Table of Contents

Unit 1: Understanding and Teaching the Common Core Writing Standards

1.3 Text Types, Purposes, and Genres

Texts and Discourse in Context

This section will focus on examining the statement from the CCR Anchor Standards for Writing in the category, Text Types and Purposes (Standards 1–3):

"These broad types of writing include many subgenres. See Appendix A [pages 23-25] for definitions of key writing types."

Consider the following questions:

  • What does “broad types” of writing mean?
  • What are the connections between and among text types, genres, and sub-genres? What are the differences?
Time to Read

Let’s begin with a working definition of the term “genre.”

Traditionally, the term genre has been used to “distinguish between drama, fiction, and poetry. In the 1980’s, as ‘genre’ began to refer to a much broader set of text types (letters, memos, essays, proposals), it also began to inform the teaching of writing.” A limitation of these uses of the term genre was that they “simply identified text types and made generalizations about their usual forms.” So teaching focused on patterns and organizations — or on what and how to write a letter or a proposal but not why we write these genres. Current uses of the term genre emphasize instead that every genre of writing “occurs in a situation.” That situation has an audience, a purpose, a context or setting, a set of expected and appropriate responses, and a reason for the writer to write (Fox, 2004).

To make this concept less abstract, author Deborah Dean offers a concrete example: Sending a greeting card for a special occasion. The card you select depends on the occasion or situation. Select the link below for a detailed description:

Situational Example


Time to Extend

To learn more from Deborah Dean about genre theory and its importance to teaching writing, link to the podcast found on the National Writing Project Web site at