A Genre Mini-Study Perfect for April

With Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, and the advent of spring, greeting cards are abound in our house. Perhaps most exciting of all are the blue cards with storks and animals that continue to show up in anticipation of our first baby’s arrival in early May!

Photo by Coolceaser via wikimedia
Photo by Coolceaser via wikimedia

All of these cards, lined up along the sill above our kitchen sink, got me thinking.

What about a greeting card mini-study?

The greeting card industry is doing something right. Every time I shop at Target, I spy at least a dozen people in the greeting card section, pulling cards here and there, in search of the perfect note that puts into words their exact sentiment, hope, thought. Some of the cards on these shelves are worth the price of a small gift: $5, $6, sometimes $7!

Yet many of us prefer to make our own cards and write our own letters because it’s difficult to find a card with the perfect meaning.

As I thought about it, this “tension” seemed to lend itself to a greeting card mini-study in which students consider the following questions:

  • Why are greeting cards so popular?
  • How do writers of greeting cards craft messages that are compelling?
  • How do these writers create messages that are personal yet have broad appeal?
  • What do buyers of greeting cards look for?
  • What kinds of topics are appropriate for greeting cards?
  • What kinds of prewriting work do greeting card writers do?

As it was nearing April, National Poetry Month was also on my brain. Students just finished a poetry study, and we are all looking for ways to share the poems and poets we have come to love with others.  From these thoughts, a National Poetry Month Greeting Card mini-study was born. Details below!

How to Conduct a National Poetry Month Greeting Card Mini-Study

1. Bring in an assortment of greeting cards for students to study. Cards should be of varying length, tone, topic, style, and brand.

2. Put students in groups of 4-5, and give each group a stack of greeting cards. Have them read the cards like writers, discussing and jotting down responses to the essential questions above.

3. Discuss findings as a whole group. Create a class Google Doc with every groups’ responses, or select a student to be the class recorder, and ask him/her to jot down responses on a giant sticky note to display in the classroom during the study.

4. Select 2-3 noticings from the class document from which to create mini-lessons. Possibilities may include: how to achieve a genuine tone, perfect and near rhyme in greeting cards, writing your personal message, different styles of cards.

5. Distribute a mini-genre study overview, detailing the requirements of the study.

6. Consider allotting 2-3 class periods for mini-lessons and writing and conferring. Provide students with art supplies — nice card stock, colored pencils, magazines, markers, glue, scissors, craft paper — whatever they need to design beautiful greeting cards.

7. On the last day of the study, tell students to bring in the address of the person to whom they are sending their greeting card. Conduct a final mini-lesson, teaching students how to address an envelope properly.

8. Stamp and mail the cards!

Some of your students will spend hours searching for the perfect published poem to adorn the front and inside cover of the card; others will write their own verses a la Hallmark. Many will devote their energy to crafting the personal message on the card’s inside. Your classroom artists will create beautiful facades, linking the card’s overall aesthetic to the message and content.  Everyone will have fun.

Below is one example of an in-progress card. Like some greeting cards, Colette’s provides an interactive feature on the back: directions for creating your own newspaper black-out poem and a magazine swatch for getting started!

Colette's in-progress card
Colette’s in-progress card
An interactive embellishment on the back of Colette's card
An interactive embellishment on the back of Colette’s card

Where do you see potential for mini-genre studies throughout your workshop year? How do you celebrate National Poetry Month in workshop? Please comment in the section below or find us on Twitter @allisonmarchett @rebekahodell1.


    1. Thanks, Susan! You know you’re an English teacher when you find an idea for a mini-study in your dresser and bedside table drawers! Would love to see what your students do if you decide to pursue this study. Thanks again for reaching out.

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