Ah, the dreaded end of the novel or unit conundrum. It’s as if I believe F. Scott Fitzgerald himself is watching me to determine if I do justice to the end of The Great Gatsby or if I cop out and just quickly talk about the importance of being “ceaselessly born back into the past” while mouths yawn and eyes roll. Should I give them a full-length multiple-choice test? A culminating project? Oral presentation? Chances are that by the time anyone gets to the end of a novel, they’ve tired (at least a bit) of teaching the text. Does that mean quickly tie up loose ends and move on?
Most of us feel compelled to come up with some type of “fitting” conclusion when we finish teaching a book. It seems appropriate, as if we do a disservice to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chinua Achebe or Ian McEwan if we bow out with a brief in-class discussion. I often feel as though I owe it to that all knowing THEM. But do I? Or is it all in my head? Then there’s always the trouble with how “big” the project shoul be? How much class time should it usurp? Should it be creative or rigorous? Or both?
It should be clear, simply by the awful rhetorical questions, how plagued I feel by this issue. And guilty. I cop out, too.
Prep work for end of novel projects begins well before you even start passing out the books. That means that even if I plan on teaching All the King’s Men two months from now, it would be helpful to figure out my “angle” now. The first thing to do is considering making a list of all the books or “units” you plan on covering for the year. Decide which ones need a culminating activity. My argument this week is not to suggest that all novels must end with a bang. Even great final projects can be wearying to students and educators if overdone.
And it’s not Fitzgerald’s disapproval that should worry me. I mean come on. If anything I should probably be more concerned about Edgar Allan Poe’s power from behind the grave. Or maybe not.