When I started my first job as a professional newspaper reporter (This job also served as an internship during my junior year in college — I just didn’t leave for about 6 years.), I quickly realized that all my experience, and all my years of journalism education had not been enough to help me write stories about drug busts, fatal car accidents and tornadoes. All the theoretical work I’d done, and all of the nifty little scholastic and collegiate stories I had done, did not prepare me for real world writing.
At that point, I had to find a solution quickly. After all, I had a deadline to meet, and it was only a few hours away.
One of my colleagues, who also served as a mentor, had the solution. She introduced me to the newspaper’s “morgue.” This was a room filled with filing cabinets in which we kept old — dead — stories arranged by reporter. Whenever I wasn’t’ sure how to write a story, all I had to do was check the morgue for similar stories. If I needed to write a story about a local drug bust, for example, I’d find another story on a similar incident, study its structure, and mentally create a formula in which to plugin the information I’d gathered.
Once I’d gained more experience, and had internalized the formula for that particular type of story, I felt free to branch out as the situation — and my training — warranted.
I do the same thing when I want to write a type of letter, brochure, or report that I’ve never written before.
This is what writing looks like in the real world.
Research by “Write Like This” author Kelly Gallagher indicates that if we want students to grow as writers, we need to provide them with good writing to read, study, and emulate. My personal experience backs this up, as does the old adage “all writing is rewriting,” oft quoted by everyone from LA screenwriters to New York Times bestselling authors.
Of course, if you’re a new teacher like me, there is one problem with providing mentor texts to my students: I have a dearth of middle school level writing sitting around in my file cabinets.
Fortunately, the Internet is full of sources, so I scoured the bowels of Google to find examples. I know how busy you are, so I’m sharing.
Expository writing examples for middle school
Below are several sources of expository writing samples for middle school students.
Finally, here is an article in the New York Times that will help you teach your students real-world expository writing skills.
Descriptive writing examples for middle school
Narrative writing examples for middle school
Argumentative/persuasive writing examples for middle school
Reflective writing examples for middle school
If you know of any other online writing example sources, please feel free to share them in the comments below.
I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma graduate student, and a NBPTS candidate. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify my students’ voices and choices.
Filed Under: PedagogyTagged With: writing examples, writing samples
Here is the best collection of sample essays I have come across. A kind teacher up in Oregon who is using Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay sent me the links. She is thrilled that the number of her students scoring high on the Oregon State Writing Assessment has doubled since she began using the program.
Below you will find excellent student writing samples for all of these grades: 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade, and high school.
Update:I’ve tracked down State Writing Assessment Tools and Resources from seventeen more states. On that page you will find additional student writing samples—and much more.
One nice thing about this Oregon collection of sample essays is most every grade contains four different types of writing:
1. Expository sample essays
2. Imaginative sample essays
3. Narrative sample essays
4. Persuasive sample essays (Starts in grade 5)
Another great thing about this collection of elementary writing samples and middle school writing examples is that there are five different scoring levels for each type of writing:
1. Low paper
2. Medium low
4. Medium High
How to Download the Oregon Student Writing Samples in an Organized Way
If you just start downloading them without following the system outlined below, you will surely regret it. Each grade has 40 separate files, so you will want to use an organized system for saving the files. It’s worth it to download them, and it’s worth it to do it in an organized way!
When you are at the download page, the table below will make more sense. You will see that this is a nifty little system. Here is how I would download them:
|High||Med. High||Med.||Med. Low||Low|
Directions:Open up a new browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari etc.) and copy and paste the link into the address bar. (The link starts with at the http://) I recommend getting samples for the grade you teach, as well as for the grade above it and below it.
• Grade 3 Sample Essays – http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=528
• Grade 4 Sample Essays – http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=525
• Grade 5 Sample Essays – http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=529
• Grade 6 Sample Essays – http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=530
• Grade 7 Sample Essays – http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=526
• Grade 8 Sample Essays – http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=531
• High School Sample Essays – http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=527
Ten Ideas for Using the Sample Essays with Students and for Teaching Writing
“Habit #2: Start with the end in mind.”
