggestions. Submit
rationales for teacher feedback. Above all, validate
topic selections.
Griffith/ middle school:
Students will write a plan and generate some possible
writing and art ideas for their project. Discuss ideas in
groups then submit plan for teacher feedback. Above
all, validate topic selection. Teacher can give
suggestions for ideas and resources.
Day Five
Begin multigenre writing workshop in earnest.
Romano/ high school:
Focus on lead piece first because “multigenre papers
are so unconventional, it is crucial that their authors
ground readers immediately, orient them to the
terrain, establish the central tension.”
Suggestions for consideration: tone and topic;
photographs; theme and topic; defining moment
Griffith/ middle school:
Teach a mini lesson and demonstrate:
Point of View
I begin with a short, nonfiction article from the
newspaper. We discuss and identify topic, task,
audience, purpose and point of view. I demonstrate
how to use my research to create an article about my
How to Identify Genre Possibilities
Romano/ high school:
1. Examine a multigenre text like Avi’s Nothing But the
Truth and let students work together to identify
different genres.
2. Brainstorm a list of genres, subgenres and modes of
expression. For example: instructions for media
components, CD covers, music video scripts,
3. Read an example of a style of writing like “stream of
consciousness” and allow students to “try it out” by
writing a short selection in class.
4. Get ideas from class work readings.
Griffith/ middle school
1. Brainstorm a list of nonfiction and fiction ideas.
Discuss how art could be integrated to enhance
the writing. Some genre naturally include art like
picture books, comic books, and reports that have
graphs and maps.
2. Share examples of different genres from
newspapers, magazines, novels, plays, and media
connections like news or talk show scripts.
3. Demonstrate how to write different types of
nonfiction in a “nonfiction seminar.” Do
minilessons about titles, leads, organization,
illustrations, graphs, charts, parts of a book,…etc.
4. Demonstrate how to write different types of
fiction in a “fiction seminar.” Teach minilessons
about story elements, suspense, character
development, language, point of view,
s is in
not the
Cognitive Struggle
Romano (high school) identifies a problem with the
“open-endedness” of the multigenre format. Some
students need more structure than others. The analytical
thinkers may struggle with imagination and creativity.
Romano points to a need to develop many kinds of skills
so that students will be able to go beyond the mere
factual: “No matter what professions they enter, facts
and analysis are not enough. If our decisions are to be
both sound and humane, we need to understand emotion
and circumstance, as well as logic and outcome. Writing
in many genres helps minds learn to do that.”
Griffith (middle school) notes that struggling
readers and writers will need extra support and
scaffolding before they can be successful with this kind
of writing. It is good to have graphic organizers of
many kinds to aid them in prewriting and planning.
They will need to learn the importance of prewriting
and how to take take good prewriting and turn it into a
first draft. They will also need many opportunities to
conference with strong writers and the teacher for
additional support.
Things to Consider:
Romano (high school): playing with different
types of dialog; the development of “persona” in
expressive writing like a diary entry; turning a
narrative summary into a “dramatic scene.”
Griffith (middle school): texts written from
differing points of view; a character sketch written
in biographical style; a short “mirror” piece written
with plain verbs and adjectives then a second piece
with altered connotation using specific “vivid” verbs
and “awesome” adjective (denotation vs..
Romano (high school): Use “quick writes” to discover
topics for poetry then web images to create the pictures
for you words; “found poems;” haikus that “have a
quality of actuality…of the moment seized on and
rendered purely…;” photograph poems; prose poems;
poems for two voices
Griffith (middle school): Shape poems; cinquains;
rhythm/rhyming poems; humorous poems like Shel
Silverstein; limericks; “bio” poems; simile poems;
nursery rhymes; “rap” lyrics
Romano (high school): Assessment takes the form of
grading “guides” that allow teachers and students to assess
the multigenre paper based on criteria that has been agreed
upon like “completeness,” “mechanics,” “content,”
“format,” “documentation.” Students should also be
expected to complete a self-assessment as well as receive a
teacher assessment.
Griffith (middle school): Students use rubrics,
a type of grading guide, that includes criteria and a
scale of accomplishment to self assess. The teacher
and students agree on the criteria, and the students
have the rubric before they begin writing. The
teacher and student conference about each piece
during the writing and upon completion. The teacher
gives specific feedback, and both teacher and student
negotiate the grade. The finished work can also be
assessed using a rubric based on how well the pieces
“hang together.”
Final Thoughts
Romano (high school): “I revel in seeing human
minds at work. There is no right or wrong about this.
It is simply remarkable to see people make meaning,
regardless of their age and the meaning they make.
We teachers--if we are paying attention to those whom
we teach and expecting more of them than
rudimentary thinking and memorization--see this
common miracle of sense making all the time. No
wonder we take the plunge…significant learning
comes when students launch their own dives and teach
the teacher.”
Griffith (middle school): I’m not really sure where the
multigenre paper will take me, but I have had a glimpse of where
it is taking my students. We recently took the TAKS benchmark,
a practice test to have an opportunity to discuss the new format.
“Jon,” a special education student, wrote his response to the
prompt in dialog, and he carefully explained to me how he crafted
his writing piece. He was an author, and he knew it! I got
responses in diary form, narrative form, letters to friends and
relatives--one student wrote using a metaphor from her Mexican
American culture. I have discovered I am no longer driving--I am
in the backseat, and I’m just along for the ride!

The Multi-genre Adventure