This year, I’ve challenged myself to rethink genre instruction so that students gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the three main types. In order to build stronger connections between reading and writing, I reworked my units so that they are completely intertwined. Just as with my non-fiction units, you’ll find lessons focused mainly on reading skills in a unit called, “All About Fiction” while those centered around writing skills in a unit called, “Fictional Writing.” In my classroom, both units were taught simultaneously over a nine-week period.
Students created their own fictional characters in the first five lessons in this writing unit. In the remaining lessons, students use that character to write a fiction story modeled after one of the folktale genres studied in class. Each writing lesson was designed to partner with a reading lesson with the same focus. For instance, in “Folktales: Locating the Introduction,” students learn about what an introduction is, where it is located in a fiction story and why it is important. This lesson was meant to precede the writing lesson where students create the introduction to their own fiction stories. However, they easily could be taught separately if needed to accommodate your schedule.
I ask students to pull out their writers’ notebooks, pencils, and plot maps as I review yesterday’s work. During workshop, students mapped out the events that would take their characters from their conflicts to their resolutions. Today we will work on the conclusion. I have students share with me what they remember from our readers’ workshop lesson and refer back to our anchor chart. We discuss how a conclusion is important because it ties up loose ends and finishes the story for the reader.
I tell students that today we will decide how our stories will end. Conclusions come in all shapes and sizes. Some might just be a paragraph or two and give some final information about an important event in the story. Some conclusions tell us what the main character does after his problem is resolved. Still other conclusion tease the reader by giving a hint at what might be in the next book or sequel. You have total control over what happens in your conclusion. Let’s take a look at a couple of books we’ve read this year to see how their stories end.
In Anansi’s story, the author gives us additional information about her main character. We find Anansi returning to the scene of his original crime and stealing more of Possum’s fruit. He again chooses to be selfish and trick Possum into thinking a piece of fruit can talk in order to get what he wants. In the Paper Bag Princess, we see another example of Elizabeth’s character. When she arrives in the cave to free Ronald, he insults her appearance. Instead of listening to him and doing what he wants, she chooses to be strong and brave and leaves him there alone. In Charlotte’s Web, we learn what becomes of Charlotte’s babies after she dies.
During partner talk, you’ll think through these options aloud and decide what works best for your stories.
I give students time to talk about what they plan to write before any type of writing assignment. This way, more ideas make it to the paper and sometimes in a shorter amount of time.
“You’ve talked with your partners several times and so they should be very familiar with your stories at this point. So today when you share, you won’t need to catch them up on work you’ve already completed. Instead, let’s just focus on how we want our stories to end. Talk through the questions I’ve listed on the board: Is there an event in your story that needs finishing? Do you want to tell what happens to your character after his problem is resolved? Do you want to entice your reader into reading another story by ending with a cliffhanger?
Another question that might be helpful is one you could ask of your partners. They’ve listened to your ideas from the very beginning. Maybe there’s something they would like finished at the end. Ask your partners their thoughts about what should be in your conclusions. They just might have the perfect idea!
After several minutes, I ask students to return to their own desks and write their chosen conclusion on their plot maps. When finished, they should complete unfinished work or continue drafting notes about their stories in their notebooks. While students write, I conduct individual or small group conferences.
To close the lesson, I have students share their work. First they share with their writing partner any changes or additions made since they talked last and if there is time, with someone else at their tables. In sharing, students oftentimes find “holes” in their own work they didn’t notice earlier, think of other details they’d like to add, or simply have one more chance at thinking aloud about their work before moving on to the next step.