THEME: ESSAY WRITING SKILLS
ACTVITY: How to write a good conclusion
Originally I used this skill with A level students but now I use it to train ALL age groups – the younger they get used to it the better their essays will be when they get to KS5.
Writing essay conclusions is always difficult: students tend to write just ONE, fairly flimsy, sentence or they simply repeat everything they said in the essay.
Having a good conclusion, that relates closely to the original question, shows that they have indeed addressed the question. If, when they try to apply this technique, they can’t link the conclusion to the title then they have probably not addressed the question at all! They should be able to write their conclusion as soon as they have planned the content of their essay (but planning essays is another sore point!!)
This technique allows students to write something USEFUL and RELEVANT without repeating themselves.
Typical A level essays ask students to consider topics in depth and to consider different aspects of a topic. They might be asked…………… “To what extent do you think…..? ” or “Assess….” or “Discuss….” or “How successful were…?” This technique can be used to address most essay questions.
BALANCE + WEIGHT -------->>> JUDGEMENT
BALANCE is the number of points on each side of the argument
WEIGHT is the importance (or strength) of each of the arguments
JUDGEMENT is what you think after considering B and W
Step 1 (Introduce ideas)
“J, a lovely, hard- working, honest, reliable year 8 girl has had her pencil case stolen. Both she, and her equally reliable friend, S, say that B took it at the end of their lesson. He just grabbed it from her desk as he left the classroom. B has a reputation for stealing and bullying. He has 10, equally disreputable, friends who swear that he did not take it: he ran out of the classroom quickly at the end of the lesson and went straight to play football in the yard.” What do you think?
The BALANCE of arguments is 11 saying B didn’t take it against 2 saying he did.
The WEIGHT of arguments is definitely in favour of J and S because they are reliable whereas B and his 10 friends are definitely not reliable as they have done this sort of thing before and have often lied about their actions
My JUDGEMENT therefore would be that the WEIGHT in favour of J and S outweighs the BALANCE in favour of B and therefore I think B is the culprit.
Step 2 (identify BALANCE)
Get them to write an essay
Assuming they have written an essay which addresses both sides on an argument* they should now consider the BALANCE of arguments – simply count up how many points they have “for” and how many “against”.
They can now start their new-style conclusion by making a statement such as……………..
“The balance of arguments presented shows that there are significantly more in favour…. “
“The balance of arguments presented shows that there are slightly more arguments against…”
“The balance of arguments presented shows that the arguments for and against are balanced in terms of number….”
* Of course if their essay is totally one sided this will become clear as they start to apply this technique – a good reminder to go back and address BOTH sides of the argument. Gradually, if they practise using this conclusion technique, they will automatically address both sides of the argument.
Step 3 (identify WEIGHT - with reasoning)
“Thus the balance of my arguments shows a clear trend which supports the statement however certain of my points “against”, such as …………… and…………. are much more important because…………….. “
Stage 4 (JUDGEMENT)
“In my opinion I think, therefore, that the “against” argument is much stronger than the “for” because….”
“I think that, over all, the “against” argument is stronger than the “for” argument but only slightly because…..”
(Clearly they are unlikely to use the terms “for” and “against” as in these examples – their wording MUST be linked to the question set)
They now have a conclusion which has three clear and developed sentences which relate to the original title. Each of these sentences should be adapted to suit the original essay question and each can be developed in different amounts of detail – depending on the content of the essay. They have now answered the question, in clear summary form, without repeating anything.
…………… and that’s it!
IF they understand, and can use, this technique not only will they develop the writing of good conclusions they will also begin to write essays with better structure because they will always have their “end point” in mind.