Today we start with a challenge: list as many genres as you can. I give students just the time while I take attendance to work, and then we come back together. I take their suggestions and create a list of genres on the board.
Next, I explain that we will be talking about story endings today. Often, genre can help us predict how a story will end. I ask, what are the typical endings for the genres we have on the board?
"Romance: happy endings, sometimes with marriage."
"Mystery: the mystery is solved."
"Action: the good guy usually wins."
"Realistic: not always a happy ending 'cause life isn't always happy."
And so on. Students pepper their endings with examples from their favorite texts, such as how the characters in The Lucky One stay together at the end of the book. Others bring up "non-examples" for debate. What about The Notebook? They may have gotten married, but they die in the end. Another student points out that they die together, so isn't that still their happy ending?
Eventually, I pull the class from their debate to segue into our predictions for the day.
I ask my students what genre they would label their books. For A Walk Across America, the answer is obvious--it's an autobiography. Clearly a realistic ending is in order. For The Color Purple, the group decides that though not biography, it is realistic fiction depicting the truth about African American women's social status in the time period of the setting. It, too, will have a realistic, not necessarily a fully happy ending.
Ah, then, I ask, how can we make a prediction? How might the author have chosen to end the stories?
"We can look at how the story has been unfolding, right?" Yes--notice how the characters have been changing and what events have occurred leading up to this point. Use that information to make an educated guess about the ending.
I give students 5 minutes to write a prediction for the ending based on the text they have already read, and then we come back together to share.
For the most part, students make viable predictions. The trend from the Walk group focuses on Peter finding his inner happiness, while in The Color Purple group, choices are more varied. Some students believe Celie will get back together with Shug, while others feel that Nettie still has a role to play. Most believe she will have a better, but not a great, ending.
Still, something is missing:
Students' current struggle with "why" may be important for their future work--they can't analyze author choice if they don't see how it connects to the rest of the story.
We close today with our final push for reading; by our next reading day, students will need to have the book finished.