Ap Lit Poem Essay Conclusion

Writing an introduction can be hard; writing a conclusion is even harder. How does a student close a paper without summarizing what has already been said or introducing new material without time to fully unpack it? Below are two methods for writing effective conclusions:

The Circle Back / Echo (by Melissa Smith)

Ask students if they can identify an interesting word or phrase from the introduction or early in their first body paragraph that they can link back to in their conclusion. We certainly want to avoid regurgitating thesis statements and summarizing what’s already been stated; that’s not the goal of this strategy. The circle back method requires some finesse and stylistic nuance—because in order for it to be effective, it should only be a whisper or an echo from the opening. But when executed skillfully, the echo can give the paper a cyclical completeness, and possibly even serve as a wow-moment.

Here’s an example from a previous student’s college application essay (which is the type of writing I find this method of conclusion to work most wonderfully for)

This is his introduction:

With a grimace, I sat up in my bed as the doctor came in, my body groaning in protest.
My heart began to beat a little bit quicker as he greeted my mother and me. My stare locked on
to the papers in his hands, knowing they held the results of my latest blood samples. For two
weeks, the results had been coming back negative, condemning me to continue my hospital
stay, but each day, I managed to hang on to a sliver of hope. One day, I was sure, my numbers
would be high enough to resume life outside the lonely hospital. After an agonizing wait, the
doctor held up the paper and began to read.

And his conclusion:

The journey was wrought with adversity, but now as I look back with pride on the barriers
I passed and the things I accomplished, my failure has provided its final gift. I had no idea what
was coming when I accepted my own challenge in that hospital bed. Overcoming the struggles
and strife that were to follow has now given me the confidence in myself to know I can do what
is necessary to achieve my goals. My resilience after this failure has given me these three traits
that will help me finish high school, complete college, and enter the workforce as a productive
and impactful citizen.

AP Central also has a solid example in their posted exemplar essays online. This one is from 2010B and it scored an 8.

Introduction:

In the excerpt from Maxine Clair’s “Cherry Bomb,” the adult narrator recounts her memories of her fifth-grade summer. Through the narrator’s story of her private box and her cherry bomb, Clair captures the innocence and youthfulness of childhood.

Last sentence:

By the ending paragraph, where the narrator says that she kept the cherry bomb as a “momento of good times” suggests the importance of embracing and treasuring those childhood moments and memories, when all that was dangerous and scary in the world was the Hairy Man and when all your secrets could be safely tucked away in a cigar box.

And one of my former students circled back to her introduction in an analysis essay of Mary Oliver’s poem “Crossing the Swamp.”

Introduction:

We all must cross a swamp of some sort during the course of our lives. Be it a challenge within the workplace, within your family, or within yourself, the waters may become so deep that we feel we will never resurface again. Mary Oliver uses structure, figurative language, and shift in tone to convey the speaker’s evolving relationship with the swamp in her poem “Crossing the Swamp.”

Conclusion:

Sometimes we must fall in order to realize that we have the power to get back up.

No repeating full ideas—just an echo is all they need—to give their essay a sense of closure and show off their style and voice.

Universal Truths / Extend the Idea (by Susan Barber)

Another way to concluding an essay is to connect the essay to a universal theme. This includes big picture ideas which expand and extends the essay forward to push the reader to consider broad implications about humanity. When forming this type of conclusion, students should consider what universal truth they want the reader to be thinking about at the end of the essay then explain how the essay relates to this universal truth. These conclusions answer the “so what” and the “larger why” of the analysis.

Meredith Lawrence from Round Rock, TX has her students think about organizing essays using the following questions. This format lends itself perfectly to end with a conclusion about a universal theme.

What’s the answer to the question? (introduction)

How does the author develop this? (body paragraphs)

Why is this important? (conclusion)

Consider the following conclusions from exemplar essays:

Igao’s cruelty is the cause of everyone’s, including his own, downfall, but he himself is not the only man responsible. His cruelty reveals more about his victims than it does about himself. It is shown through Desdemona that it is not necessary to become cruel when one has had cruelty done on himself, but many characters still fall prey to this. One cruel action fuels another, and the evil prevails when one has at least a hint of evil in himself. Cruelty functions in many ways, but it is nearly always guaranteed to bring more cruelty.”(FRQ3 – Cruelty AP Central)

Often the circle back and universal theme approach go hand in hand as seen in this college essay from a former student who is now studying at Notre Dame. I loved his essay about playing board games with his family which strongly showcased his voice. His conclusion effectively highlights a universal theme and also circles back to the introduction.

