Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Sample Writing of Students

Student Model—01
My Trip to Mexico
One time I went to Mexico. It was a blast! I met people there. I went horseback riding. I saw a box holding an armadillo. I went to a water fall. I tried to catch a frog with one leg. I couldn't catch it. It was fun in Mexico.
Evaluation: Many details are included in this writing, and a personal tone emerges. The piece has a clear beginning, middle, and ending.
Student Model—02

A Happy Day

One day baby Josh came home. He was in a yellow blanket. My mom let me hold him. He was blowing bubbles. He didn’t cry.
Evaluation: This writing shows the feelings of the writer and is well organized.
Student Model—03

My Favorite Pet

My cat is fluffy. His name is Buzz. He is my favorite cat. Buzz is my favorite pet of all. I hug him all the time. He is soft, and his cheeks are fat like my brother’s. I feel happy with my cat.
Evaluation: Adam, the first-grade writer of this model, uses his senses to describe his cat—fluffy, soft, fat. Readers can “see” and “feel” Buzz.
Student Model—04

How Much I Know About Space

I had just gone to Chobot Space and Science Center. When I got there, I didn’t even know one planet in our solar system. Soon I learned all nine planets in our solar system. I learned what the first rocket ship looked like. I learned how to land a rocket ship. I had two lessons. The lessons were fun. My favorite class was space class.
Evaluation: Ryan tells what he learned on a visit to a space center.
Student Model—05

Sweet Spring

Spring is sweet because we can go boat riding and bees come and take honey out of the flowers. I feel good because it is very, very, very hot outside and I can go on the swings. The best part of spring is that my family can go to the beach.
Evaluation: This writing has delightful details and a clear voice.
Student Model—06


Parrots are colorful. They have different colors like blue, red, black, orange, green, yellow, and white. Parrots live in cactuses, nests, and underground holes.
Some parrots eat roots, and some eat nectar and seeds. They have different bills. Macaws (a kind of parrot) crack things open. Other parrots dig up roots and bulbs from the ground.
There are different kinds of parrots, but they all lay eggs. Parrots are pretty birds.
Evaluation: First-grader Traci begins and ends her report with a main idea about parrots: they are pretty, colorful birds.
Student Model—07

Happy Easter

Once there was a hen. The hen was very lonely. Then she laid some eggs. They were not ordinary eggs. They were colorful. On Easter the chicks hatched. It was their birthday! The hen was not lonely anymore.
Evaluation: This model is based on a story submitted by first-grader Ashley. Her story has a main character with a problem. The problem is solved in an interesting way.
Student Model—08

Leaf Person

One morning, I turned into a leaf person. I went outside. A wind blew me away—far away. Another heavy, heavy wind blew me everywhere in the whole world. It never stopped! Then it blew me to outer space. I was floating in space. I went to Mars, but I saw nothing.
I went back to Earth. I didn’t know where I was, so I went on a rocket, back to space, to the moon. When I landed there, there was nothing but crust, holes, and craters. Then there was another special wind. It was special because it blew from land to space. I was floating in space again!
Evaluation: In Bowen’s story, he imagines himself as a leaf. He gives lots of details about being blown around by the wind.
Student Model—09

My Dad

I was at the hospital when my dad was dying. My mom and my sister were there, too. Mom was lighting candles in my dad’s room. My dad was going to have an operation. He said, “I’m going to be in a better place.” He said he loved me. My dad died after the operation. I don’t know why my dad died. I was only five years old, but I still remember. I hope when your dad dies, you will always remember him, too. I miss my dad. His dogs miss him. My family misses him.
Evaluation: Dylan, a second-grade writer, shares his very personal feelings in an honest, direct way. His first and last sentences tell the whole story; and the middle sentences give the reader important, heartfelt details about Dylan’s experience.
Student Model—10

The Horrible Day

One morning I woke up and I was turned around on my bed. Then I fell off! I walked downstairs and I almost fell over my dog. Next I fell asleep in my cereal and my brother stole my toast!
Then I had to walk to school because our car ran out of gas. I was late for school, and I got stuck outside in the rain! Guess what? I really didn’t like this day at all.
Evaluation: This is a fun story with lots of details.
Student Model—11


Ladybugs are insects. Insects are bugs that have six legs. Ladybugs have all kinds of designs on their wings. They have dots, stripes, and other designs. In England ladybugs are called ladybirds.
Ladybugs are harmless, but if you pick one up it will tickle you! Ladybugs are very helpful to farmers because they eat aphids. Aphids are tiny bugs that eat plants. Ladybugs’ enemies are spiders and praying mantises.
If you find a ladybug, don’t smash it. Put it in some flowers nearby. If you like ladybugs as much as I do, then you should read The Grumpy Ladybug by Eric Carle. I love ladybugs!
Evaluation: This report was submitted by Brittany, a second grader. The ending of Brittany’s report shares exactly how she feels about her subject.
Student Model—12



Did you know horses can point their ears more than we can? Did you know that horses can groom one another? Horses can also see more than we can. They can see what is behind and what is in front of them.
Some horses live in North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. Fifty-five million years ago horses were dog sized. Horses are black, brown, white, and spotted. Horses like to eat grass. Horses live on a farm and outside.
Horses played a big role in the development of our country. They carried people west. They pulled covered wagons, firewagons, farmers’ plows, and stagecoaches. They carried the mail. In the 1900s the horse was replaced by the car and the train.
The largest horse is the Percheron. It is 21 hands high. The smallest horse is the Falabella. It is only 7 hands high. Horses usually have one baby a year. They live 25 to 35 years.
I wish I could be like a horse because they know when they are in danger. They can see so well because their eyes are on the sides of their faces.
Evaluation: Second-grade writer Kirsten shares many interesting facts in her report. Notice how she ties everything together by mentioning the horse’s good eyesight in both the first and last paragraphs.
Student Model—13

Winter Words

I see the snow glittering in the sky.
I have goosebumps going down my spine.

The beautiful smell of candles
burning all night,
the new smell of winter shining bright,
snow is on the ground.
The magnificent winter in my hand.

