All good writers know that writing an ending that satisfies readers is not the easiest of tasks. As writers, we have a huge responsibility to leave our readers satisfied by the time they've finished a piece we've written. And for most young writers, by the time they get to the end, they're burnt out. This is why I like to spend some time teaching my students how to Revise for a Better Ending.
Establish Evaluation Criteria First
As I talked about with Good Beginnings, I like to give my students several pieces to read through that coincide with the genre/form of the current piece we're working on. I'm careful to share samples that include a range of high, medium, and low Endings so we can talk about what we think works well, what could be improved, and why some Endings work better than others.
As we read and discuss the Endings of these pieces together, I create a list of the comments students make. Our list often looks something like this:
A Five Star Ending is one that:
- sums up the main idea of a piece
- feels finished.
- leave readers thinking and/or gives them something to do.
- leaves readers feeling satisfied
- can be connected to the beginning (optional).
Here are a few I wrote for an opinion piece about Tina Fey:
Tina Fey beat the odds. By writing and producing a prime time show for a major network (and several films), she proved women can find success in the often male-dominated entertainment industry. For her accomplishments, she's a positive role model to young women who dream of becoming a writer, producer, and/or director. I implore you to discover who your ideal role model is, too.
9. Main Idea
Tina Fey's wit and nerd-like persona have created a new era of lead female characters in a comedy series. Lead female characters that audiences all across America have come to love and shall for many years.
From her beginnings on 'Saturday Night Live' to 'Mean Girls' and her recent memoir, 'Bossypants', Tina Fey has revolutionized modern comedy in ways Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett could have only dreamed of. Her blended talents in acting, writing, and producing have created a new era of female comedy to be enjoyed for years to come.
Sometimes taking a second chance on the same type of Ending leads to a better one. As my students begin working on their own, I give them the option making several attempts at the same type of Ending as well.
Once I've modeled how to Revise for a Better Ending, it's time for my students to begin Revising their own. This requires a few guidelines (and a copy of A Glossary of Happy Endings) that include:
- Try out at least 3 different types of Good Endings (or take multiple attempts at the same one).
- Share these in your group.
- Choose the one that sounds the best (use our "Five Star criteria for a Better Ending" to help you in your selection).
- On your draft, cross out your original ending and add in your best one. (In my class, we skip lines for all drafts, so this makes it easy for us to add in our ending).
As students begin working on their Endings, I circulate the room to check their work and give my feedback (reminding students of the evaluation criteria we established early on). We do a lot of small group and whole class sharing and talk about which Endings sound best and which could be improved.
The "End" Result
There's no doubt that Revising for a Better Ending can be challenging, but anything beats cliched Endings like "The End" or "I hope you liked________". Exposing students to a variety of Endings that work for a variety of purposes and audiences and modeling how to write these types of Endings are two ways we can help improve student writing so that our students don't disappoint their readers.
Here are a few more ideas that may help you and your students write Endings that work:
- Start small. For some young writers, Endings can be daunting. There's nothing wrong with using a one sentence Ending. Then, students can work their way up to longer Endings.
- Write the Ending first. This way students will put the same amount of energy and thought into their Ending as they do their beginning.
- Have students create their own Glossary of Better Endings using examples from texts they read. They will have ownership over those they choose and can use this for reference when they need to revise their own.
- Have students practice asking, "So what?" as they listen to their peers share their Endings. Then take this further by having them ask, "What does this have to do with me? Why should I care?" This will remind students that they are writing for an audience whose time is valuable, and we want their investment to be worthwhile.
For more ideas about Revising for a Better Ending see Chapter 10: Happy Endings in the Writing Teacher's Strategy Guide.
Portions of this article are © Copyright 1995-2012 by Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc., and are used by permission. For more information, and free teaching materials, visit www.ttms.org or contact Margot Lester at firstname.lastname@example.org.