Lesson Material, Literary Terms

Generic Conventions

From the start of my Graduate Diploma in Education at the University of Western Australia, I knew that I had a lot of content to catch up on. Teaching English as a first language is completely different to teaching English as a second language as the focus in First Language Acquisition (FLA) is less on form and more on literature than in Second Language Acquisition (SLA). I asked around for books that I should read, and studied my literary terms. During my practicum, I realised my expectations regarding English in Australia were completely wrong. I had never heard of the narrative conventions, the acronyms for paragraph structure or analysed a film. I threw all my knowledge of English out of the window and started from the bottom again. In my five weeks of practicum, I learned that I did know a lot, I just had to restructure it and master it in a very short period of time. Now, that I had some time to think it all through, I decided to revise my material and the Australian curriculum and share my ideas and definitions here.

Generic Conventions can be interpreted in two different ways as it can refer to the conventions of a text type (news paper, poem, novel) and the conventions of a specific genre (romance, horror, drama, thriller, etc.). In either way, generic conventions are text features or elements that are specific to the text type or genre. I feel it is best to introduce the term generic conventions in year 7 as students look for generic conventions when they are skim reading. Additionally, it is a very broad term and it does not require a high literacy level. Therefore, all students can participate in the activities without being discouraged by the subject.

I practised the generic conventions with a year 7 student by showing the student different types of texts and asked the student to describe how he knew that it was a poem or a news article. To help the student focus on the generic conventions, I took replaced the body text with stripes (see picture). Because I took out the body text, I asked the student what he thought the texts were about too and explained to him that when you skim read, your brain already activates all the knowledge you have on the subject. When we read the article and found that the predictions were correct, the student’s confidence grew.


Finally, students will be using generic conventions throughout the whole curriculum. Even in their final ATAR exams, students often have to respond to the generic conventions of texts. Therefore, I feel that an early introduction can do no harm. Also, it corresponds to the curriculum descriptor ACELET1625, in which students have to adapt stylistic features (generic conventions) to create literary texts.

Do you have other ideas to introduce generic conventions? Please share in the comment section below.


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