Teaching conclusions is one of the most difficult parts of teaching kids to write well-written paragraphs. They may be able to write a topic sentence, and three star ideas with details, but when it comes time to add a conclusion sentence, it’s almost like they’ve run out of steam.
To me, this makes it even more important that as a teacher, I spend a good amount of time specifically explaining how to write conclusions, while scaffolding practice before throwing the little birdies out of the nest.
In this third of a four part series on Teaching Paragraph Writing, I’ll tell you what has worked for me in my classroom…not promising miracles, but hoping you’ll be able to take away something here to make the process a bit easier in your classroom.
1. Explain the Purpose of a Conclusion Sentence
Here’s where we re-visit the idea of a conclusion sentence and look at it more in-depth. We talk about why writers use conclusions…mainly to wrap it all up and to give a signal to the reader that the paragraph or essay is ending.
We also talk about what makes a good conclusion vs. what makes a weak or bad one. Strong conclusions are similar to the topic sentence but not TOO similar. Strong conclusions focus on the big idea of the paragraph, and NOT on one of the more minor details. Strong conclusions also stay on topic. No new idea is introduced here.
One of the activities I really love doing with my kids (and they love it too) is to analyze pre-made conclusion sentences. I put these up on the document projector (no copies for the kids this first time) and the kids give me a thumbs up or down for each conclusion sentence.
This kind of practice is great for beginning to learn to write conclusion sentences because not only is it non-threatening (way easier than coming up with your own conclusion sentence), it models positive examples, while showing the kids examples to avoid.
The second day, I hand out a similar worksheet and the kids write decide on their own if the conclusion is a good one or not. We correct these and discuss them as we go.
You can make up your own conclusion examples if you’d like, but if you’re looking for a print and go whole resource for conclusion sentences, I do have one here:
2. Focus on Re-wording the Topic Sentence
One of the ways to make a good conclusion sentence is to re-word the topic sentence. We talk about how we can use synonyms and slightly different wording to make the conclusion somewhat similar to the topic sentence but unique enough that it works.
I feed the kids a topic sentence, writing it on the Smart Board, and then ask them to re-word it on whiteboards to make it into a conclusion. This activity helps everyone practice making conclusion sentences and it’s also great for those having trouble, as they’re able to hear other kids come up with good examples they might use later.
Once we’ve practiced these, I use some worksheets that are similar to this idea from the conclusions packet and kids do independent work with this concept.
3. Use a Different Type of Sentence from the Topic Sentence
If you’re familiar with the Step Up to Writing model, you know that there are different types of topic sentences. I teach five types of topic sentences including List Statements, Power Number, Occasion Position, Two Nouns and Two Commas, and the Get Their Attention.
Since the kids already have a good understanding of the five types of topic sentences I teach, I explain to them that one way to make a good conclusion is to use a different type of sentence from your topic and make it into a conclusion.
So, if you used one type of sentence for the topic sentence, choose a different type of sentence for the conclusion. For example, if I used Occasion Position for the topic sentence, I might try Power Number for the conclusion. Careful though, generally, “List Statements” don’t work well as a conclusion sentence.
4. Make an Opinion Statement
One of the ideas that has really helped my students write conclusions is to have them practice writing the conclusion as an opinion statement.
So, if the paragraph is about taking care of a dog, the conclusion could be an opinion statement like Dogs make great pets and are fun to take care of. If the paragraph is about a Disneyland trip, the conclusion might be Disneyland is a great place to visit. For some reason, these types of conclusion sentences seem to come more naturally to kids than other ones do.
5. Teach Optional Conclusion Transition Words
Teaching kids a short list of transition words for the conclusion can also be helpful. This provides the kids with a way to start that last, and sometimes difficult sentence.
Plus, it does provide a good signal to the reader that the paragraph is coming to a close. Some words we use include: As you can see…In conclusion…Finally…Obviously…Clearly…Certainly… I do make sure to tell the kids that these words are a matter of preference and not a must.
6. Conclusion Corrections
One last piece of advice for conclusions. Every year there is a conclusion habit that I work hard to correct. I’m not sure why so many kids use these types of conclusions but to me, these conclusions make me cringe.
The weak conclusion kids often fall back on starts with “That’s why…” or “Those are the reasons why…” and while I guess their teachers were just giving them a quick and easy way to end a paragraph, I just wish they had NOT given them ones that were this bad!
Sorry, but it’s a soapbox issue for me. If you teach a quick and easy way, please don’t teach a bad habit that needs to be corrected later on. So, my kids know that are not allowed to start conclusions this way and will be dinged if they do!
Whew…as I said, conclusions are definitely a concept that can be tough for so many kids. The more we practice them though, the more the kids are able to rise to the occasion. I have seen a tremendous amount of growth in my students each year as writers.
The Complete Paragraph Writing Bundle has been so helpful to my students and is one of my favorite resources. I created it after being trained in Step Up to Writing but finding that there weren’t enough student materials that targeted the skills I needed to teach. Check it out if you’d like a print and go resource that include BOTH print AND digital formats!
If you’d like to get more teaching ideas for paragraph writing, here are a few posts you might like:
Thanks so much for hanging in there with this long post!
Hope it was useful to you in some way!