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Author's Craft: Leads, Endings and Details...OH MY!

Do you sometimes tell your students that they need a better start to their story or opinion letter, or that they need an ending with more pizzazz?  Do you tell them to add more details when they hand you their sparse informational piece?   Of course you do!!  Then why do your students have such a difficult time following through on this seemingly simple directive?  It is likely that they need a little more modeling and instruction on the SPECIFIC WAYS to write leads, endings and details.

Just as a woodworker uses many tools and techniques to CRAFT a piece of furniture, a skilled author uses tools and techniques of language and storytelling to CRAFT a piece of writing.  We, as teachers of writing, need to directly teach our students some of these tools and techniques.  Since we may not consider ourselves to be expert writers, this seems like an overwhelming task...but it need not be.  If we give our students some direct instruction on only a few different types of leads, endings and details, they will have the tools to drastically improve their writing in all three text types:  narrative, informational and opinion writing!

In this post I have created a quick and dirty reference for the different types of LEADS, ENDINGS AND DETAILS (listed by text type) that you can and SHOULD teach your students to use in their writing!


Narrative Leads:

  • Setting - A very simple lead that introduces the character and describes the setting in the story.  The setting description can be quick and dirty or very descriptive.
  • Action - The story starts with character actions!
  • Dialogue - The story starts with dialogue between the characters.
  • Character Description - Starts with a detailed description of the main character in the story.

Informational Leads

  • Name the topic and hook the reader - all informational leads should start with some type of hook.
  • Fact - Start with some interesting or surprising facts about the topic.
  • Question - Ask a thought-provoking question to intrigue the reader to continue reading.
  • Tour Guide - Give the reader a brief overview of what they will learn from the book, article, etc.

Opinion Leads:

  • Name the topic and the opinion - all opinion pieces should start by stating the writer's opinion (claim) and hooking the reader.
  • Quote - Start with an interesting quote by an expert or famous person.
  • Question - Ask a thought-provoking question to get the reader interested in their opinion.
  • Writer credibility - start with the credentials of the writer and why their opinion matters.
  • Feeling - start by sharing a feeling or getting the reader to feel a certain way (angry, sad, etc.)
  • Shocking Fact - share a surprising/shocking fact that will lead into the writer's opinion.
  • Plea for help - Share a plea to the reader to help persuade them to agree with your opinion.
  • Why it's important - state the opinion and why it is important.


Narrative Endings:

  • Thoughts or Feelings - Wrap the story up by sharing character thoughts or feelings connected to the heart of the story (author's message).
  • Hope or Wish - End with a hope or a wish of a character or the narrator of the story.
  • Action - End with action by the character(s).
  • Make a connection to the beginning or middle of the story - tie the beginning and ending together by connecting what happened at the beginning to the ending.
  • Character change - end the story by writing about something the character has learned.
  • Dialogue - End with the characters talking.
  • Repeat a line - connect to the heart of the story by repeating an important line or quote.

Informational Endings:

  • Why its important - end by telling the reader why their topic is important or why they should care.
  • Question - end with a question for the reader to think about.
  • Summary - summarize what the report, article, book was about.
  • Persuade the reader to take action or make them think about the topic in a different or deeper way.

Opinion Endings:

  • Repeat the opinion of the writer - all opinion pieces should end by restating the opinion.
  • Rating - if the piece is a review...give a rating (5/10, 3 stars, etc.)
  • Talk directly to the reader - Now that YOU....YOU should....Now YOU know...
  • Ask the reader to take action - end by stating what you want the reader to do now.


Narrative Details:

  • Descriptions - describe the setting or the characters with vivid details.
  • Talk - add dialogue (what are the characters saying?).
  • Action - use specific verbs describe in specific detail action from the story
  • Thoughts and feelings - add details about what the characters are doing AND what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Show don't tell - instead of naming feelings, describe what a character is doing that SHOWS how they are feeling.
  • Add more to the heart of the story - add more details and more descriptive details to the place in the story that illustrates the author's message.   

Informational Details

  • Facts - All informational pieces should include lots of facts about the topic.
  • Definitions - the writer should give definitions of key words and include them in a glossary.
  • Details and Descriptions - include descriptive nouns, verbs and adjectives to help the reader to understand and visualize the information about the topic.
  • Steps - write directions in steps.
  • Tips - Give special tips when sharing how to do something.
  • Numbers - add number-related facts such as statistics, sizes, speeds, ages, years, etc.
  • Names - give specific and proper names for things (animal breeds, countries, states, etc.)
  • Examples - support the facts and ideas with examples. 
  • Text Features (charts, photos, headings, etc.)
  • Text Structures (Compare/contrast, cause/effect, pro/con, etc.)

Opinion Details

  • Reasons - all opinion pieces should state reasons that support the opinion.
  • Examples - share examples that support the reasons.
  • Quotes - quotes from experts that support the opinion and reasons.
  • Micro-story - a short story that is slanted to illustrate the opinion of the writer.
  • Survey Results - share survey results that support the opinion.
  • Interview - share information from an interview of an expert that supports the opinion.
  • Facts - Share facts that support the opinion of the writer.


Print this post so that you can reference the different types of leads, endings and details for each text type as you are ready to teach them.  Make sure you have examples to show students.  You can use mentor texts, student exemplars or teacher-created examples.  I collect these year after year, and file them away so they are ready to pull out when I need them!  Create anchor charts and keep them up all year so that students can refer to them as they are drafting and revising their writing.


If you want to learn a whole lot more about author's craft, I strongly recommend the following books:


You might also like the following from my TPT store:



I hope you have found this post helpful!  What reading or writing topics are you interested in reading more about?  I'd love your feedback on ideas for future blog posts!

Thanks for visiting!
Love and peace,

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