Tired of reading, “And then I woke” or “it was just a dream” as the ending of student stories? Many students don’t realize that the reasons they finish a book feeling happy and complete is because of the way the writer writes the ending. The ending is a place to wrap up the story, answer some questions, and leave you thinking about the meaning of the story.
I introduce this lesson by congratulating the students on how much they have already written. At this point, they should have a complete draft of their story written on a separate page. I ask students if they have considered how they were going to end their story. If a few students have specific ways of ending, then I ask them to share, otherwise I tell them that writers typically think about how they want their story to leave a lasting impression on the readers and revise and rewrite until they have one they like.
I choose a few books that show a connection between the lead (beginning of the story) and the ending. The smaller the book the better. You may even be able to find a book of short stories or personal narratives.
I first read the beginning and explain what it leaves me thinking. For example, if the beginning of the story starts with a problem then I assume that ending will make me feel like the problem has been solved.
I explain that endings are written to make the reader leave with a strong feeling about the book. Its up to the writer to decide what that feel is. For example, do I want the reader to feel happy? If so, I need to show how the character at the end of the book is happy. Do I want the reader to feel like all the problems in the story have been solved, then I want the show how the character feels or thinks about the problems being solved.
I read a few more books to students and ask them to identify what the ending makes them feel and how they think it is happening.
I also write a list of different types of endings so that students can reference them when they are drafting their own endings.
Having this list available allows students a way to refer to the different examples that they can use. They may try out multiple ideas using one strategy or try out one in each style. Although I'm giving them examples, it is very useful to have the information available for future reference.
Students are sent to revise their ending by developing a brainstorm list of ideas and practicing writing them out before choosing which one they want to write about.
We finish up by students sharing their favorite ending to either partners or to the class.