Multigenre Narrative

I wrote hardly anything my first year of teaching. I took a crate of student journals home and read those, but neglected my own.* During my second year of teaching, I figured out a way to keep a writing habit. I completed my own assignments. At first, because I needed examples to show students and I wanted to model the writing process. But after a couple of years of this, I thought it’d be fun to compile all my comparison/contrast essays, pantoums and opinion pieces in a collection I’d call My Assignments. This idea never went beyond the image of a book cover and Oprah appearance, stalling out when I realized very few people would enjoy reading a comparison/contrast of  my parents’ and in-laws’ garages. My parents and in-laws might enjoy such a piece least.

I still write alongside my students. And I have a new assignment to start the semester: the multigenre narrative. This serves me well, too, because I need a kick in my creative pants. I’ve assigned multigenre narratives in the past, drowning students in genre options. This time, I’m requiring only five genres, three already set: fiction, poetry, nonfiction.

Parameters, if you want to play along at home:

Tell a story or explore a theme using five distinct genres. Each piece should be able to stand alone. The pieces, ordered purposefully, build a complete narrative.

Fiction: 500-1000 words
Poetry: Whatever you can defend as poetry
Nonfiction: 500-1000 words
2 Super Special Bonus Genres of Your Choice: Go nuts

The pieces are short, the turnaround is quick, and the yield will be a group of young writers ready for more fun.

I’ll post what I come up with. Give me a couple of weeks. If you try this, or have completed multigenre narratives or seen great examples, please let me know. Post a link in the comments.


*I don’t read read my students’ writing practice anymore. I take a close look only if they ask, respecting their privacy, glancing through to check completion. When a word or phrase catches my attention, I ask. I like talking about the process. But beyond that, I prefer my students’ notebooks to be their own space.

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