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5.4 Genre: What is it? (Std, ES and EAL/D)

Genre is a way of categorising groups of texts that are similar in form and function. Genres develop over time and adapt to reflect new concerns, values and new technologies. Texts often contain elements of several genres and these are chosen because they are effective in achieving the text’s purpose as audiences are already familiar with them. For example, a television series may be historical but has elements of adventure, romance and crime thriller to create its story.   

We can classify texts into particular genres because they have a recognisable structure and set of conventions and these have become markers for the audience to understand the meaning of the text and how to read it. For instance, science fiction texts are conventionally set in a technologically advanced future. They often involve extra-terrestrial life, outer space and travel between universes or dimensions. They also bring in the adventure genre for thrills. However, we do not read science fiction simply as adventure because the combination of conventions indicates that what the text is also doing is setting up a contrast with our own society in order to be able to comment on it.
Conventions have evolved over time and are refreshed with new advances in technology, for example, the sophistication of special effects in film.

What do we expect?

Look at the list of genres in student worksheet 5.4.1 Types of genre (Std, ES and EAL/D) and in the empty columns note what you expect to encounter in that genre and how you would approach reading these texts.

One idea, many genres

There are many ways to tell a story and genre helps us choose the most appropriate and effective way to present it to our chosen audience. All the stories in student worksheet 5.5.1 Types of genre have the same key idea. They are all about difference and prejudice but are told in different ways for different audiences and purposes. 

Activity: Different ways of telling stories
Add some suggestions of your own to the table in the student worksheet or use one of the existing stories and adapt it to one of the other genres suggested.

Convention does not (necessarily) equal conventional

We know what to expect and how to respond to texts because we are aware of their conventions. But we also need to be aware that genres can be fluid; genres can borrow and blend elements of other genres to become a hybrid form to highlight ideas differently. They can also be experimental with conventions, even parodying their own form.

One such hybrid form is the music video. It could blend such genres as promotional video, narrative, lyric – the list goes on to cover the huge variations possible in this form.

Spend a few minutes discussing, in groups, pairs or as a class, the following questions:

  • What is a music video?
  • Are all music videos the same?
  • How do they differ?
  • If you had to categorise them what would your list look like?
  • Describe your favourite music video and why you like it.
  • What is the purpose of music videos and who are the audiences?

In pairs, write a dictionary style definition for the word ‘genre’, including a reference to the music video and some of its features and styles.

One example of playful blending of genres is the ‘Get Your Hand Off It’ suite of music videos. In each of these three versions, a driver who is using a mobile phone is mocked or held in contempt by others in his society. His behaviour is shown to be ‘uncool’.

Form small groups of two to four students and choose one of the three genres of this advertisement to analyse.
Using student worksheet 5.4.2 Get your hand off it (Std, ES and EAL/D) note which genre you chose in the top left-hand cell and complete the table:

  • Identifying and explaining the conventions (form) and
  • how the genre is used to sell the message (function).

You may add any other aspects of the genre that you think are relevant.

This activity provides the foundations for a discussion on the question:
How are the conventions of the genre used to sell the message not to use your mobile phone while driving?

Last update: 25th October 2018