Icy lakes cracked by too much pressure,
the glorious sight of winter.
Evaluation: Jess uses his senses to describe winter in this poem.
Student Model—14

If I Were President

If I were president, I’d be responsible. I’d look alert and run the United States like it should be run. I’d be honest. Then the people would trust me. I would be a good president because I have faith in the people of the United States.
Evaluation: Austin, the second-grade writer of this expository paragraph, introduces his subject—how to be a good president—in an interesting way.
Student Model—15

One Great Book

I love the book McBungle Down Under by Brenda Parkes. My favorite part is when McBungle tried to get the koala in the gum tree.
I like the book because it is so funny. I really like the end. It's great when they go to the pet shop and get a pet. If you like animals, you would like this book, too!
Evaluation: This book review is well organized and shares interesting details related to the book.
Student Model—16

A Fable

Once there was a bunny. He had a big problem. He didn’t think he was special. He wanted to be someone different. He went for a walk.
First he met a lion. The lion said, “What are you doing, little rabbit? It is a lot of work watching my kingdom.”
“Well, then, I’ll be on my way,” said the little rabbit. He thought, “I don't want to be a lion!”
Then he met a turtle. The turtle said, “What are you doing, little bunny? I have a long way to go and I’m really slow.”
“Well, then, I’ll be off.”
The last animal he saw was a mouse. The mouse said, “I’m on the run from a cat.”
“Then I’ll leave you alone,” said the little bunny. The bunny thought, “I’m fine the way I am.” So the little bunny learned that he was fine the way he is.
Evaluation: This writing shows that the writer has a real grasp of the meaning of a fable. It has some delightful details.
Student Model—17

The Missing Coin

It was the day after St. Patrick’s Day and all the little leprechauns were settling down for a nap. But one leprechaun named Sly was wide awake. He had lost his magic coin!
Meanwhile a little girl named Emma had found the leprechaun’s magic coin. “Hey, look at this!” she exclaimed to her mom.
“Wow,” said her mom, “I think it's a real leprechaun coin. Without it the leprechaun can’t get around very fast. You'd better go to the woods and try to find the leprechaun who lost it.” So the girl hurried off into the woods.
A few minutes after the girl entered the woods she saw a little leprechaun moving very slowly through a patch of three-leaf clovers. She said, “Here’s your coin back.” The leprechaun was very grateful. He gave the girl three wishes and set off, never to lose his coin again.
Evaluation: This story is well organized, and the sentences flow smoothly. There are lots of details and excellent word choices.
Student Model—18

The Sled Run

One day it snowed like crazy! So school was cancelled. I had Amy over to play. We decided to go sledding. So we started to slide down the hill. We sledded for a long time.
One time we decided to go down together. Amy sat in the front seat and I sat in the back. We started to go down the hill. Then CRASH! We ran into a bush!
Amy went flying and I got my feet caught in the bush! Amy looked like a spider caught in its own spider web. I had a lot of fun that day, and I will never forget it!
Evaluation: This author brings excitement to her story when she paints a picture of her friend sprawled like a spider.
Student Model—19

The Funny Dance

I remember when my dog Murphy was really little. She was only two or three years old. It was on Christmas. My dad put on some Christmas music and Murphy put her paws up in the air and started swirling around in circles. Then she put her paws on my dad’s hands and they started dancing together. It was very funny, and my dad thought that Murphy was a good dancer!
Evaluation: The writer’s descriptions in this narrative make it a vivid and memorable story.
Student Model—20
1256 Cherry Street
Troy, MI 48003
June 2, 2000
Dear Ms. Nathan,
You put hearts in the envelope!
You look great in the picture! Wow, traveling to Yosemite Park sounds cool. And it’s nice you and Dr. Nathan are doing something special every weekend.
That’s great that you are playing the Mozart Concerto in C, even though you are playing an easy version. Yes! I am proud of you. I am in Level 3 in piano.
Morse School is really looking great. They are almost done remodeling. I wish you could see it. I think we’ll get to move back in soon.
My new teacher is Ms. Porter. Many of the kids you had last year are in Ms. Porter’s class.
Please write back and tell me about California.
P.S. We had a lot of snow, about 17 inches.
Evaluation: The author’s personal voice comes through loud and clear in this friendly letter submitted by third-grader Andrea.
Student Model—21

Plastic, Paper, or Cloth?

We have a big decision to make. We can use cloth, paper, or plastic bags. I choose cloth because paper uses trees, and plastic uses petroleum; so we should use cloth. Cloth bags are easy to take with you and use again and again. We need to keep our earth clean, so let’s use cloth. Remember, recycle and reuse.
Evaluation: This short persuasive paragraph is based on a model that third-grader Rachel submitted. She begins her writing in a way that makes the reader want to keep reading. The reader wants to find out what decision she is talking about.
Student Model—22

How to Make Boiled Eggs

Materials: a pan, hot water, one or more eggs
Step one: Pour the hot water into the pan and let it boil on the stove.
Step two: When that’s done, put the eggs into the boiling water.
Step three: Let them sit for about 10 minutes. Take the eggs out. Let them cool for about 5 minutes.
Step four: If they’re still hot, let them cool for about 3 more minutes.
Step five: Get a plate and a spoon. Peel off the eggshells and eat the eggs with a little salt and pepper.
That is how to make boiled eggs.
Evaluation: This model of “How-To” writing is based on a model submitted by Dagmary. She has decided to list the steps in her recipe instead of putting them in paragraph form.
Student Model—23 (Research Writing)


You should never race a cheetah. Do you know why? Because you'll always lose. That’s because cheetahs are very fast runners. They can run up to 75 miles per hour.
The cheetah gets its food by running. But sometimes the lion takes over and grabs the food. That's mean!
Cheetahs are carnivores. That means they eat meat. Their prey are gazelles and rodents. The cheetah lives and finds food in Africa.
The cheetah and the lion eat each other. If the cheetah is weaker, the lion eats the cheetah, and it's the same with the other.
The cheetah has up to three to five babies. The cheetah has larger litters than other cats, but on average only two cubs live into adulthood.
Cheetahs are amazing. I hope you like cheetahs. I know I do!
Evaluation: The beginning paragraph of this writer's report invites the reader to keep going. The details show that she knows a lot about cheetahs.
Student Model—24

Hello, Spring!

