I’m cheating a little….Today’s Tuesday Quick-Write is really the second part of our nonfiction double feature from guest author Lola Schaefer.
Lola is the author of some of my favorite non-fiction picture books, including JUST ONE BITE and LIFETIME, both from Chronicle Books. Today, she’s here with a lesson on nonfiction endings.
Nonfiction Endings that Satisfy and Give the Reader Something to Think About
This giant mini-lesson is divided into three parts for use with your students. Enjoy!
And in conclusion, trees give shade, exchange gases, stop erosion, and hold groundwater in the soil. EGADS! Let’s support students in writing strong nonfiction endings so we never see this kind of repetitive summary.
Avoid poor endings, especially those that insult the readers by restating what has been, hopefully, elaborated on in the body of the piece. Before you ask students to craft an ending or conclusion, introduce a few weak, or lazy, endings and post them in the room. Have your students identify why these endings are not effective. It is so much easier to be proactive and steer students away from poorly written endings rather than having to help them rewrite endings as part of the revision process.
Here are some examples of what you might present and discuss:
- That is all I know about how these islands form.
- Those are the reasons that we should like trees. Aren’t they great?
- Now you know some important facts about Benjamin Franklin.
- I bet you will never think about microbes in the same way.
- Conserving water is really important. Please do it.
What are the jobs of a strong nonfiction ending or conclusion?
The ending needs to satisfy the reader and provide a sense of completion.
It needs to leave the reader with some over-arching, or profound thought on the topic.
It could catapult the reader into wanting to know more about the topic.
It could pose a question to the reader that would continue his/her thinking or research.
In some small way, the ending relates back to the lead?
Just like with leads, show your students that not all nonfiction endings or conclusions need be a 3-5 sentence paragraph. Sometimes that works well, but many times it becomes forced or artificial. It is better to examine, then write, endings that offer the reader 2-3 of the criteria stated above.
Study three or more mentor endings from published nonfiction with your students. Ask them,
“Would this give the reader a sense of satisfaction or completion? Does this ending make a big point, or pose a unique thought? Would you want to learn more about this topic or is there something else that you might still want to research? Do you see any similarities between this and the lead?”
Suggested mentor text:
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin – last five sentences on p. 236
Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone – last five sentences
Living Sunlight by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm – last four sentences
The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass – last page of the text
Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart – last sentence of the text
How Big Were Dinosaurs by Lita Judge – last sentence of the text
Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin – last page of the text
Practice writing endings/conclusions with students on a topic they know well. Better yet, write endings for their practice leads. Encourage them to write at least two different endings (three is even better) and select the one they think is most effective. It is fun to partner the students and let them have a conversation about which of their endings is most suitable for an audience.
I need to interject here that when writing is crafted well, leads and endings complement one another. If you are able to read the leads and endings from some of the mentor text that I recommend, you and your students will notice how the two tie together in at least one way.
I always think of leads and endings as bookends. They are strong supports that often use similar language, phrases, or even a repeating sentence. This truly helps to tie up loose ends for the reader.
Of course, as teachers we need to model this process for them.
Since I wrote a variety of leads on the food web of the wetlands in yesterday’s mini-lesson, I will draft a few endings that might work for those.
From the tiniest mosquito to the largest alligator, life abounds in the wetlands. The more plants and animals, the more choices. When creatures have a wide selection, they try new foods. Because of this, the wetland food web is always transforming itself plant by animal.
With the proper respect and care from man, wetland animals will be able to search, stalk, and eat the food they need for many years to come. What can you do to insure that outcome?
As weather, pollution, and migration impact the wetlands, the food web undergoes a continual change. But those animals that nibble, slurp, and crunch will never run out of food if man works with nature to preserve these rich ecosystems. Their life is reliant on us, and ours on them.
For today’s practice, write two or more endings for your best lead from yesterday. If you’re just joining us, select a nonfiction topic that you know well. Visit yesterday’s mini-lesson and write 2-3 leads. Select your best one and then write 2-3 endings. Reread the jobs of a nonfiction ending, then craft those that you believe would satisfy readers, relate back to the lead in some small way, and offer an over-arching or big-picture thought.
I’ll return later today to post celebrations on your writing.
I hope these two mini-lessons gave you some food for thought, as well as a couple of solid strategies to share with your students.
So glad you visited.