Sixth graders like happily ever afters. They want a good 'ending that is tied up all nice with a bow. They don't want to be left hanging. I like to start conclusion writing by reminding them of this.
I start by discussing endings we are familiar with and pose the question: What's the best book or movie or TV show ending you've seen? I bet they will give you one where everything worked out for everyone. In my experience, that's the way sixth graders work! Here is a list of some books with good endings.
I will ask them why they liked those particular endings so much. What was it that made them so memorable? We will discuss their answers and record some shared characteristics of good endings up on the board.
I let the students know that they want to transfer that same feeling into their own narratives. Their readers need to feel satisfied after finishing their story.
I start by sharing my sample conclusion with the students. I have divided it into 2 major parts: A recap of my experience and why the experience was meaningful. If students address both of these things, their ending will (hopefully) be satisfying!
I tell the students to recap what the experience was like for them, not the whole story. For example, "My day on the beach was one that I will always remember."
Next, they will go in to depth a little more and explain the significance of this event. In other words, why would you bother writing a story about it? Was is important, meaningful, life changing? Did you learn a lesson? Did you grow or change in any way? This part is sort of like a a reflection of the event. It can be a little tricky for the students, but I just keep asking questions that prompt them to reflect. A lot of students want me to tell them exactly what to write, but everyone's experience is different.
Once I get several student examples, I start displaying them up on the document camera. They don't have to be outstanding examples for the kids to learn from them. We analyze the different parts of the conclusion, and I ask: What is the recap of the experience? Why was this experience meaningful to the writer?
Looking at student examples, more than any thing, helps the students figure out what they want to write themselves.
I try to collect a variety of student examples and copy them to use in the future, but I still feel like the best examples are the ones generated in that very class period. They are totally authentic, and the students know that the work came from one of them. It can be so powerful. I plan on tucking this revised rough draft away for a week or so (or until I can get into the computer lab....) and then we will do a final revision and final copy. I like to give the students time away from their writing so that they can see it with fresh eyes next time. Plus, I noticed a huge lack of strong verbs and adjectives as I went through their introductions, so I would like to teach some strategies on that before we revise.
I do plan on grading their rough draft on content since we spent so much time reworking and taking their topic into slow motion. I will not grade it for conventions until we have had time to edit and revise together.