Standard Lesson

Once They're Hooked, Reel Them In: Writing Good Endings

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five or six 45-minute sessions
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Student writers may start out with a catchy beginning, only to get bogged down and just stop at the end. By exploring endings from children's literature, students learn that a good ending leaves the reader with something to think about and that it often refers back to the beginning through repetition of words or ideas. This lesson encourages students to recognize literary techniques and use them in their own writing to create a conclusion that will keep readers hooked until the end of the story. This lesson is a logical follow-up to the lesson "Fishing for Readers: Identifying and Writing Effective Opening "'Hooks,'" in which students are taught how to write effective openers.

From Theory to Practice

  • Sharing literature with students is an ideal way to show them organizational patterns and techniques that authors use.

  • Writers should have a general idea of the ending before starting and be thinking about the ending while writing.

  • Authors often resolve the most pressing problem in a story, but still leave room for interpretation and imagination at the end.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon (Blue Sky Press, 1998)

  • Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow, 1991)

  • Computers with Internet access, including one with projection capability

  • Overhead projector and transparencies




1. Before beginning this lesson, students should choose a topic for writing a story. A brief chronological narrative, such as an autobiographical incident or fictional story, will probably work best for creating a connection between the beginning and ending lines. Another possibility would be fractured fairy tales, which provide an opportunity to play with—and comment upon—conventional endings. Create a list of suggested story topics based on your knowledge of students’ strengths and interests.

2. Students beginning this lesson should be able to understand, recognize, and write effective opening lines. The ReadWriteThink lesson “Fishing for Readers: Identifying and Writing Effective Opening ‘Hooks’” provides a good introduction to writing opening lines.

3. Reproduce the Beginning, Middle, End Graphic Organizer, Literary Beginnings Transparency, Organization Rubric, and Student Writing Sample as overhead transparencies.

4. Make one copy for each student of the Beginning, Middle, End Graphic Organizer, Literary Endings Worksheet, Student Writing Sample, and Organization Rubric.

5. Visit the BAB Books: On-Line Stories & Resources for Kids website to make sure it works properly on your school computers. Bookmark the site for easy student access.

6. Schedule access to computers with Internet access for students to use in Session 6.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Identify good endings in literature and analyze what makes them effective

  • Match ending lines selected from literature to the corresponding first lines by observing how the author has purposefully tied them together

  • Plan a logical and effective beginning, middle, and end for their writing

Session 1

1. Explain that most writers have an idea of how their story will be organized before they start writing. Display the Beginning, Middle, End Graphic Organizer on the overhead. Taking a familiar story that the entire class has read or heard, have them help you fill out the chart.

Example using the story Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes:
Chrysanthemum loves her name.
The other girls tease her. The other girls want to be named for a flower.
Chrysanthemum is excited about going to school.
Chrysanthemum hates school. Chrysanthemum loves her name again.

Chrysanthemum hates her name.
2. If they have not already done so, have students choose their story topics for writing (see Preparation, Step 1). Distribute a blank copy of the Beginning, Middle, End Graphic Organizer to each student. Have students fill out the chart based on the story topics they have chosen, to provide a basic framework for their stories. If time permits, have students draft their stories.

Session 2

Have students draft their stories, referring to the Beginning, Middle, End Graphic Organizer they filled out during the previous session. (This session can be omitted if students had sufficient time in Session 1 for this activity.)

Session 3

1. Briefly review with students the importance of a good first line to “hook” the reader into reading further.

2. Explain that ending lines are also important because they tie up loose ends and give the reader something to think about at the end of the story. Ask students whether they can think of any “stock” ending lines, and note how these lines perform the desired functions: And they lived happily ever after ties up loose ends; Tune in next time… gives the reader something to think about for the future.

3. Read and discuss the following ending lines from literature. Note: A brief synopsis is provided in brackets to give some context for the ending line.
  • My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston (HarperCollins, 1992)
    [My Great-Aunt Arizona tells the story of a teacher who taught generations of children in the same one-room schoolhouse she herself had attended, and how her way of teaching inspired her students.]
    Last line: She goes with us in our minds.

    Ask students what this line makes them think (i.e., that the teacher is remembered in different ways by different people; that they will never forget her). Note that this ending ties up loose ends and provides an effective conclusion.

    Ask students how they would feel if the last line had been, And that’s the story about my Great-Aunt Arizona, and discuss why this is a less satisfying ending.

  • The Baby Sister by Tomie de Paola (Putnam, 1996)
    [Although he looks forward to having a baby sister, Tommy is unhappy staying with his Nana while his mother is in the hospital. All the trouble is forgotten once the baby arrives.]
    Last line: And Tommy was the happiest boy in the world.

    This ending concludes that the events at the end of the story made Tommy happy. Ask students if they think And they all lived happily ever after would have been a better ending. Discuss why this ending is best used only for fairy tales.
4. Using the Ending Lines Bibliography, continue reading and discussing ending lines as a group, if needed, and then in pairs or small groups (can be either table groups or assigned by teacher).