“I tossed the dice into the box lid, my brothers waiting on the edge of their seats. It was our second time of the day playing Settlers of Catan, and I was playing for back-to-back wins. Two and five made seven, so I got to steal a card! Being the good sport that I am, I chose to steal from my brother, Jack, as he was the only family member who’s settlement I had not already blocked. Sadly, my youngest brother Gus would beat me in the end.” (introduction)

“I realize that I can’t win every game. What I do know is that I can always keep improving my strategy. I know that stepping up to lead my peers makes life a whole lot more fun. I’m excited for my next opponent, whether it be Gus in chess or a disgruntled professor, and once it’s my turn, he’ll be in checkmate.” (conclusion)

Conclusion Cautions

In conclusion, avoid beginning conclusions paragraphs with the phrase “In conclusion.”

Don’t repeat the thesis verbatim in the conclusion.

Don’t throw in a random current event to make the paper relevant.

Avoid summarizing the paper.

There is no one right way to write a conclusion since conclusions are crafted from individual writers with different styles and voices. Our goal as teachers is to provide students with tools for writing effective conclusions through mentor texts, workshop, and specific feedback. In doing so, students will not view conclusions as an afterthought but rather a way to either bring closure to an idea or push the reader even further into thought. That’s all, folks. (Please tell your students not to end a paper this way).

 

Categories literary analysis, writingTags conclusions

Are you taking the AP English Literature and Composition exam? If you’re taking the course or self-studying, you know the exam is going to be tough. Of course, you want to do your best and score a five on the exam. To do well on the AP English Literature and Composition exam, you’ll need to score high on the essays. For that, you’ll need to write a complete, efficient essay that argues an accurate interpretation of the work under examination in the Free Response Question section.

The AP English Literature and Composition exam consists of two sections, the first being a 55-question multiple choice portion worth 45% of the total test grade. This section tests your ability to read drama, verse, or prose fiction excerpts and answer questions about them. The second section worth 55% of the total score requires essay responses to three questions, demonstrating your ability to analyze literary works: a poem analysis, a prose fiction passage analysis, and a concept, issue, or element analysis of a literary work.

From your course or review practices, you should know how to construct a clear, organized essay that defends a focused claim about the work under analysis. Your should structure your essay with a brief introduction that includes the thesis statement, followed by body paragraphs that further the thesis statement with detailed, well-discussed support, and a short concluding paragraph that reiterates and reinforces the thesis statement without repeating it. Clear organization, specific support, and full explanations or discussions are three critical components of high-scoring essays.

General Tips to Bettering Your Odds at a Nine on the AP English Literature and Composition Exam.

Your teacher may have already told you how to approach the poetry analysis, but for the poetry essay, it’s important to keep the following in mind coming into the exam:

  1. Carefully read, review, and underline key to-do’s in the prompt.
  2. Briefly outline where you’re going to hit each prompt item–in other words, pencil out a specific order.
  3. Be sure you have a clear thesis that includes the terms mentioned in the instructions, literary devices, tone, and meaning.
  4. Include the author’s name and title of the poem in your thesis statement.
  5. Use quotes—lots of them—to exemplify the elements throughout the essay.
  6. Fully explain or discuss how your element examples support your thesis. A deeper, fuller, and focused explanation of fewer elements is better than a shallow discussion of more elements (shotgun approach).
  7. Avoid vague, general statements for a clear focus on the poem itself.
  8. Use transitions to connect sentences and paragraphs.
  9. Write in the present tense with generally good grammar.
  10. Keep your introduction and conclusion short, and don’t repeat your thesis verbatim in your conclusion.

The newly-released 2016 sample AP English Literature and Composition exam questions, sample responses, and grading rubrics provide a valuable opportunity to analyze how to achieve high scores on each of the three Section II FRQ responses. However, for purposes of this examination, the Poetry Analysis strategies will be the focus. The poem for analysis in last year’s exam was “The Juggler” by Richard Wilbur, a modern American poet. Exam takers were asked to analyze the following:

  • how the speaker in the poem describes the juggler
  • what the description shows about the speaker
  • how the poet uses imagery, figurative language, and tone to convey meaning

When you analyze the components of an influential essay, it’s helpful to compare all three sample answers provided by the CollegeBoard: the high scoring (A) essay, the mid-range scoring (B) essay, and the low scoring (C) essay. All three provide a teaching opportunity for achieving a nine on the poetry analysis essay.

