“The End of Something” – Helping Students Understand This Modernist Story

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SWBAT make sense of this Hemingway story by annotating the text and engaging in discussion.

Big Idea

Engaging students in activities that address the inevitable question: So, what is going on in this story?


Yesterday we began our introduction to Modernist literature. The students began reading and annotating "The End of Something." I gave them this short bulleted list filled with elements they should be looking for. In this video, I explain the purpose of this process as it relates to the study of modernist literature.


5 minutes

I give students a couple of minutes to look over the information they highlighted for homework. This is meant to help them gather their thoughts before I ask them to explain what this story is about. As a quick check for understanding, I give students a sticky note and ask them to use it to write 2 or 3 sentences that explain what is going on in this story and to stick it on the board under the question I have written: So, what is this story about? I am specifically looking to see if students were able to understand what was never stated, that Nick broke off the relationship he had with Marjorie because he was not happy in it any longer. This directly addresses Reading Literature standard 1, which calls for student to make inferences including determining where the test leaves matters uncertain. This image shows all the responses. As a group, they were able to capture the basic plot and some began to describe the connection between their failed relationship and the end of Hortons Bay.

Small Group And Whole Class Discussion

25 minutes

I then give students a few minutes to discuss in small groups. The Common Core expects students to come to a discussion prepared. Students prepared for this discussion by reading closely, annotating the text, and stating their initial description of what this story is about on the stickies earlier this lesson. Such activities should give them enough to share and discuss during the time I give them. They often want to ask me questions to make sure they have understood the story and I seldom respond. I wait until they have made an effort to come up with answers on their own or in collaboration with each other. I have seen them time and time again helping each other make sense of a text without my help. By the time I invite them to ask me questions that their classmates were not able to answer, they have very little to ask.  

I now give students the opportunity to share their observations with the entire class and to pose any questions that were not answered during small group discussions. At this point, I am able to see that students were able to make good sense of the plot. The question they all have has to do with Bill. One small group spent some time wondering why he just popped out of nowhere. Another group discussed this in a different way. I have read this story with different classes over the years and there are always some students who ask if Bill is gay. This year is no different. I am not surprised when someone from this group asks this. Instead of answering this question I ask them to cite evidence for this conclusion. They point to the line that says, “Bill didn’t touch him, either.” They wonder why else the topic of touching would come up between two males. This is a narrow conception of human touch and I know it is connected to a prejudiced view that men do not touch unless they are gay. I do not want to be the one to address this. I believe this is a good opportunity for students to practice challenging each other’s ideas, which is an important Common Core standard (SL.11-112.1c). I ask the rest of the class if they agree. Luckily, several disagree and they assert that touching could easily refer to a friendly gesture between two friends and that it should not be shocking to learn that men do touch each other for reasons other than to show romantic attraction for each other. I take this opportunity to point out that this student has found a hole in an argument and punched a hole through it. This is the phrase I gave them in a previous lesson where they engaged in an activity to explicitly challenge each other’s ideas. I invite others to share their view. Because there is not much evidence to suggest that Bill is no more than a friend, students go in a different direction. They are able to perceive that Bill knew that Nick was going to break up with Marjorie so they conclude that they must be close friends. I praise students for sticking close to the text, which is absolutely necessary to make sense of this story. I also let them know that this is one of a series of stories in an entire collection of stories about these characters written by Hemingway.

Annotate Text

10 minutes

Now that students have made sense of the plot, I give them time to go back to the parts they highlighted and consider them clues. In other words, I suggest to them that Hemingway offered clues about this story and that we used these clues to figure out the entire story, specifically through inferences. I ask them to turn these inferences into written notes on the margin, like they did in the first part of the story we read during the previous lesson. To help them understand what I mean, I point out that Hemingway never actually said they were breaking up, but we were able to infer this from what he did say. They need to find the point where we realize that they are breaking up and make a note on the margin. Students are able to do this in silence on their own. These are two examples of what I wanted the second page of this story to look. They are essentially making conclusions wherever Hemingway left matters uncertain.

Students Work On A Chart For "The End of Something"

15 minutes

Students are going to write an essay on this story. To prepare them I give them this chart titled "Drawing Connections In ‘The End of Something,’” which will help them gather their thoughts for the prompt I am giving them tomorrow. The prompt is going to be, “In an essay, you are to analyze the relationship between Nick and Marjorie by drawing connections between their relationship and Hortons Bay.” This chart will visually help them draw this connection as well as gather evidence they may use in their essay. In this chart students are navigating Hemingway's structure making inferences and basing these on textual evidence. The directions are pretty straightforward so I quickly go over them. The only part that needs further explaining is the actual title of the chart, but that will be explained when I give them the essay prompt tomorrow. After I explain the directions, students have some time to get started on it before the end of the period. They can work on it at home and they will get a chance at the beginning of the period for some final additions to this chart.