5. Have students work on their own stories, paying particular attention to effective beginning and ending lines and revising if necessary.

Session 4

1. Read a book with a connected first and last line such as A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon.

2. Reread the first line: Camilla Cream loved lima beans. Ask students if they remember any of the words in the last line.

3. Reread the last line: She ate all the lima beans she wanted, and she never had even a touch of stripes again. Ask students what is the same about both lines (lima beans; she loved them so she ate all she wanted).

4. Explain that writers often repeat words, names, or phrases to connect the beginning and ending of a story. They also sometimes replicate sentence structure, include a rhyme, or ask a question at the beginning and answer it at the end.

5. Read the following beginning and ending lines and discuss the techniques used by the authors. Again, you need not read the entire book, just the beginning and ending lines. Note: Other books available in your classroom or library may be substituted for the selections listed below.
  • Read the first line from The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (Candlewick Press, 1995): The village children called him Mr. Gloomy.

    Then read the last line: No one ever called him Mr. Gloomy again.

    Ask students what is the same about the lines (Mr. Gloomy). Ask them what the ending makes them wonder about (i.e., What happened in the story to change what people thought about him? Why wasn’t he gloomy anymore?). Point out the techniques used by the author: repetition of words; gives the reader something to think/wonder about.

  • Read the first paragraph from The Paper Boy by Dav Pilkey (Orchard Books, 1996): The mornings of the paperboy are still dark and they are always cold even in the summer. And on these cold mornings the paperboy’s bed is still warm and it is always hard to get out—even for his dog.

    Then reading the ending lines: And back inside his own room the paperboy pulls down his shade and crawls back into his bed, which is still warm. And while all of the world is waking up, the paperboy is going back to sleep and his dog is sleeping, too. Their work is done…and now is the time for dreaming.

    Ask students what the beginning and ending lines have in common (paperboy, dog, warm bed), and what the ending makes them think about (When do different people wake up and when do they go to sleep? What do people—and dogs—dream about?) Point out the techniques used by the author: repetition of words; similar sentence structure, beginning sentences with And; introduction of a new idea (dreaming) that leaves the reader thinking.
6. Distribute copies of the Literary Endings Worksheet.

7. Display the Literary Beginnings Transparency on the overhead projector. Read or have a student read the beginning lines, and have students find the last lines on their worksheets, looking for the previously discussed techniques. Encourage students to look for related words, names, places, phrases, or sentence structure to match each beginning on the transparency with the corresponding ending on their worksheets.

8. Have students explain how they knew which ending went with each beginning line. Discuss the completed examples, addressing the questions: Which techniques did the author use? Why does one ending work better than others? Note: This worksheet is intended as a teaching and discussion tool, rather than a test. The Literary Beginnings and Endings Worksheet Key is provided for guidance in matching the lines.

Session 5

1. Review with students the techniques used by writers for effective beginnings and endings. Remind them that ending lines should tie up loose ends and give the reader something to think or wonder about.

2. Review how writers can tie beginnings and endings together. (repetition of words, names, phrases, or sentence structure; pose a question and then answer it).

3. Distribute copies of the Student Writing Sample and the Organization Rubric. To illustrate the use of the rubric, display a transparency of the Student Writing Sample on the overhead projector and have students help you rate it and make suggestions for revision.

4. Ask students whether the first sentence is a good example of a “hook” (no). Ask them whether the last sentence is a good example of an effective ending, and whether it is tied to the first sentence (no). Ask them what the story is mostly about (Brussels sprouts). Encourage them to think of some way to use Brussels sprouts in the beginning and ending lines. For example, the first line might be “I hate Brussels sprouts,” and the last line, “Now I love Brussels sprouts” or “Now Brussels sprouts are my favorite vegetable.”

5. Allow time for students to continue working on their own stories.

Session 6

1. Access the BAB Books: On-Line Stories & Resources for Kids website on the computer with projection capability, and have students access the site on their computers. Explain that this is a website featuring stories written by students. Have the class continue to practice revising to create effective beginning and ending lines, using at least two of the following stories:
The Kitsville Caper

Bill and Rosco

When I Grow Up

The Cow Girl Princess

Sugar’s Garden

2. Have students rate their own stories using the Organization Rubric, and revise where necessary.


Student Assessment / Reflections

1. Evaluate students’ understanding of the author techniques discussed in the lesson by observing their responses on the Literary Endings Worksheet. This worksheet is intended as a teaching and discussion tool, rather than a test. Students should analyze the possible connections between beginnings and endings, looking for related words, names, places, phrases, or sentence structure. While a few students may initially choose an incorrect ending, they should ultimately be able to find the ending that best illustrates the discussed techniques.

2. Compare the organization of students’ stories to their Beginning, Middle, End Graphic Organizer worksheets.

3. Note whether students have tied together the beginning and ending of their stories in some way, using one or more of the techniques presented.

4. Evaluate students’ stories using the Organization Rubric. A rating of 3 or above in all areas is desirable.