Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Multigenre Research Projects

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Multigenre Research Projects

Article excerpt

As she stands in front of the room, eyes shifting toward the floor for support, hands shaking slightly as she clasps them together, she takes a deep breath and begins to recite her monologue to us in Spanish. In her soft, melodic accent, Christina delivers her monologue in the voice of a Mexican immigrant new to the United States; she also speaks from the voice of personal experience. She describes the fear she experienced when her family crossed the border just after her 10th birthday; the sadness she encountered when her grandfather was arrested in California and sent back to Mexico; and finally, the mixture of confusion and tears she held back on her first day of sixth grade in a predominately white school. This whole tale is beautifully narrated in Spanish. The next genre Christina presents is a mural she painted representing her internal conflict between her Mexican past and her Mexican-American future. She has painted a Greek tragedy mask in the middle of her canvas. Filling each eye above the frown, she has painted a Mexican flag and an American flag. On the top of the mask rests a single tear surrounded by barbed wire; on the bottom of the mask, she has placed a black cross in the middle of a blood red background.

Christina explains the metaphorical representation of her mural to the class - now in English - and afterward, she tells us why she chose Mexican migration in the United States as her research topic. She connects the significance of her original interest with her own story to the amazing similarities she found in the other people's stories during her research. The last genre Christina chooses to share with us is a letter she composed in the voice of her grandfather to her and her siblings. Christina used the information she gathered during a phone interview with her grandfather in Mexico to write a letter in his voice describing the most important messages she took from the conversation: how vital education is and how lucky the grandchildren are to be living in America. It was a beautiful letter, written to the best of her ability in both Spanish and English.

As the students spend a few minutes preparing for presentation feedback, I overhear them commenting on the different genres students have presented and lamenting with, "Man, /should have thought of that!" The rest of the day follows as with the first class: Students present the most amazing genres to the class and I promise them that the projects I'm seeing this year go way beyond those I've seen in the past. "You say that every year," they protest with smiles on their faces. "Yep. And that's the best part of my job."

As Jackson and Davis (2000) noted,

The main purpose of middle grades education is to promote young adolescents' intellectual development. It is to enable every student to think creatively, to identify and solve meaningful problems, to communicate and work well with others, and to develop the base of factual knowledge and skills that is the essential foundation for these "higher order" capacities. (pp. 10-11)

By enabling students to think creatively, allowing them to pursue engaging activities, and empowering them with the skills of democratic citizens in their classroom communities, middle level educators can bear witness to the high expectations young adolescents will meet and, more often, exceed (Beane, 2005).

The pages that follow define multigenre research projects, explain the role of relevant and worthwhile curriculum as it relates to young adolescents and multigenre research, list six principles to consider when implementing a multigenre research unit, discuss the different possibilities of creating a multigenre research unit in relation to differentiated instruction, and highlight examples from my own students' projects to provide a snapshot of multigenre research projects.

Multiple genres, multiple definitions

The term multigenre, loosely defined, means many (multi) types of writing (genre). …

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