A good way to introduce how genre is culturally constructed

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Yesterday’s lesson plan for my 358 English class revolved around the idea of how genre is culturally constructed. For my own notes (and for those of you who are interested) here is my lesson plan.

First, start out by discussing the following:

Genre: Ask students what genres they know (make sure you mention they can discuss genres in music and movies.)  From this, ask them what signifies to them a particular genre out of those mentioned. In other words, what are the parts that the genre is composed of. Discuss their answers and elaborate when necessary for a few minutes. (Yes, this sounds like a recipe, but it works.)

Give them the following information in mini-lecture format: According to the composition scholar, Carolyn Miller, Genre is defined as “repeated meaningful action.” In other words, genre is dependent upon the following

1. The culture that produced the genre

2. The conventions of that genre as appropriated by the culture and

3. The action or activity the genre introduces or creates.

(Feel free to give examples of the three things above. For example, I used the genre of memo and its role in larger corporations and technology.)

After mini lecture, show the following videos of the song summertime. (I don’t have the link to Janis Joplin’s version, but I played that after the Sam Cooke version for the 2pm class and it went very well.)


sam cooke version of summer time (1957)

sublime Doin’ Time (present day)


As them the following after each video: What genre of music is it? How do you know? (and give specific evidence for how you know this).

For subsequent videos, talk about how the lyrics and perhaps meaning of the song has changed because of society and culture. Make sure to write what they say on the board and feel free to diagram any interesting things you noticed and they noticed.

Overall, I feel students learned how genre changes because of the culture and society through this exercise. Good luck if you choose to use it. For me, it went well.




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