Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy Endings?

As expected, finishing Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry produced more questions than answers - including a few of my own.  Students responded to two polls on Edmodo.  One asked whether they like the novel's ending, and the other polled them on their satisfaction with it.  Often, these two concepts are at odds with one another.  Sad endings can be very satisfying, while happy ones can feel contrived. While it's pretty easy to determine whether or not we like how a book ends, deciding on whether the author wrote a satisfying conclusion is a little less subjective.  Ultimately, the author has an obligation to resolve the plot as well as its subplots.  The reader should be shown, or have an idea of, the results of that resolution.  In addition, the best endings are those that are a direct result of the characters' actions.  'And then it was all a dream' leaves the reader feeling empty and frustrated.  Likewise, the resolution needs to pull threads from the beginning, middle, and end.  This provides a sense of continuity and encourages the reader to reflect on the longterm progression of the story.  Finally, readers should care about what happens to the characters.  A well-written ending will elicit an emotional response from its readers.

The ending of Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is not a happy one, and many students were angry with Mildred Taylor.  Not surprisingly, Edmodo poll results showed that only 59% of them liked the ending.  After some often heated debate however, they began to realize that a happy ending would have been incongruent with historical facts.  As to whether or not the ending was satisfying, 67% of respondents believe that it was.  While there were some tough critics, 14 to be exact, most students felt that the novel's resolution was satisfying, if not agreeable.

Peer Editing - Click for photo gallery

Writing circles, in their current iteration, met for the last time this week.  Their focus: the editing conference.  After weeks and weeks of selecting topics, drafting, choosing kernels, revising, and illustrating, authors took the final step of the publication process.  Each student assumed the role of editor twice and assisted authors in 'finalizing' their pieces.  Works will be published next week, new writing circles will be formed, and the process will start all over again.  I am anxious for students to reflect on their writing circle experiences in order to make the next undertaking even better!

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