Start with a Succinct Introduction that Includes Your Thesis Statement

The first sample essay, the A essay, quickly and succinctly introduces the author, title, thesis, elements, and devices. The writer’s introduction sentences are efficient: they contain no waste and give the reader a sense of the cohesiveness of the argument, including the role of each of the analyzed components in proving the thesis. The specificity of the details in the introduction shows that the writer is in control, with phrases like “frequent alliteration,” “off-kilter rhyme”, and “diction evoking an almost spiritual level of power”. The writer leaves nothing to guesswork.

The mid-range B essay introduction also cites some specific details in the poem, like “visual imagery (of the juggler and his balls), figurative language (the personification of the balls interacting with the juggler), and tone (the playful mood of the first two stanza)”. However, the writer wastes space and precious time (five whole lines!) with a vague and banal recitation of the prompt. The mid-range answer also doesn’t give the reader an understanding of an overarching thesis that he or she will use the elements and devices to support, merely a reference to the speaker’s “attitude”.

The third sample lacks cohesiveness, a thesis statement, and organization. The sentences read like a shotgun spray of facts and descriptions that give no direction to the reader of the writer’s approach: how he or she will use the elements and details listed to prove a thesis. The short, choppy sentences don’t connect, and the upshot is something so commonplace as Wilbur describes a talented juggler, who is also a powerful teacher. That doesn’t respond to the prompt, which requires an argument about what the juggler’s description reveals about the speaker.

To sum up, make introductions brief and compact, using specific details from the poem and a clear direction that address the call of the prompt. Writing counts. Short, choppy, disconnected sentences make an incoherent, unclear paragraph. Don’t waste time on sentences that don’t do the work ahead for you. Cut to the chase; be specific.

Use Clear Examples to Support Your Argument Points

The A answer first supports the thesis by pointing out that alliteration and rhyme scheme depict the mood and disconnection of both the speaker and the crowd. The writer does this by noting how alliteration appears when the juggler performs, but not before. The student also notes how the mood and connection to the crowd cohere when the juggler juggles, the balls defying gravity and uplifting the crowd with the balls. Then, the writer wraps up the first point about description, devices, and elements by concluding that the unusual rhyme scheme echoes the unusual feat of juggling and controlling the mood of the crowd.

With a clear focus on attaching devices to individually quoted phrases and poem details, the student leads the reader through the first pass at proving the attitude of the poem’s speaker while commenting on possible meanings the tone, attitude, and devices suggest. Again, the student uses clear, logical, and precise quotes and references to the poem without wasting time on unsupported statements. Specific illustrations anchor each point.

For example, the student identifies the end rhyme as an unusual effect that mimics the unusual and gravity-defiant balls. Tying up the first paragraph, the student then goes on to thoroughly explain the connection between the cited rhyme scheme, the unique defiance of gravity, and the effect on the speaker. The organizational plan is as follows: point (assertion), illustration, and explanation.

The mid-range sample also cites specific details of the poem, such as the “sky-blue” juggler, a color that suggests playfulness, but then only concludes that euphony shows the speaker’s attitude toward the juggler without making that connection clear with an explanation. The writer simply concludes without proving that assertion. Without further explanation or exemplification, the author demonstrates no knowledge of the term “euphony”.

Sample C also alludes to the “sky-blue” juggler but doesn’t explain the significance. In fact, the writer makes a string of details from the poem appear significant without actually revealing anything about the details the writer notes. They’re merely a string of details.

Discussion is Crucial to Connect Your Quotes and Examples to Your Argument Points

Rather than merely noting quoted phrases and lines without explanation, the A response takes the time to thoroughly discuss the meaning of the quoted words, phrases, and sentences used to exemplify his or her assertions. For example, the second paragraph begins with an assertion that the speaker’s view of the world is evident through the diction used when describing the juggler and the juggler’s act. Immediately, the writer supplies proof by directing the reader to the first and last stanzas to find “lens,” “dusk”, and “daily dark”.

The selection of these particular diction choices demonstrates the writer’s knowledge of the term “diction” and how to support a conclusion the student will make by the end of the sentence that the speaker’s attitude toward the world around him is “not the brightest”. The writer gives a follow-up sentence to further convince the reader of the previous point about the speaker’s dim view by adding, “All the words and phrases used just fall flat, filled with connotations of dullness…”

Using the transition, “however”, the A response goes on to further explain that the juggler’s description contrasts with that of the speaker’s in its lightness, by again providing both specifically-quoted words and complete one or two full sentence follow-ups to the examples. In that way, the writer clarifies the connection between the examples and their use and meaning. Nothing is left unexplained–unlike the B response, which claims Wilbur uses personification, then gives a case of a quoted passage about the balls not being “lighthearted”.