When spring is in the air,
Most of the flowers care.
All the leaves grow on trees,
And the people with allergies sneeze.
All the boys run out,
And their parents shout.
We all sing about the day
That spring flew into replay
Evaluation: Connor, a third grader, rhymes words in his poem about spring.

Grades 4-5

Student Model—25


One day, on the way home from school, my mom told me she was going to make up some new rules for me and my brothers and sisters. Before this, we knew she wanted us to be good, but we really didn’t have any rules. Well, Mom took care of that. On Sunday, she started giving us the “house rules.”
Clean your rooms every other day. Be ready for dinner at 7:00 p.m. (that means sitting at the table, with clean hands). If Mom is having a meeting in the house, be very quiet (that means turn down the music and the TV). Be ready for bed at 9:30 p.m. (that means lying in bed, with clean faces). Get up at 7:30 a.m. to get ready for school (that means your feet are on the floor, not just hanging off the bed). Take the garbage cans to the curb on Monday morning before school. Clean the bathroom on Thursday.
Following these rules isn’t too hard, and sometimes it’s even fun. Other times, it can be tough. For instance, if your room is really dirty, and you can’t finish cleaning it on that day, you have to finish it on the next day, along with anything else you have to do. That can be hard.
Mom made these rules because she loves us a lot. She wants us to learn how to be on time, be clean and neat, and be polite. Every day, we try to follow her rules.
Evaluation: This model is based on an essay submitted by fourth-grader Isabel. In the second paragraph, Isabel adds interest and humor to her writing by including her personal comments in parentheses.
Student Model—26

My Mother

Do you have someone who is great, spends time with you, cares for you, and is an important person? Well, I do, and she has black hair, brown eyes, and a caring touch. That’s my mom.
My mom talks to me about many things. One of the things she talks to me about is what will happen when I grow up. She tells me what to do in case of an emergency. And one day I had a really bad day with my friends, and she told me what to do about it.
My mom and I spend a lot of time together. We play games, bake cookies, make necklaces, and draw doodle tricks. But our favorite thing to do is read. Our favorite book is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
Mom takes me shopping at the mall. We buy toys and clothes, and we eat at the café. We usually get Chinese food or go to a McDonald’s restaurant. When we ride the escalator, my mom pretends to fall back and says, “My shoestring’s stuck!”
My mom always laughs, and when she laughs she sounds like a hyena gone crazy! She doesn’t laugh every day, but when she does, it’s hilarious, and I have to laugh, too!
My mom is the greatest. I love how she jokes around. She is always fun no matter what, and she gives me great advice. My mom is more than a mom; she is like my best friend!

Evaluation: Fourth-grader Abigail wrote an essay that describes how great her mother is. She includes both serious and fun reasons!
Student Model—27

Grandpa, Chaz, and Me

It was a few months before my brother was born. My grandpa was perfectly fine, but then he went to the doctor for a checkup. The doctors found something wrong. They said they had to run some tests. Then they said he had colon cancer. The doctors wanted to run more tests, so Grandpa had to stay in the hospital for a while.
After he got home, I played with him. He would always play with me and do all sorts of stuff. I loved my grandpa. I liked to hear him play his harmonica. He even tried to teach me how to play it.
Then he had to go back to the hospital for surgery. He stayed there for a while. When he went back home, we went to his house. When we got there, my grandpa was lying on the couch. A couple of hours later, he died. I was scared, but I was only three years old. I was glad that I could see him and say good-bye. My grandpa died August 27, 1994.
Four months later, on December 31, 1994, my brother Chaz was born. I wish Grandpa could have lived to see my brother. I really miss Grandpa, and so does my brother, even though he never met him. My grandpa did know that the new baby would be a boy because the doctor secretly gave him a note, and it made Grandpa smile.

Evaluation: Cody, a fourth grader, writes about his wish that his little brother could have known their grandfather.
Student Model—28

Jet Bikes

Have you ever run a business from a playhouse? My friends and I have. It is a bike shop. We call it Jet Bikes.
One day my friend Trent asked me and my brother Jared if we wanted to build a bike shop out of his old playhouse. Jared and I said, “Yes.” So we went to get permission from my mom to go to Trent’s house and get started.
The first thing we did was get some things out of his garage. We got old, rusty bolts; new, shiny nuts; black tape; wrenches; half-empty cans of oil; and screws. Then we built a new roof for the playhouse. We also had to clean the dirt and leaves out of it.
So far we’ve only worked on our own bikes because not many people know about our shop. We had to fix Trent’s chain a few times. We also had to fix his tire because it would go flat every five minutes. We changed the inner tube and also used some stuff called “No More Flats.” Now it never goes flat!
When we are older, we plan on putting signs up around town and maybe even an ad in the newspaper. We will work on bikes as big as 20 speeds and as small as bikes with training wheels. We hope to have a lot of customers.
Do you think you’ll ever come here with a bike for my friends and me to work on? I hope so because it would be fun to have some customers, and it might be fun for you to have kids fix your bike!

Evaluation: Fifth-grader Ethan moves the reader smoothly through his personal narrative with transition words like first, then, also, so far, and when.
Student Model—29


One day, on the way home from school, my mom told me she was going to make up some new rules for me and my brothers and sisters. Before this, we knew she wanted us to be good, but we really didn’t have any rules. Well, Mom took care of that. On Sunday, she started giving us the “house rules.”
Clean your rooms every other day. Be ready for dinner at 7:00 p.m. (that means sitting at the table, with clean hands). If Mom is having a meeting in the house, be very quiet (that means turn down the music and the TV). Be ready for bed at 9:30 p.m. (that means lying in bed, with clean faces). Get up at 7:30 a.m. to get ready for school (that means your feet are on the floor, not just hanging off the bed). Take the garbage cans to the curb on Monday morning before school. Clean the bathroom on Thursday.
Following these rules isn’t too hard, and sometimes it’s even fun. Other times, it can be tough. For instance, if your room is really dirty, and you can’t finish cleaning it on that day, you have to finish it on the next day, along with anything else you have to do. That can be hard.
Mom made these rules because she loves us a lot. She wants us to learn how to be on time, be clean and neat, and be polite. Every day, we try to follow her rules.

