One thing I've noticed over the years is that my students get very excited about their main events, but the endings to their narratives tend to drop off too quickly and leave their readers with a feeling of loss. I want to teach them how to end as strong as they started so that all their hard work on the other sections pays off. This keeps their focus on our big idea of writing for their readers and with enough description to hold their interest.
To do this I feel like I have to give them an example that makes a lasting impression. I decided to use our class story and to share aloud what a great ending I came up with (of course this will be the lacking one)
To start I reread the last paragraph that we wrote together and them ended with "and then they all went home and had a great life".
I ask students how did you feel about our ending? I take responses - which are nice but negative. I then ask what they would share as a better ending for our story? To prompt this I asked them what are we trying to share with the readers with our story? and How could we say that to them? I take responses but don't give an answer because this is where I want to take them in the lesson (SL 5.1d, W 5.3e).
I share that today we are going to write a strong ending for our story using one of the five strong ending formats - a hope, wish, decision, memory or lesson learned (W 5.3e).
I share that after the big events in a story, or the climax, and the resolution readers now want to know what happened next. Will it be a happy ending for the characters? Will there be a loss or a sad ending? Or will someone learn a lesson and regret their actions? Authors use five types of endings to close their stories: a hope, a wish, a decision, a memory or a lesson learned. (I teach these ending choices because I want students to understand the varied ways that good writers can summarize their stories. These are the basic types used in college and professional writing so I want them to be exposed to them now so that they can write to a higher level and begin to identify them in the stories they read in class)
I share a story ending aloud and ask students what type of ending was used (RL 5.2, SL 5.1d) (any narrative book ending can be used - I used The Mighty Miss Malone because it is a story that is familiar to them and gives a good example of a lesson learned and a memory). I ask how does this ending leave the readers feeling? What do they think the story plot's was about?
I share that authors use each ending for a certain purpose. Some many be: to show regret for a poor choice that was made, to show learning their lesson from the consequences faced in the story, or even remembering the happy times shared in the story (W 5.5).
I project that chart with the five types and sentences starters on the board. I share that they can use these after the climax is over and their big event is solved or resolved to end their story events for their readers. We read each and I ask for student examples for a second way to respond to each and add it to the projected image (W 5.5, SL 5.1d).
Practice time! Students are given the Strong Ending Components worksheet and are asked to get a red, blue, green and purple pencil (color identification helps both them and me to assess the levels of understanding and misconceptions - and also adds an element of fun which encourages effort). I share that the example ending passages in this sheet use varied types of endings and that their job is to identify each in the writing (RL 5.2, SL 5.2). I then review the expectations and take questions - not many so they are ready to start. Students partner up for this and read and identify respond to the worksheet (partnered learning gives them the opportunity to learn from the shared discussions and to then apply this to produce better writing).
I now want to get students involved more in the learning - so we begin the identifying endings activity. I give each student the Strong Ending Activity packet with five cut out strips of paper that each have a different ending type written on it. These tags identified the five closing formats that we learned today. (Students became aware of these five types of story endings last year so they are somewhat familiar with them. If your students are not you could also do this as a pre-assessment at the onset of a lesson and then again at the end to check for understanding)
Students are divided into partnered groups and sit together facing each other with their tags spread out in front of them (I want them to practice good listening skills, quick thinking skills and effective discourse). I instruct them that I am going to read a passage aloud and they will identify the type of ending that is being used by holding up one of the tags. I share that if they disagree in their groups they will get one minute to debate to determine who has the better response. I take questions and signal we are beginning the activity.
I read the passage aloud and their objective is to raise the correct ending type tag first (RL 5.2). If we have any debates the timer is set for 1 minute and students are their evidence for their choices (SL 5.1a). Play continues until all tags are matched. This activity is sometimes difficult for students who are slower thinkers so I focus more on the fun and accuracy factor rather than the "winning" factor. There is an additional benefits for both in this activity because they begin to identify key words that signal each type of ending - these words stay with them and can now be applied to their own writing to produce a similar ending. Another benefit is that they get exposure in a short amount of time to a variety of good writing that also helps give them ideas for when they are working independently (RL 5.2, SL 5.1a).
This activity goes quickly because there are context clues in almost every ending that help them identify the type. This helps students to feel successful before they need top apply their learning to their own writing.
Student groups are then given a response sheet and asked to share in writing why each of these should be identified in this way. I am looking for students to show key words, and phrasing that support their type of ending (W 5.3e, W5.9).
Here's a video of some of the expectations for these worksheets:
I circulate to check for accuracy and then we post all these on the board. Early finishers can get creative with theirs. The benefit to this activity is that students are hearing, reading and identifying endings written by very good authors. This helps them to improve the level and descriptiveness of their own story endings.
After we play this activity I share that we are now going to use what we know about endings to write an ending for our class story using one of these strategies.
I realize that students are not ready yet to complete independent writing on this topic so I first have them compete their closing paragraph as a whole class. We brainstorm some ending ideas and thoughts that I write on the chart. We all vote and decide on the one we like the best. I take student responses and we write the ideas for who, what, where, and why on the board. I then revise them with their help to make a great ending that shows a resolution to the climax and states a memory, hope, wish, decision or lesson learned. This goes rather quickly because I want to give them time to complete their own endings (W 5.5, SL 5.1d).
We will accomplish a lot in this lesson so we wrap everything up by sharing of some strong endings and a reading of our class ending. I model editing and revising this as they work so that they can see that good writers reread and improve what they wrote many times before they are satisfied with it being a good piece. I chose a student with good expression to read it to the class (SL 5.6, RL 5.10).
I decided to move their centers ( a time when students work on tasks independently while we rotate through reading groups each day) to this section of the lesson because the lesson would have been too long to add on another component; they already had enough notes and ideas from their prior writing to complete this last paragraph and I could meet with them in smaller groups to assist them with areas of struggle or in need of more description. They were instructed to write their closing paragraphs for their personal story relying on their own ideas, the practice passages they read today and the example ending we created for our class story (W 5.5, W 5.3e). They write this on on a piece of binder paper - we fold it in half and use only the bottom section to symbolize a shorter ending. All these are stapled together into their narrative sections story and will be used for their final story write. We will be editing these in the next lesson.