For the duration of my teaching career, May has always meant multigenre. The multigenre project, or MGP, is the perfect way to finish the year–it showcases students’ abilities to read, research, write, present, collaborate, revise, and create in a way that is enjoyable for all parties involved. All of those skills (Common Core, anyone?) are the things we want our students to know how to do by the time they leave us, so what better way to determine whether they can than with the MGP?
This Tom Romano-created concept has always been one of my favorite things to teach, and one of my students’ favorite products to produce. I suppose I assumed that because I would teach it similarly to how I have in past years, the process and products would also be similar. Boy, was I wrong! Thanks to employing the workshop model, this school year has been so radically different from previous years that I don’t know why I didn’t expect a huge difference in the way I watched multigenre explode.
As I work beside my students on my own Jane Austen multigenre piece, what I am struck most powerfully by is their confidence and independence as they make writing decisions. Last year, I answered countless questions from students about what was allowed, what requirements needed to be fulfilled, and what was off limits. My open-minded, the-sky’s-the-limit replies only seemed to induce stress. This year, they have induced elation.
While my mentor text, modeling, and peer collaboration-heavy method of teaching the MGP has not changed, it’s clear that what has changed this year is how my students see themselves by the time we begin the project. They don’t see themselves as students at the mercy of a grade or a rubric or a teacher. They simply see themselves as writers. They feel comfortable with individualized, meaningful, rigorous reading and writing demands, all thanks to the workshop model. I have watched with surprise as my students quickly decide on topics for their MGPs–Harry Potter, classic cars, piercings, divorce, ALS, Star Wars, Blake Shelton, the allure of travel, Great Danes, and more. Many of those topics are things that they have already written about several times this year–something that was once taboo for them in English classes. My students have come to understand that without putting themselves into their writing, it is meaningless. They also know, thanks to the design of workshop, that the point of writing, similarly to reading, is to make meaning.
I cannot wait to see what my students produce with the MGP. I am so proud to have spent an entire year writing beside them, and I am looking forward to our last day of class when they open their writing portfolios and see the thick stacks they’ve produced, submit their final reading ladders and take pictures with towering stacks of finished books, and complete a journal harvest in which they revisit and evaluate their writer’s notebook one last time. I know with certainty that they will feel accomplished, proud, and confident. My hope is that those feelings will propel them to keep up their habits of reading and writing for life. In the end, that’s all I hope to achieve as an English teacher–to make my students lifelong readers and writers like me.