Evaluation: This model is based on an essay submitted by fourth-grader Isabel. In the second paragraph, Isabel adds interest and humor to her writing by including her personal comments in parentheses.
Student Model—30

My Mother

Do you have someone who is great, spends time with you, cares for you, and is an important person? Well, I do, and she has black hair, brown eyes, and a caring touch. That’s my mom.
My mom talks to me about many things. One of the things she talks to me about is what will happen when I grow up. She tells me what to do in case of an emergency. And one day I had a really bad day with my friends, and she told me what to do about it.
My mom and I spend a lot of time together. We play games, bake cookies, make necklaces, and draw doodle tricks. But our favorite thing to do is read. Our favorite book is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
Mom takes me shopping at the mall. We buy toys and clothes, and we eat at the café. We usually get Chinese food or go to a McDonald’s restaurant. When we ride the escalator, my mom pretends to fall back and says, “My shoestring’s stuck!”
My mom always laughs, and when she laughs she sounds like a hyena gone crazy! She doesn’t laugh every day, but when she does, it’s hilarious, and I have to laugh, too!
My mom is the greatest. I love how she jokes around. She is always fun no matter what, and she gives me great advice. My mom is more than a mom; she is like my best friend!

Evaluation: Fourth-grader Abigail wrote an essay that describes how great her mother is. She includes both serious and fun reasons!
Student Model—02


Do you have a friend who loves you? Well, I did. Her name was Ann. She was a very close friend of mine. She was almost like family to me. Ann was very kind, and she had bright blue eyes and curly gray hair. I loved her very much.
She invited me to go swimming every summer. We had a lot of fun all those summers. But she could not get in the water most of the time because she was sick. Sometimes my sisters would come swimming, too. But it was better with just Ann and me because I just wanted to spend time with her.
Ann always listened to me when I had a problem. She was always there for me when I needed help on homework or had problems at school. Sometimes she would let me come in her house, and she would give me something to eat. Most of the time it would be an orange and a soft drink.
Last summer that all changed. Ann was diagnosed with cancer. Two weeks after Ann was diagnosed with cancer, she died. Her funeral was not too long after that. My mom did not let me go to the visitation at the funeral home or to the funeral ceremony.
My heart broke. Ann was no longer there with me. Now, it’s been a year since Ann’s death, but I still dream about her. Now it’s hard without her. My whole life has changed without Ann, and I really miss her. I know that everywhere I go there will always be a spot in my heart for Ann!

Evaluation: Kendra, a fourth grader, submitted this model in which she shares a very personal experience.
Student Model—02

The Day I Took the Spotlight

Wouldn’t it be superb to have one moment when you took the spotlight, to have everybody clapping for you and cheering loudly? I have had that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—the day I took the spotlight!
Sometime in February, my teacher told us all about the Woodmen of America speech contest. The topic was “people who have overcome obstacles in their lives.” I thought my great-grandma Lorraine Parsley, who has had recurring cancer 13 times and is still living, would be perfect. She has overcome a lot of obstacles in her life.
A couple weeks later, the class gave their presentations. My teacher had to pick three to five students to go on to the next level. I was one of them! Then the top five from each of the three fifth-grade classes competed. The top seven would be the finalists; again, I was one of them! The top seven worked really hard. We had until March 15, 2001, to practice.
March 15 rolled around. Before I knew it, I was in our school gym with people all around, including the judges, listening to every word I said. I was the sixth to present. I was soon done; what a relief! I knew the top seven got ribbons, certificates, and pins; but I still wanted that trophy.
After the seventh person finished, the judges made their final decisions. They announced the winners. The third-place winner was Aunum, the second-place winner was Sarah, and the first-place winner was Kelli! I had just won first place! I was ecstatic.
That was my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The students in the audience were going wild clapping and cheering! That was a moment I will always remember, when I took the spotlight!

Evaluation: Fifth-grader Kelli begins this personal narrative with a question that captures the reader’s interest.
Student Model—02

Indy’s Life Story

I am going to tell you about my dog and how I got him. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but at some point my parents asked if I wanted to have a dog. I, of course, said yes. We couldn’t decide what kind of dog to get at first, but at last we found a great breed, the Shetland sheepdog. We called a good breeder. I was so excited about getting a dog!
Before I knew it, I was on my way to the breeder. I went inside and saw dogs everywhere. It was so hard to pick which one to get. I saw one I liked. It was a small blue merle. He looked perfect, so I asked if we could get him. It turned out that he was too young to sell. So I kept looking. When I finally decided on one, we were all very happy. It still took a few weeks until he was old enough to bring home. It seemed to take forever until the day came, but it did.
It was so exciting. We were on our way to pick up our newest family member. When we went to pick him up, we realized that we had everything except the most important thing, a name! On our way home, we came up with what seemed like the perfect name: Indiana. This name came from his head coloring, believe it or not. His head was the same color as Indiana Jones’s hat. Like all dog names, it was shortened to Indy and eventually shortened to Ind.
We loved Indy, yet it wasn’t all fun and games. We had to make major adjustments for him. When he was young, we had to blockade parts of the house because they were too dangerous for him. Another reason we had to block things off was that Indy was not yet housebroken. We also had to move my cat’s food because Indy kept eating it. Finally, we had to build him a kennel.
Yes, we had to make a lot of changes, but Indy has changed a lot since the day we got him. He is no longer a puppy, and he is housebroken! Now he’s pretty much everyone’s buddy. We are so glad we found him.

