Nuclear Family Essay Conclusion Graphic Organizer

If your students are not able to imagine dropping the mic after the last sentence in their essay, their conclusion needs to be stronger.

This statement, which has been making the rounds on social media, truly gets to the heart of effective conclusion writing, and I couldn’t agree more. As an accepted way to celebrate triumph after an impressive performance, the mic drop is such a part of our popular culture that even President Obama let it drop. The notion and image of a mic dropping applies perfectly to writing powerful conclusions.

Conclusions are an essential, but typically neglected, component of essays. As a writing teacher, I’m sure I’ve added to this slight over the years. I used to teach students to think of a conclusion as simply a summary of an essay’s main points, but I would warn them not to be repetitive. To be expected, students struggled with these seemingly contradictory ideas.  As a result, I read plenty of underwhelming conclusions that usually fell flat and left me wanting more. Conclusions, of course, summarize ideas, but there’s much more to them; they have the potential to inspire.

A well-crafted conclusion is a writer’s last word and final opportunity to impress a reader. Strong conclusions are thought provoking and create a lasting effect that inspire and extend a reader’s thinking about a subject well after they finish reading.  Students can write inspiring conclusions by connecting the central ideas of an essay to larger themes that are relatable to their readers. Teaching students to be inspiring, however, is not a simple task. To tackle this challenge, I encourage students to use the thoughtful and rousing words of others in their conclusions as a way to link the ideas of their essays to larger themes that personally connect with their readers.

Where to find inspirational, drop-the-mic quotes that directly relate to major, universal themes of life? It’s a tall order, but I turn immediately to Mr. Browne’s precepts from Wonder by R.J. Palacio. In this new classic and student favorite, Mr. Browne is an English teacher who teaches his students about precepts by introducing a new one each month and encouraging his students to write their own. Precepts are generally defined as rules that manage how people behave and think.  As Mr. Browne tells his students, precepts are rules about really important things that speak to deep human truths, ultimately revealing who we are. In other words, precepts are words to live by, and perfect tools writers can use to connect with their readers. I recommend using 365 Days of Wonder for examples of precepts. In this companion book to Wonder, Palacio shares a Mr. Browne precept for each day of the year. It’s a treasure trove of sayings students can potentially relate to any subject or topic of their writing.   

Adding Precepts to Conclusions

Once students reach the point in the writing process when they are ready to start working on their conclusions, I share with them a graphic organizer as a guide. Students work through steps to restate their central idea and concisely summarize the main points in their essay. Before students select a precept, I encourage them to first consider the “so what?” of their essay. I want students, at this point, to reflect on why the ideas they wrote about are important and the reason their readers should care about what they wrote. This step helps students to distill everything down to the big, or most essential, idea of their essay. Now that they know the most important big idea their readers should remember, the students are prepared to select a relevant precept that connects with their readers and leaves them with a final and lasting impression that makes the reader glad they read the essay. Feel free to download a PDF of the graphic organizer for your own use.

Precepts can be added to the conclusions of different types of writing. In a narrative, precepts can remind readers of important lessons a story’s characters or subjects learned. They can provide one final emotional appeal in a persuasive essay, and precepts can even be added to the most straightforward expository essay to encourage a reader to think about a topic in a new and interesting way.

As a conclusion to a post on conclusions, I’d like to share an example from a student who clearly knows how to drop the mic! A student of mine recently chose to research and write about the origins of acupuncture in traditional Chinese medicine. In what could have been a dry summary of facts, she decided instead to use a precept in her conclusion. She wrote:

“Ancient Chinese acupuncturists understood the importance of restoring balance and order, and that, as in the words of Joseph Campbell, ‘The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.’”

She summed up her ideas succulently in a single sentence that gave me pause and made me think. With nothing else left to add, she dropped the mic!

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