The Trouble With “The End” – Part I

photo by Caroline Armijo/Flickr

photo by Caroline Armijo/Flickr

My 6th graders are at a pivotal point in their essay writing. As they take pause at this crossroad, they understand the magnitude of what lies ahead. So much is at stake! What is their challenge? Writing the conclusion. Rather than skipping to “the end” it’s important to reflect on how we arrived at this point.

Collectively, my class agrees that writing the conclusion is the most challenging part of their writing. During the prewriting phase, students discussed their thinking with writing partners and wrote freely in their notebooks. This was the most exciting part of the process for many of them, filled with so much promise and so many possibilities.

To write the beginnings of their essays, again, students approached this with great excitement and energy. They brainstormed creative options and eagerly poured over mentor texts. They were motivated to try different options and were thrilled to discover which ones grabbed their peers’ interest and worked best for their writing. Check out an example here written by Nina. It became a class model.

People love to go see the circus. They gather family and friends and head out to see what they don’t get to see everyday. At the circus, people are amazed and entertained by dogs riding on top of horses, elephant balancing on one leg, and lions jumping through flaming hoops. But what they don’t know is how badly the animals are treated. Circuses are cruel environments for animals. The issue is that circuses abuse and mistreat animals that have been taken out of their natural habitat and thrown into a whole different world. Should animals be left in the wild, or should they live and perform in circuses? Leaving animals in the wild is better for three reasons.

We studied the writing moves Nina made, and my students worked hard to include these elements in their beginnings. Nina’s writing helped us to see the following:

  1. Stating the topic and issue are essential, not optional.

The issue is that circuses abuse and mistreat animals that have been taken out of their natural habitat and thrown into a whole different world. Should animals be left in the wild, or should they live and perform in circuses?

  1. Acknowledging one of the strongest counterclaims up front and center establishes trust and shows that the writer is unafraid to address differing points of view.

People love to go see the circus. They gather family and friends and head out to see what they don’t get to see everyday…

  1. Letting readers know how the writer plans to develop the essay shows organization and helps the reader hone in on the major points.

Leaving animals in the wild is better for three reasons.

  1. And most importantly, write with passion!

Come back tomorrow for Part II of this post where I’ll share how students approached writing the body paragraphs of their essays! 

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