Evaluation: Elliot, a fifth grader, submitted the model that this narrative is based on. Elliot shares the details of his personal experience in chronological order, just as they happened. He ends his narrative with good feelings about his dog.
Student Model—31

My Favorite Place to Go

Do you have a favorite place to go—a place with family, good weather, and fun things to do like crabbing? I’m glad I do. New Jersey is my favorite place for many reasons.
The first reason is my family. Over half of my family lives in New Jersey. When I visit, my cousins and I laugh and play all day and night. My uncles and aunts take me to the boardwalk where we ride tall, long roller coasters. We devour juicy caramel-covered apples and foot-long hot dogs. My family is fun to be with.
The second reason for New Jersey being my favorite place is the weather. Instead of being hot and sweaty, it’s always cool and moist. When I think about my visits, I can just feel the crisp fall breeze in my hair. I can just see the white, fluffy winter snow. I can just hear the soft spring trickles of rain splashing on the sidewalks. I can just feel the warm summer sun on my face. The weather is great!
The third reason for New Jersey being my favorite place is crabbing. If it’s crab season, we crab. We keep the blue crabs and the snow crabs, and we let the others go. Sometimes we catch crabs on hooks, and sometimes we lower crab cages into the bay. Then we pull them out later. One time my brother caught a crab so big that it got stuck in the crab cage! The crab finally got out, but it hurt one of its legs and broke the cage trying. Poor crab!
For all these reasons, New Jersey is my favorite place to go. If you don’t have a favorite place, I think you should search for one. It’s good to visit a favorite place—a place where you can make special memories. By the way, if you crab at your special place, be sure to get a big crab cage.

Evaluation: This model is based on an essay submitted by fourth-grader Mia. She uses some vivid verbs and sensory details—“devour juicy caramel-covered apples,” “crisp fall breeze,” “soft spring trickles of rain splashing the sidewalks,” “warm summer sun”—to help the reader experience her favorite place.
Student Model—32

Shadow Fort

I have a place I love to go. It’s a fort, or a clubhouse, where I can go with friends. We can hang out there, plan neat stuff, eat, and rest. Shadow Fort is my favorite place for lots of reasons.
First of all, there’s plenty of room for a few kids. It’s large (gargantuan to me). The fort is 3 ft. 8 in. high, 5 ft. 3 in. long, and 3 ft. 6 in. wide. There’s a place in back (we call it the pantry) for crackers, grapefruit, avacadoes, potatoes, carrots, berries, and Spanish moss. The roof is made of 4-ft. palm leaves and smaller fronds.
Second, this fort is the first structure I ever built, with the help of my friend Kevin. We built it during a light shower. It was only a few vines that tangled together to make a kind of cave that we could crawl under. We worked fast to put palm fronds and leaves over the vines. “Quick! Let’s get inside!” I shouted to Kevin. We got inside in the nick of time. It began to rain powerfully, and oh how the wind blew! But our fort kept us safe and dry. Later we named it Shadow Fort because it sits in a shady area.
Finally, Shadow Fort is my favorite place because it has everything we need. We keep food in the pantry, a small cot to sit on, and we even have a plywood door. One time Kevin fell out of a tree and hurt his ankle. I helped him back to Shadow Fort where he rested on the cot. Then I made some “dinner”—crackers, carrots, and berries for dessert.
Can you see why Shadow Fort is my favorite place? I hope so. When I’m there, I feel happy as a cat with cream!

Evaluation: This model is based on an essay submitted by fourth-grader Amy. She combines narrative writing with descriptive writing by telling two interesting stories about her favorite place—(1) how she built the fort and (2) a special time she spent there with a hurt friend.
Student Model—33

Adopting a Pet from the Pound

Owning a pet from the pound or Animal Rescue League has many advantages. First of all, a child feels good about rescuing an abandoned or abused animal and giving it a whole new life. Besides, if the animals from the pound aren’t adopted right away, they might be put to sleep. Having a pet also means lots of responsibilities. A child has to feed, clean up after, brush, and exercise the pet.
Another great advantage of having a pet from the pound is the price of these cute and cuddly animals. Pets from the pound cost only a few dollars while pets at a fancy pet store can cost hundreds of dollars.
Once you adopt a pet from the Animal Rescue League, it will quickly become a part of your family. If you are thinking of adopting a pet, you might consider choosing a dog or a cat. Dogs and cats can bring lots of happy times to a family, and they can be excellent companions for a person who lives alone or someone who has lost a loved one. Dogs are also a wonderful source of protection. Cats are funny, and they may help to calm people down when they are sad or mad.
Please consider adopting an animal. If you remember all of the advantages of adopting a pet from the pound, you might find the bird, mouse, hamster, dog, or cat of your choice.

Evaluation: This model is based on an essay submitted by fourth-grader Kristyn. She clearly states her opinion in the first paragraph. Then she shares a supporting reason in each of the middle paragraphs.
Student Model—34

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,
I’m writing to you about the Teacher-Who-Made-a-Difference contest. Ms. Wells made a difference to me! I think she should be the winner of your contest. Ms. Wells has done so much for me and for all of her students; this is the least I can do for her.
First of all, Ms. Wells is helpful. She’s willing to help anyone in the classroom who needs help. My teacher always helps us with worksheets. On Friday, she showed me how to do something in math. If you ask her for help, she’ll help you.
In addition, Ms. Wells is a kind person. She always lets her students stay in from recess. On February 26, she let our class have a Colonial Day. We got to dress up like colonists; it was a blast! Not only is she kind to kids, but she’s also kind to other teachers and parents. She is always thoughtful and considerate.
Lastly, Ms. Wells donates her time to kids. She donates her lunch recess for Student Council, which meets in her room. Last fall, Ms. Wells promised me that she would come to one of my soccer games. Guess what? She did, even though she had a lot of school stuff to correct and had to leave for Chicago.
In conclusion, I think Ms. Wells should be the winner of your contest. She is helpful and kind and gives her free time to students. I know you will agree with me that Ms. Wells is a Teacher Who Made a Difference. She’s the best!

