A Teacher’s Guide to Teaching Genres in Upper Elementary

Reading teachers are always looking for ways to make their students life-long readers. However, each year, we see students who struggle to enjoy reading. Some students refuse to open a book, while others declare “they hate reading.” Honestly, it’s heartbreaking. Reading teachers want their students to feel excitement and joy when they open a book, not dread and boredom. Teaching genres in upper elementary can help students explore different books. Motivating students to find which type of books they enjoy will help them embrace the joy of reading. Thankfully, this teacher’s guide to teaching genres in upper elementary will help you set your students up for literary success!

A Teacher's Guide for Teaching Genres in Upper Elementary

Teaching Genres Tip #1: Explain Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

Upper elementary students often think books are just made-up stories about fake characters. They have yet to grasp the concept between fiction and non-fiction. Luckily, this puts the teacher in the perfect position to teach the difference between the two. 

Explaining Fiction

Explain that everything inside fiction books comes from the author’s imagination. Fiction books have a storyline with characters that go through a series of events leading up to the end of the story. Allow students to share their favorite fiction books, discuss characters, or tell their favorite part of the book. Make sure to have some of your favorites to share, too!

Explaining Non-Fiction

When teaching genres, non-fiction books always seem to confuse students a bit more. Keeping the description clear-cut and straightforward is best. Explain that non-fiction books are books with facts that we read for information. Non-fiction books are all about real stuff, like animals, famous people, or how things work. Provide some examples of non-fiction books for students to look through. Ensure students understand that when they read non-fiction, they learn about the real world and gain knowledge. After explaining, allow students to have some time to explore the books and discuss the similarities and differences. 

This is also a great opportunity to teach text features. Check out Text Features—5 Strategies that Work!

Teaching Genres Tip #2: Teach All Reading Genres

Once students know the difference between fiction and non-fiction, you can start introducing them to the different genres. Providing students with a student-friendly definition of each genre, along with the attributes of the genre, is a great place to start. Teaching too many genres at a time may be overwhelming for students. Instead, choose two to three to introduce and allow students to focus on only those for a few days. Here are a few activities you can use to incorporate what students are learning about genres. 


Mini-lessons are a great way to get quick information to your students. Take a few minutes each day towards the beginning of the year to incorporate a new genre. Let students take basic notes while you create an anchor chart. Discuss the attributes of the genre, and include book examples underneath. You and the students can refer to the anchor chart and notes when needed. 


A simple way of teaching genres is to do read-alouds from different genre types. Diving into read-alouds at the beginning of the year is a great way to create interest in reading. Unfortunately, once students get to upper elementary, class time for reading time is very limited. Don’t feel as if you have to read the entire book. Try just reading the first few pages or choosing a book series and reading the synopsis of each book. Additionally, you could choose one day a week to read one chapter or section of a book. 

Book Tasting

A book tasting is a fun way to expose students to genres they usually wouldn’t read. Start by setting up your classroom in groups. Pull books from different genres for each group. Make sure each group has a wide variety of books. For example, pull fiction and non-fiction, choose books with diverse characters, and throw in some award winners or even a few classics.

Next, allow students to choose one of the books in their group. Set a timer for around two minutes, and let students explore the book. Give students time to reflect on the book afterward. This could be filling out a quick handout, writing a two-sentence reflection, or rating the book based on their exploration. Have students swap books and complete several more rounds. 

When the book tasting is over, allow students to check out any books that interest them. Having a class discussion about different genres is another excellent way to review what students have learned. 

Genre Sort

Genre Sort is an easy way for students to show what they know about genres. Allow students to use any notes they may have taken on reading genres or display anchor charts for them. Place students in groups. Give them a stack of books, with at least one book representing each genre taught. Let them sort the books by genre as a group. You can also make this a fun competition by timing them. The fastest group with the most correct wins! 

Honestly, there are so many options for teaching genres. These are great ways to familiarize students with genres so they can find new ones they like! 

Teaching Genres Tip #3: Create a Reading Corner 

Teaching genres is only the first step to creating life-long readers. Immersing them within a culture of reading is the next! Setting up a classroom reading corner near your classroom library is a fabulous way to surround students with all things reading. Thankfully, Genre Posters and Book Bin Genre Labels are ready to use!

Genre Posters

These editable genre posters are a great way to display information about each genre in a fun way. There are 24 different reading genre posters, each with a student-friendly definition. The genre posters will add the perfect pop of color to your reading center or cozy reading corner. There is even an editable poster template where you can create your own! This is the perfect resource for your students to refer to as they hunt for books in your classroom library.

Book Bin Genre Labels

Teachers are always looking for ways to make books easily accessible to students. Luckily, these book bin genre labels make organization easy! There are 24 labels for your classroom library and an editable template if you would like to create your own. Having genres labeled and visible makes it easy for students to find their favorite genres. Truly, these book bin labels are a quick and easy way to have your classroom organized by genre in no time. Organizing books will be a breeze with these book bin labels displayed!

Using Genre Posters and Book Bin Labels to decorate a cozy reading corner will create excitement around reading. Students will be ready to dive into every genre!

Teaching Genres Tip #4: Help Your Students Understand Genres

Reading should be fun for students, but if they aren’t comprehending what they are reading, chances are it won’t be fun. Providing the tools students need to understand the different genres is also necessary. Each genre is unique and requires a different set of skills for comprehension. 

Small groups are a great way to discuss their reading and correct misconceptions about the genre. You can also provide genre-specific graphic organizers for students. Graphic organizers are an excellent way for students to visually see what they need to understand in the genre they are reading. As students get more comfortable using the graphic organizers, they will start to see connections between genres. 

Let’s not leave out the power of writing. Students can reflect on different genres by writing out their thoughts. As they experience new genres, have students fill in their graphic organizer and reflect on the book and how they feel about it. Writing is a great way to build comprehension and get valuable information you can use for book matching. 

Looking for complete lessons on genres? Check out teaching fables in upper elementary or these tips for teaching poetry in an exciting way!

Teaching Genres Tip #5: Challenge Students to Read Different Genres

Discovering new genres that students love is a fulfilling part of teaching reading. However, if students do not pick up a book to read, they will never know which genres they like or don’t like. Indeed, it is essential to understand the genres, but it is even more critical for students to actually read. 

Challenging students to choose books in different genres will help motivate them to select books they otherwise may not have. There are so many fun ways to do this! Assign numbers on a die to a particular genre. Have students roll the dice at the beginning of the week to see what genre to read. Give them the week to read the book and report back on the genre. Likewise, you can also have students create a Bingo chart. Have them fill in the Bingo chart with book genres. Once they read all the genres in a row, they BINGO!

Implementing the tips from this teacher’s guide to teaching genres in upper elementary will help enrich the reading experience for your students. Incorporating various genres into your teaching toolkit empowers students to become versatile readers and critical thinkers. From book tastings to genre posters, your students will be set up for literary success!

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Save this guide to your favorite reading board on Pinterest. When you are ready to teach genres, you will be able to come back to this guide and follow the tips!

A Teacher's Guide for Teaching Genres in Upper Elementary

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