Saturday, December 29, 2007

And in conclusion....

As the year 2007 draws to a close, I thought it would be appropriate to post about writing conclusions. My guilty conscience is also leading me to do so, as I have been thinking about how to teach this element since being asked by a teacher for help earlier this month. (I haven't forgotten you Karen!)

As a teacher, I have always struggled with teaching conclusions to students. This is probably strongly linked to the fact that as a writer, I struggle with writing them!! I have always taught my students what they are NOT versus what they ARE and in retrospect, I wish that I had created samples of each for my students to use as models. For example:

Conclusions are NOT "beach trips"...

"Now that you have read about the causes of the American Revolution, I strongly suggest that you visit the city of Boston at some point in your life. When we went, it had great shopping and super restaurants. But be prepared to do a lot of walking (and I mean a lot!) by wearing your most comfortable sneakers!"

but they DO tie the essay together.

There were many reasons that the colonists decided to revolt against their mother country. Increased taxation to cover costs from a recent war, increased control by England over what could be manufactured/purchased in the colonies, and a sense that the colonists were not considered equal to British citizens all led to a new form of government and way of life in the newly formed United States."

While a list of this type might help students to see what conclusions should and should not look like, writing them can be another story. Teaching, modeling, and practicing writing conclusions often takes a back seat to time. Often, we are leave it out or assume that students can create conclusions once we have taught them introductions, transitions, details, etc. Three ideas to have students practice writing conclusions:

1. Provide students with a short 3-5 paragraph essay without a conclusion and have them draft a conclusion for the paper. Share the draft with a partner and then have them work together to write a third final version. Share with the class and vote on the most compelling conclusion.

2. Find great conclusions in stories/essays and share them with students. Ask them to identify the writing technique that makes the conclusion so powerful and create a class list of techniques. This also works well as a treasure hunt in your library if you are focusing on narrative writing.

3. From local state test anchor papers, cut out the conclusions of several papers. Giving students only the prompt - have them rank the conclusions from strong to weak and provide reasons. Rewrite one of the weaker conclusions to make it stronger.

I'm not sure these are the best ways to help students write better conclusions, and I certainly know that they are not necessarily the best ways, but it is a start!! I'd love to hear how others work with this tricky task!

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