Evaluation: Fifth-grader Melissa clearly states her opinion in the first paragraph. She shares supporting ideas, with details, in the middle paragraphs. In her conclusion, she restates her opinion in a fresh way.
Student Model—35

A Story of Survival

“Brian Robeson was stopped and stricken with a white flash of horror, a terror so intense that his breathing, his thinking, and his heart had nearly stopped.” This quote from the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen shows why this book was too good to put down.
Brian Robeson, an eleven-year-old boy, left his home in New York to go to Canada to see his father. He was on a plane (a two-person plane) in the middle of the Canadian forest when the pilot had a heart attack. Brian was stranded in the air with no real knowledge of how to fly a plane. Brian had to make the BIGGEST decision of his life: whether to keep flying or just let the plane drop. If he let it drop, the only weapon he had was a hatchet.
I feel that the author of this book, Gary Paulsen, is trying to tell his readers, “If you believe in yourself, you can survive on your own.”
I really liked this book because it sounded like it could really happen. I enjoy books like that, and I’d recommend this book to anyone. Also, as I said, it kept me reading. I couldn’t put it down until I found out what was going to happen to Brian.

Evaluation: Opening with a quotation is a great way to begin a book review. Kelsey, the author, summarizes the plot well without giving away the whole story, and she shows genuine enthusiasm for the story.
Student Model—36

The Terror of Kansas

It was 1:00 a.m. on a warm spring Wednesday, and it was storming outside. Casey was sleeping in her bed when she was awakened by a loud blast. It was the tornado siren. Just then her parents rushed in and said, “Grab your pillow and one thing you want to save!”
She decided to grab her dog, who was sleeping in her room. Most of her other things she could replace, but she couldn’t replace a living thing. Then she heard a loud crash and ran downstairs with the trembling dog in her arms. When they were all downstairs, they started listening to the weather radio. The weatherman said that an F5 tornado was heading straight for Silver Lake Trailer Park, and, unfortunately, that’s where Casey lived. Soon Casey could hear the loud rumbling noise of her house being thrown this way and that. The basement door was shaking like a giant was trying to get it open. She put the pillow over her head and tried to forget what was happening.
Many of Casey’s things were blown away—her bed, her dresser, her bookshelf, her books, and the painting her grandma had given her. Some of her books were found far away from her house, and her broken-up dresser was found a half mile away. Thankfully, her dog and her family were okay, but many neighbors were not okay.
The tornado had lasted 20 minutes. So much had been lost in this terrible storm. Casey felt she would never be the same. She knew she would always remember the night that Mother Nature showed her destructive powers—the night Casey called Kansas Terror.

Evaluation: Fifth-grader Ashley begins her story in the middle of the action. After the first paragraph, the reader is hooked and needs to know . . . “What happens next?”
Student Model—37

Chloe’s Day

The first thing I do when I wake up is lick myself with my pink, scratchy tongue. Then I get up and stretch. First I stretch my front legs, then I stretch my back legs. Next, I go wake up Erin’s mom by scratching on her door. Sometimes she sprays me with a squirt bottle filled with water to stop me, but mostly she gives me my favorite smelly salmon cat food with medicine in it. Then I sleep until lunch.
When I wake up again, my stomach is growling, so I meow for more food. Usually Erin’s mom gives me more, but sometimes she tells me to go eat my hard, dry cat food. After lunch, I look out the patio door for birds, chipmunks, and squirrels. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, a chipmunk comes to the door and says hi. Then I lunge at the window to say hello back, but he scurries away with his tail up in the air. Next, I go into the den and lie on the floor for a rest. Then I notice a fuzzy twitching thing right next to me, and I start to chase it. After people start laughing at me, I realize that it is my own tail! After all that, I go into the living room and sleep again.
When I wake up, it is supper time, and I am hungry. I want to eat again. Erin or her mom serves me some more scrumptious, smelly salmon cat food. Ahh! That tastes good. Then it’s time to go outside. I have an exciting time avoiding the sly coyotes and chasing after little night creatures.
Finally, Erin’s dad opens the door to let me in. I go to Erin’s bed and sleep the rest of the night. Then a new day arrives, and my adventures start all over again.

Evaluation: Erin, fifth grade, tells her story from the point of view of her cat. The closing lines bring this adventure full circle.
Student Model—38

The Haunted House

Have you ever been trick-or-treating when you came upon an old house and wanted to explore it? Well, I’ll tell you a story about five kids, Jake, Zach, John, Bob, and Sean, who did it.
They were trick-or-treating in their neighborhood, going door-to-door, when they came upon an old house. “Let's go in,” Sean said. Everybody said they would.
They started up the walk. The grass was overgrown, and there were a couple of broken windows. They got to the door, and it opened by itself. They went inside. They had flashlights with them, so they turned them on. The house was covered in cobwebs.
They saw a sign that said, “Beware,” and it was pointing up to the second floor. They decided to go upstairs. When they got there, they saw a hallway with three rooms. One room had an old bed and a dresser. The second room was a bathroom. The third room was a sitting room.
When they entered the third room, someone said, “Hello.” All the boys screamed and ran downstairs.
When they were at the door, the voice said, “Don’t you guys want some candy?” They turned around and saw a man with candy standing in the hallway.
They ran as fast as they could to Bob’s house. When they got there, they described the man to Bob’s mom. She said, “That sounds like Mr. Craig. He lived there when I was a kid, but he died 30 years ago.”

Evaluation: Fifth-grader Tommy includes lots of details in a story that leads up to a surprise ending.
Student Model—39

Height-Challenged German Shepherd

Have you ever seen a dog with big ears and short legs? Was it so irresistibly cute you just wanted to take it home? Chances are, you were looking at a Pembroke Welsh corgi. Let me introduce you to a dog of very high intelligence.
Since Welsh corgis are so intelligent, they are easy to train. One of the jobs they are good at is herding sheep and cattle. Welsh corgis are also very loyal companions for people of all ages.
The Welsh corgi’s small size means it doesn’t take up much room as a pet. Its average height is 10-12 inches, and an adult dog weighs approximately 25-30 pounds.
Welsh corgis were originally bred in Wales. They come in several colors: red, sable, fawn, or black and tan, with or without white markings. Their coats are a medium length, and they need to be groomed and exercised regularly to stay healthy. The corgi’s life span is 12 to 14 years.
Welsh corgis are known for being bold but kind, friendly, and alert. They are friendly to all, good with children, and rarely aggressive. Next time you see a dog that looks like a German shepherd in the front seat of a car, look again. It may be a dog with a full-sized body and half-sized legs—not a height-challenged German shepherd. When it hops out, you might just drop your jaw.
Evaluation: Layton, a fifth grader, grabs the reader’s attention with a couple of questions and a clear picture of what he is planning to talk about in his report. Notice the effective use of humor in the final paragraph.