Stephen R. Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Making it Authentic: Examining Sample Essays vs. Examining Your Students’ Own Writing
There are definitely ways to use these writing samples in ways your students will find engaging. However, sample essays are never as engaging to students as examining their own writing. That being said, it’s one thing to have students read their own writing in front of the class and quite another to place it on the ELMO/projector and have the class use scoring rubrics to evaluate it.
These Oregon writing samples are not a substitute for examining authentic student writing. However, the ability to set the right kind of productive tone for critiquing, analyzing, and evaluating students’ own writing is a skill unto itself—and deserves a separate and complete post. But the short version is this — students love to have their writing analyzed and critiqued when:
1. It is done in a safe and supportive environment.
2. Students feel they have actually been taught how to write.
3. Students understand how the writing process works and how it is the application of specific WRITING SKILLS and WRITING STRATEGIES that makes writing good. Students have learned that good writing is not just the result of some “artistic trait” that a person is born with or without.
When these three conditions are present, students are willing to endure the short-term discomfort of having their writing evaluated because they know it will take them to a new level. They know the evaluation will be objective and based on actual techniques and strategies.
High Scoring Writing Success for Your Students!
The Oregon teacher who sent me the links told me the number of student scoring high has doubled since using the Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essayprogram. She added:
I thank you for creating this program. It’s working wonders! You have truly made teaching writing fun. The program makes sense to both me and my students.
So, if you are interested in doubling your number of high scoring papers, be sure to check out the writing program on the homepage!
Even More Elementary and Middle School Writing Samples!
Be sure to check out this blog post: “State Writing Assessment Tools and Resources.” It has state writing resources from seventeen states, and there are tons of additional elementary and middle school writing samples.
Note to Visitors from outside the United States – Oregon seems to block IP addresses from countries outside of the US. Sorry, but there is nothing I can do about that. However, I’m sure you can find what you are looking for on this page: “State Writing Assessment Tools and Resources.”
1. First, create a folder on your desktop to save them in.
2. Once you are on the download page, for each file, right click and save or “save target as.”
3. Rename each file with just THE NUMBERS found in the table. You can change the names later as you wish. (When saving the file, just type over the original file name with the number.)
4. Go in the order shown below.
5. All the odd numbers will be student work. All the even numbers will be scoring commentary. For each group of 10, the low numbers will be the low scores and the high numbers will be the high scores.
1. Print out the essays and the commentary you wish to focus on.
2. Go through the essays. What are your students doing correctly? What are your students not doing and that they need to be doing? Read the commentary and make a list of skills you want to teach your students. Plan out how you are going to teach those skills.
3. Use the scoring guide and go over a number of essays with your students. Teach your students what scorers are looking for. What makes for a high scoring essay and what makes for a low scoring essay?
4. Create or find a few student friendly rubrics. Have students score at least a few essays using these rubrics. Make sure students understand the rubrics—and if you have the time etc., you can even have students help create them.
5. Compare and contrast the genres and modes of writing. This is a great way to show different types of writing and different styles. You can play the game, “Name the Genre.” What are the elements of the writing genre that you see in the sample essay? How can you tell it is a particular type of writing? (“Name the Genre” is also an effective strategy to use with writing prompts, and in particular, with released writing prompts.)
6. Have students compare and contrast essays that have different scores. Also, have students compare and contrast essays with the same scores but from different grades.
7. Use the low scores to show your students how good their writing is. Use the high scores to show your students where they need to improve.
8. Have students edit or build upon one of the sample essays. Take one of the low scoring essays and have your students transform it into a high scoring essay. You can do this with each mode of writing and students will notice both the similarities and the differences across different types of writing.
9. Demonstrate how neatness matters. Some of the sample essays are messy. Even a few high scoring ones are messy. Discuss how difficult it can be for scorers to fairly assess messy writing. (Note: Students will see messy writing and think that the paper is a low scoring paper. Explain that rubrics do help prevent this “rush to judgment,” but cannot completely eliminate it. This exercise also helps illustrate how important rubrics are, and how students must, in one sense, write for the rubric.)
10. Demonstrate how all the skills you have been teaching your students can be found in the high scoring writing samples and how all those important skills you have taught them are missing from the low scoring writing samples.