Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's the end of the world as we know it......

History was made yesterday.

As we left the polling place yesterday evening, my five-year-old niece commented on quickly the voting took. Her seven-year-old and worldly-wise sister stated back, "We've been thinking and talking about it FOREVER!"

Last night was a night of conclusions in many ways - the end to a long season of campaigning, the mark of the end of a term of presidency. But in many ways, last night was also about beginnings. Beginning and endings go together in so many ways.

When I ask teachers their pet peeves in writing, conclusions always seem to come up. Much like Amelia's view of the campaign season, student essays seem to go on and on and on and on - lasting seemingly forever. When there is an end to the writing, the conclusions don't match the thesis or the content of the essay and instead, often take what I lovingly refer to as a "beach trip" or end with a simple "Thanks for reading my essay. This is everything I know about ______."

I've tried to teach my students many ways to help them understand that the endings of their essays should in many ways mirror or match the beginnings. That we are tying up their writing in a big, fat bow. We have folded paper, color coded sentences, played with sentence strips. And of course, revised, revised, revised. In the moment those strategies have seemed to have an impact - in the next writing moment, they have not.

A fifth grade teacher I work with recently invited me into her classroom to help her students with conclusions for the DBQ essays. After discussing things a bit - we decided to have the students go on a scavenger hunt for "good conclusions" using the newspapers that are delivered to her room. (Truth be told, the idea came out of the fact that the newspapers are soon to take over her room and we needed to use them!!)

After sharing three endings of stories that she thought were really good and brainstorming a list of characteristics for great story endings, I took over and talked about expository writing. We had hoped that when talking about the two kinds of writing, the students would identify us with each and it would make it that much easier for the lesson to be brought back while writing. The students went on their scavenger hunt and we again brainstormed the list of characteristics for a "good" conclusion in expository writing. The students then took out a conclusion they had written and then revised it using the characteristics we talked about.

It was a good lesson and most of the kids seemed to get it. I haven't seen the before/after conclusions yet but I am hoping they will tell us a lot about what stuck and what didn't. So in the interest of helping teachers everywhere - I am wondering how others are tackling the idea of conclusions with students.

History was made yesterday. As a nation, we were able to close some chapters and begin others. And that is everything I know about that. Thanks for reading my blog post.

;-) Sorry - I couldn't resist!


Carol W. said...

You forgot to start your post with "Hi! I'm Theresa and I am going to tell you all about conclusions."
(They have as much trouble with theses as they do conclusions.)

Theresa G said...

Carol - I was going to but thought it might be overkill and went with the simple statement!