Student Model—40

Deer Don’t Need to Flee to Stay Trouble-Free!

Have you ever been in trouble and wanted to get away? The white-tailed deer can swim, run, hide, and fight to stay out of trouble. If you want to know how they do it, read on.
In early April, fawns (baby deer) are born. After a few weeks, the doe (the mother deer) leaves her fawns to find food. The doe leaves her fawns in a bushy place. The trees and grass can help keep the fawns from being seen by hungry predators. The white-tailed deer has many predators, such as these: mountain lions, bobcats, leopards, lions, dogs, bears, tigers, coyotes, wolves, and even humans.
The fawns’ camouflage hides them in April’s trees and golden grasses. In spring, the fawns’ fur is brown with white spots. In summer, the fawns’ white spots disappear and never come back. In winter, their fur is gray, which helps them hide in the snow.
When the deer see, smell, or hear something suspicious, they stick their white tails up to signal that danger is near. The leader will run, and the others will follow.
When a deer is chased to water, it knows what to do. The deer will win this battle. The deer runs into the water and swims to the deepest part. If the predator thinks it’s going to win the battle, it is wrong. The deer will kick and thrash until the predator drowns or walks off wounded.
If a deer is in a wide-open field and notices a predator, it will run zigzag to get away. It runs zigzag to confuse the predator. If the deer ran straight, it could become a venison feast.
There is one more way that deer stay out of trouble. Bucks fight with weapons called antlers. These are different from horns because they are attached to the skull, and horns are not. Antlers are made of bone and have vitamins in them. The deer can use its antlers to protect itself.
Deer stay safe by hiding, swimming, running, and fighting. Whenever you see a deer raise its tail, you know that it has seen a predator.

Evaluation: Dylan, the fourth-grade writer of this model, concludes the report by repeating the main points he explained in the body.

Grades 6-8

Student Model—41

A Lesson to Learn

My little brother is so irritating. All day long he says, “Eddie, I wonder why people can talk but animals can’t.” Or, “I wonder why the ocean looks blue.” Of course, I don’t know the answers, but I don’t let him know that. I just make up reasonable explanations, and he accepts them as if I’m the smartest person in the world. Before I answer one of his questions, I usually tell him that he’s pretty stupid and asks too many questions.
Well, yesterday we both got our report cards. I got B’s and C’s, and he got straight A’s. Under the “Comments” section on my report card, it said, “Eddie would be getting better grades if he asked more questions.” Of course, on my brother’s report card, it said just the opposite.
To make things worse, my brother squawked all day about how I was so stupid for not asking questions! I just sighed and told him he was right—I wouldn't make fun of him anymore for asking so many questions.
Yes, I learned a lesson from my little brother: Never be afraid to ask questions, and NEVER be afraid to wonder why.

Evaluation: Eddie, a seventh grader, wrote a brief journal entry about his little brother’s annoying habit of asking questions all the time—and how it taught him a lesson.
Student Model—42

The Racist Warehouse

It was a beautiful August morning. The sun was brightly shining on my sunglasses while my mother drove the U-haul truck to a warehouse in Santa Ana, California. As my mother drove down the streets of Santa Ana, I looked out the window and began to realize that the mixture of people was no longer a mixture; there was only white.
When we arrived at the warehouse, I had to peel my arm off the side of the hot door like a burnt sausage off a skillet. There were not many cars in the parking lot, and I could see the heat waves. As we walked up the boiling pavement, it felt like we were walking through a scorching desert. When we walked into the warehouse, there was a variety of electronic appliances to choose from, and about three-fourths of them were white (of course).
About every 15 minutes, a salesperson followed us around and asked if we needed help, as if we were retarded or ex-cons. My mother really dislikes it when salespersons constantly ask if we need help; she feels if she needs their help, she’ll ask for it. Finally, after about two and a half boring hours of looking for any scratches or marks on the dryers and refrigerators that might fit best in our new apartment, my mother picked a dryer and refrigerator that were just right. She then let the salesperson know, and he replied with a smile, “All right, you can pick up your items in the back in about five minutes.” My mother said, “Thank you,” in a nice, friendly voice and walked across the scorched pavement to drive the truck to the back.
When we got to the back, there were about three open spaces for picking up appliances. My mother chose the first parking spot she saw, which was by a white family’s car. Then she showed the employees the receipt for the appliances she had just bought. They said, “All right, we’ll be with you in just a minute.” While I waited for my mother, I looked over and smiled at the white lady in the next car, but instead of smiling back like a nice young woman, she frowned at me like I had something hanging from my nose. At first I thought, “Well, maybe she is having a bad day.” Then a few minutes later the people working at the warehouse started to look at my mother and me in a mean way. Then I figured that maybe something was on my face, but when I looked in the mirror, I saw nothing. At the time, I had only spent nine years and some months on this planet. I didn’t know racism was still around; I thought that situation had died along with Dr. King.
Five minutes passed, then ten, then fifteen. We sat there watching people get their appliances and leave. We seemed invisible to them. As I sat in the car, burning up and listening to one of the most boring radio stations my mother could possibly like, I was thinking, “We’d better leave or else I’ll go ballistic!” After 30 minutes had passed, my mother got frustrated and politely asked to have our items loaded. Five more minutes passed, and she asked again with an attitude. They replied, “We’ll be with you in a minute, ma’am.” I could tell she was beginning to get upset because she started to get that “don’t bother me” look. Five minutes later they finally packed our appliances on the truck.
When we left the warehouse, I described to my mother what the other people were doing. She explained, “They were racist. They didn’t like us because we have different skin color.”
That was my first encounter with racism. It was just a small slice of reality—that everyone isn’t going to be as nice as you, your friends, and your family might be; and that just because you look nice and politely smile at others, it doesn’t mean that others will treat you the same. This situation made me feel very out of place and confused. I didn’t expect those people to react as they did. We are all civilized, intelligent, caring, peaceful people . . . or at least that is what I had believed.

