My friend Cathy Blanchfield introduced me to the multigenre project, a writing assignment that she uses in her high school classes. I’ve found that it also works really well with my college students. I love giving my students the choice of either writing a traditional essay or experimenting with the multi-genre project. What I’ve found is that they spend a lot more time on the project, and I end up really enjoying their work (although not all of them get A’s or B’s). Here’s a definition of the multigenre project written by Tom Romano, who also wrote a book about these types of essays called Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers. (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2000).
“A multigenre paper arises from research, experience, and imagination. It is not an uninterrupted, expository monolog nor a seamless narrative nor a collection of poems. A multigenre 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.”
You can also find more information and examples of multigenre projects through google. I give my students a list of websites they might like to look at in order to understand this genre better. I imagine that with high school students, you should help them process what they find instead of just leaving it up to the students to understand this new writing assignment.
Cathy uses the multigenre project as a way for her students to explore their cultural background. They interview parents and relatives, do research on their home countries, and then work to represent their family’s experience through a variety of genres. I’ve seen some of the final projects and they are quite impressive.
I’ve actually used the multi-genre project as literary analysis. Students take a literary text and use a variety of genres to communicate what they feel is important about the text. Here are the details I give to students so that they understand what’s expected of them.
Keep in mind the following requirements:
• Your project must include at least 6 genres and will likely include more than 6.
• Your paper should fall in the 8-10 page range (of course, you can change this based on the level of your class).
• Begin or end your project with an introduction/conclusion in which you analyze your approach—give purpose/thesis, background, analysis, or whatever you think will help your reader understand what you are trying to accomplish.
• Be sure to identify the author and text you are exploring.
• There must be some coherence to your text, i.e., your movement from one genre to the next must make sense on some level.
• End your essay with a bibliography (yes, you still need to do research for a multigenre project). Think of creative ways of including research and textual evidence in your project. When you do include quotes from other sources, use MLA citation style to draw my attention to the quote.
• Ultimately, your project must develop an important idea in relation to the text.
Genres you might consider using: editorial, poem, fictional interview with the author, dialogue between characters, letter, debate, trial, diary, critical essay, report, poem, advertisement, dictionary definition, script, map, graphs/charts, comic strip, and/or illustration. Note that there many other genres you could use as well.