After mentioning the term, the B essay writer merely concludes that Wilbur used personification without making the connection between “lighthearted” and personification. The writer might have written one additional sentence to show that balls as inanimate objects don’t have the emotions to be cheery nor lighthearted, only humans do. Thus, Wilbur personifies the balls. Likewise short of support, the writer concludes that the “life” of the balls through personification adds to the mystery and wonder–without further identifying the wonder or whose wonder and how that wonder results from the life of the balls.

Write a Brief Conclusion

While it’s more important to provide a substantive, organized, and clear argument throughout the body paragraphs than it is to conclude, a conclusion provides a satisfying rounding out of the essay and last opportunity to hammer home the content of the preceding paragraphs. If you run out of time for a conclusion because of the thorough preceding paragraphs, that is not as fatal to your score as not concluding or not concluding as robustly as the A essay sample (See the B essay conclusion).

The A response not only provides a quick but sturdy recap of all the points made throughout the body paragraphs (without repeating the thesis statement) but also reinforces those points by repeating them as the final parting remarks to the reader. The writer demonstrates not only the points made but the order of their appearance, which also showcases the overall structure of the essay.

Finally, a conclusion compositionally rounds out a gracious essay–polite because it considers the reader. You don’t want your reader to have to work hard to understand any part of your essay. By repeating recapped points, you help the reader pull the argument together and wrap up.

Write in Complete Sentences with Proper Punctuation and Compositional Skills

Though pressed for time, it’s important to write an essay with clear, correctly punctuated sentences and properly spelled words. Strong compositional skills create a favorable impression to the reader, like using appropriate transitions or signals (however, therefore) to tie sentences and paragraphs together, making the relationships between sentences clear (“also”–adding information, “however”–contrasting an idea in the preceding sentence).

Starting each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that previews the main idea or focus of the paragraph helps you the writer and the reader keep track of each part of your argument. Each section furthers your points on the way to convincing your reader of your argument. If one point is unclear, unfocused, or grammatically unintelligible, like a house of cards, the entire argument crumbles. Good compositional skills help you lay it all out orderly, clearly, and fully.

For example, the A response begins the first body paragraph with “In the first and last stanzas, no alliteration beyond ‘daily dark’ appears, evoking a tone that could hardly be described as cheerful”. The sentence, with grammatically-correct commas inserted to section off the lead-in phrase, “In the first and last stanzas,” as well as the dependent clause at the sentence’s end, “evoking a tone that…,” gives a road map to the reader as to the paragraph’s design: alliteration, tone, darkness. Then the writer hits all three of those with a complete explanation.

The next paragraph begins with a rather clunky, unwieldy sentence that nevertheless does the same as the first–keys the reader to the first point regarding the speaker’s view of the world and the devices and elements used to do so. It’s clear the writer tackles the speaker’s view, the juggler’s depiction, and diction choice–both as promised from the beginning in the thesis statement of the introductory paragraph and per the prompt. The writer uses the transition “In the first and last stanzas”, to tie the topic sentence to the examples he or she will use to prove the topic sentence; then the writer is off to do the same in the next paragraph.

So by the time the conclusion takes the reader home, the writer has done all of the following:

  • followed the prompt
  • followed the propounded thesis statement in exact order promised
  • provided a full discussion with examples
  • included quotes proving each assertion
  • used clear, grammatically correct sentences
  • wrote paragraphs ordered by a thesis statement
  • created topic sentences for each paragraph
  • ensured each topic sentence furthered the ideas presented in the thesis statement

Have a Plan and Follow it

It’s easier than it sounds. To get a 9 on the poetry analysis essay in the AP Literature and Composition exam, practice planning a response under strict time deadlines. Write as many practice essays as you can. Follow the same procedure each time.

First, be sure to read the instructions carefully, highlighting the parts of the prompt you absolutely must cover. Then map out a scratch outline of the order you intend to cover each point in support of your argument. Try and include not only a clear thesis statement, written as a complete sentence but the topic sentences to each paragraph followed by the quotes and details you’ll use to support the topic sentences. Then follow your map faithfully.

Be sure to give yourself enough time to give your essay a brief re-read to catch mechanical errors, missing words, or necessary insertions to clarify an incomplete or unclear thought. With time, an organized approach, and plenty of practice, earning a nine on the poetry analysis is manageable. Be sure to ask your teacher or consult other resources, like albert.io’s Poetic Analysis practice essays, if you’re unsure how to identify poetic devices and elements in poetry, or need more practice writing a poetry analysis.

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