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
If you want to write a high school application essay that is worth reading; one that your audience will remember:
Forget everything you’ve ever learned about writing an essay.
Okay, I may be being a bit melodramatic. You still need appropriate grammar, syntax, spelling, and formatting.
But as for the generic boring cluster that begins with “In this essay I am going to be discussing ___ by looking at x,y, and z,” throw that out the window because it’s nothing but a one way ticket to Snoozeville not only for you but for anyone tasked with reading it.
Remember Your Private High School Application Essay Audience
The biggest mistake students make when writing an essay is that they forget who their audience is. Your audience, be it a teacher, an administrator, or an admissions committee, has likely read hundreds if not thousands of student’s admissions essays.
This means that you are going to have to do more than throw in a few SAT words to impress them. The key to writing an essay worth reading is writing an essay that has not been written before. It needs to be your own story, not the story you think they want to hear.
One of my favorite things about writing is that there is no right or wrong answer. An essay isn’t a scantron that you have to correctly bubble in or risk some computer incorrectly grading you. You can’t just play eenie miney moe and hope for the best. Writing is personal. It’s written by one individual and read by another.
But all too often students, especially in the application process, forget this. They write the essay they think that the admission committee wants to read when in reality it’s an essay that the committee has probably already read a million times.
The Importance of the Essay Topic
What is the root of this cause? The topic.
If your topic is flawed, cliché, generic, or boring, it doesn’t matter how well crafted your essay is it will be forgotten. When approaching your admission essay, think of it this way: when the admission committee begins reading your essay they’ll view you as just a number, but when they finish it you want them to view you as an individual student.
So, how do we accomplish this?
It’s simple: don’t write the essay you think an admissions committee wants to read, write one that YOU would want to read. If your own essay bores you, it’s highly likely that it will bore everyone else.
Let’s say that your topic is to discuss an extracurricular activity that has played a large impact on your life. A lot of times students are tempted to write what they think the admission committee want to hear.
“I love to volunteer because it has taught me to be appreciative of what I have,”
Or “I love National Honors Society because it allows me to combine my love of academics with my love of service.”
While both of these are wonderful extracurricular activities, unless you are truly passionate about either and have specific details to intertwine into your narrative, it’s going to come off dry and predictable.
What Your Topic Should Be Instead
When describing their ideal student, one of the top words used by the Director of Admissions at some of DC’s top private schools is “passionate.”
Admissions Committees are not looking for a cookie-cutter student; rather they are looking for a student who genuinely loves something and will share that love with other students.
So if you love to spend your weekends driving four-wheelers or riding horses or making short films on iMovie, write about that because I can assure you that your natural enthusiasm will read a whole lot better than the stale and generic “I love to volunteer” response – unless that is actually what you spend your weekends doing.
The Essay’s Opening Paragraph
Don’t believe me?
Consider these two opening paragraphs. You tell me which one you want to keep reading?
1. “’Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ These famous words were spoken by John F. Kennedy, one of the best politicians of all life. John F. Kennedy led America and has become my role model. He encouraged me to get into politics which is why I joined student government. When asked what extracurricular activity has had the largest impact on me as a person, I immediately thought of student government. In this essay I will discuss how student government has impacted me as a person by growing my leadership skills, developing my social connections, and making me take academics more seriously.”
2. “I don’t ride for blue ribbons or Olympic gold, although I respect and admire those chosen few who do. I don’t ride for the workout, although my trembling muscles at the end of a good lesson indicate otherwise. I don’t ride because I have anything to prove, although I’ve proven a lot to myself along the way. I ride for the feeling of two individual beings becoming one, so perfectly matched that it’s impossible to tell where rider ends and horse begins. I ride to feel the staccato beat of hooves against dirt echoed in the rhythm of my own heart. I ride because it isn’t easy to navigate a creature with a mind of its own around a course of solid obstacles, but in that perfect moment when horse and rider work as one, it can be the easiest thing in the world. I ride for an affectionate nose nudging my shoulder as I turn to leave, searching for a treat or a pat or murmured words of praise. I ride for myself, but for my horse as well, my partner and my equal.”
Next Steps: Your Perfect Admissions Essay
Okay now you have the framework.
First, remember that you’re writing to a private school admissions audience that has probably seen every high school application essay in the book. So don’t write the one you think they want to read… write the one that you care most about.
Then, choose the essay topic that resonates most with you as a student. That enthusiasm will shine through in your writing, and hopefully “wow” the reader enough to convince them they have to have you at their school.
Good luck! And let us know what you think in the comments below.