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Genre-based Learning

The Fox and The Goose

Character: Fox, Owl, Goose, Lion

-- by Jacob, G1


Story teller 1: Once upon a time, there was a fox and a goose.

Fox: I want to eat the goose.

Goose: I don't want fox to eat me!

Lion:I don't want the fox to eat you! Let's come up with an idea.

Story teller 2: So the lion, goose, and owl came up with a plan to trap the fox.

Fox:help! help! help!

Story teller 3: the fox was trapped, no one would help him because the fox might eat the goose.

Fox: Owl, can you help me?

Owl: No.

Fox: Lion, can you help me?

Lion: No, I can't.

Story teller 4: If no one helps him, he will die!

Goose walks by...

Fox:Goose, can you help me?

Story teller 5:Goose helped fox get out.

Moral lesson: If you wanna eat another animal, no one can help you!

If you took a peak through the window of one our English classes at HD Beijing, you will see a wonderful learning journey taking place. Students aren’t learning from textbooks or repetitive worksheets; they are engaging in learning experiences that expose them to story and genre-based methods of learning English through authentic texts.


Genre-based learning through story books is not a new educational concept. For decades, in both native and English learning settings, teachers have been helping their students navigate concepts in English through this whole text approach in a fun, engaging and motivating way.


Students are exposed to different types of books.
This approach to learning English focuses on meaning at the whole-text level, while implicitly or explicitly weaving the key learning strands throughout the unit, including; grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, spelling, phonics, speaking and listening.

Generally, a story-based unit of learning begins by introducing a genre, such as narrative writing, information texts, play-scripts, or poetry with a story-book. This engages students and provides a model for the text features of that specific genre. From this anchor text, teachers are not only able to teach the curriculum objectives for reading, writing, speaking and listening, they are also able to help students to make connections to their own lives through prior knowledge. This scaffolding process allows key concepts to be applied to their own English learning, enabling students to write and communicate for authentic purposes.

In the beginning phases of writing, mentor texts are used as a model for writing. Many different texts can be used to expose students to various forms of the same genre. These texts can also be used for guided reading.

Text level instruction focuses on structures, features, as well as comprehension and composition processes. Particularly in an English learning setting, this prepares students to be able to transfer their English learning beyond basic sentence-level patterns and functional use to the application of the target language within context; connecting it to prior knowledge and extending it through modelling.

A part of introducing students to a new genre involves identifying the text features and understanding their purpose and how they help the reader.

Guiding students on how texts are structured and organised as well as what features appear in different genres, is essential to fostering understanding and communication in reading and writing.

Genre-based instruction is a journey; students gradually move from a foundational knowledge of text structures to an understanding of textual nuances, eventually mastering application. 

Texts used for various genres are classified into fiction and non-fiction text types.

Typically, the process for genre-based learning follows the following phases: building knowledge of the genre through introduction, exposure and tuning in, modelling of the text through reading and writing, joint or shared construction culminating in independent writing or application.

At the end of a genre-based unit focusing on instruction texts, a student produces her own instruction text, using the text features and language she has learned.

There are various models that complement this approach to literacy learning, such as One Education’s Predict, Interrogate, Capture, Create (PICC) model or the three phase Imitation, Innovation, Invention model. Alongside the mentor text, there are opportunities to reinforce learning through additional texts that extend or differentiate the concepts being taught.

Texts used for various genres are classified into fiction and non-fiction text types.

When it comes to literacy planning, the UK-referenced curriculum objectives for a year level are taken and integrated into these genre-based units of work. Some objectives are specific to the text-type, whereas, some are implicit throughout all units and others are spiralled according to the literacy map ensuring that all objectives are covered.

Students are scaffolded through the writing process in a unit on reports. Prior to these writing pieces, students have learnt what text features and language are required to produce this piece of writing.

In terms of assessment, throughout the unit, a teacher will facilitate opportunities for formative assessment utilising strategies, including: discussion, questioning, conferencing and peer assessment.

A display of Narrative Plays, written by students in Grade 2. These serve as a summative assessment of the curriculum objectives taught through this genre-based unit.

These forms of assessment provide immediate feedback to the teacher on how to modify subsequent learning activities to best meet the needs of their students. Formative assessment also helps the teacher to provide corrective feedback to a student quickly and where needed. 

These are play scripts from G1. Throughout a genre-based literacy unit, students are taught grammar, punctuation, vocabulary and spelling, within context.

Story-based literacy unit will culminate in a form of summative assessment.

Summative assessments could come in a variety of forms, such as, an independent piece of writing, oral presentation, project, quizzes, tests or another form that demonstrates a student’s understanding of the linked objectives covered by that unit.

The degree of success in these summative assessments provides teachers with feedback as to which objectives were achieved and which objectives need to be revisited in future units.

These are works of instruction texts from G2. Prior to producing an independent piece of writing, the features of the key text are modelled and students are guided through the process of writing according to the genre.

Stay tuned! Following this article, we will publish another article to look at the finer details of a genre-based literacy unit. We will follow Grade 3 on their journey through a unit on information reports.