Evaluation: This personal narrative by eighth-grader Alicia presents an engaging voice. Read the essay and notice how Alicia’s personality comes through; she obviously cares about her subject. Her use of details gives the reader a clear picture of the characters and environment in this account of Alicia’s first encounter with racism.
Student Model—43

Giving Life

It was a hot summer day. My dad and I were getting ready to go out for a ride on the boat with my friend Katie and the dog. That’s when the phone call came, the call that made that bright, beautiful day a cold, dark, gloomy one.
I had just put on my suit, shorts, and tank top, and packed my bag with sunscreen and everything else I would need for the day. I ran into my parents’ room to find Dad. When I saw him on the phone, he was crying. I’d never seen my dad cry before. My heart sank. What possibly could have happened?
“Max, I’m so sorry,” I heard him say. That’s when it hit me. I knew that Suzie had died.
Max has been my dad’s best friend for years. Suzie, his daughter, had a rare disease that mainly affected her body. Her brain was OK. She knew what was going on; she knew that she had problems and was different than other kids. Once she told her dad that she wished she could die and be born in a different body. Yet although she couldn’t live a normal life, she was still happy.
When Suzie and I were little, we spent quite a bit of time together. As we grew up, we grew apart. She lived in New York, and I lived in the Midwest. When Suzie was ten she had to live in a hospital in Virginia. About eight months before she died, Max gave us her number at the hospital and we talked at least twice a week until the end. Suzie was always so excited to talk to us and wanted to know every detail about my life. She wanted to know everything I did and everything I ate. In a way, she lived through me.
After we found out about her death, we made our plans to go to New York for the funeral. When she was alive, I sent her a Beanie Baby and she sent one back to me. I had bought her another one but never had the chance to send it to her, so I took it to put in her casket.
Her funeral was very different than any funeral I’d ever been to. After they lowered her casket, each one of us put a shovelful of dirt over her. I remember crying so hard, I felt weak. My cheeks burned from the tears. My whole body was shaking as I picked up the shovel, but I’m glad I did it.
When Suzie and I first started calling one another, I thought it would be more of a burden on me, but I was completely wrong. I learned so much from her. She gave me more than I could ever give to her. I will never forget her or the talks we had. I now know that I must never take anything for granted, especially my health and the gift of life.

Evaluation: This is a very moving narrative about a difficult experience. Sharing what she learned from this friendship makes an effective conclusion.
Student Model—44

The Great Paw Paw

Memory. The dictionary defines it as the mental ability to recall past experiences. We think of it as that picture we saw, the words she said. Who in your life is so vivid in your memory that you could describe him or her without a second thought? For me, it’s my grandpa. But when I was small, I couldn’t say “Grandpa,” so 13 years ago, Theodore Lazarus became Paw Paw.
To all the grandkids, Paw Paw was full of fun and games. We all remember his favorite expressions, the ones that would pop out each time we saw him. Luckily, we visited Paw Paw quite often. We often overheard his little squabbles. “No way, José!” Paw Paw would yell; in response, we would shout back, “Yes way, José!” and burst into giggles. My younger siblings and cousins would tell Paw Paw about school, or ballet, or baseball, or their pet iguana, and just when they got into the story, he’d roar, “No kiddin’!” with a huge smile on his face. Paw Paw helped us remember that life should be fun.
Being the oldest of all the grandchildren, I remember more than my siblings and cousins do, but we all remember how predictable Paw Paw’s clothes would be. Most likely, he’d be wearing a white cotton shirt under another shirt, which was the kind that is red or blue, has one or two breast pockets, is plaid or striped, with buttons down the front. Being loose, it covered his big, round belly. He’d be sitting in the tall wooden chair in the corner by his desk, shouting into the black telephone with the big buttons. Or, if he wasn’t there, he’d be in his black leather recliner, watching a game on TV. Sometimes he’d let us snuggle next to him.
When Paw Paw wasn’t relaxing, he’d be in the backyard garden, weeding and pulling, planting and potting, until the time came in the spring or summer when the garden came alive with the colors of the flowers and vegetables he raised. I remember his old, worn hands that did everything: built the wooden tree house for me to play in, built the toolshed, plugged in the Barbie car so it would be ready for me to ride when I came over, fixed the TVs and VCRs so I could watch “Wee Sing,” and just played blocks with his grandchildren. He always took time to play with us.
He would never tell us, but I know he was proud of all his nine grandkids. We ranged in age from 1-12 when he died last summer of a severe stroke. When I remember Paw Paw now, I think of the pictures on Grandmother’s cabinet—pictures of me and Paw Paw when I was two years old and the only grandchild. In one picture, we’re lying on the bed, me in my flowered pajamas, him in his usual outfit. I had my bottle in one hand, the Sunday comics in the other (upside down!). He was reading the comics to me so we could laugh together. I will remember that for the rest of my life, and I will remember that he always loved me.

Evaluation: Charlotte, the seventh-grade writer of this model, organizes her essay into paragraphs that describe different aspects of her subject. The closing leaves the reader with a clear idea of the important place her grandfather holds in her memory.
Student Model—45


A dictionary contains a definition of friendship somewhere in the F’s between the words “fear” and “Friday.” An encyclopedia supplies interesting facts on friendship. But all the definitions and facts do not convey what friendship is really all about. It cannot be understood through words or exaggerations. The only way to understand friendship is through experience. It is an experience that involves all the senses.
Friendship can be seen. It is seen in an old couple sitting in the park holding hands. It is the way they touch, a touch as light as a leaf floating in the autumn air, a touch so strong that years of living could not pull them apart. Friendship is seen in a child freely sharing the last cookie. It is the small arm over the shoulder of another as they walk on the playground. Seeing friendship is not casual. It is watching for subtlety, but friendship is there for eyes that can see.
Friendship can be heard. It is heard in the words of two friends who squeezed in lunch together on an extremely busy day. It is the way they talk to each other, not the words. Their tone is unique. Friendship can be heard by those willing to listen.
Friendship is felt in a touch. It is a pat on the back from a teammate, a high five between classes, the slimy, wet kiss from the family dog. It’s a touch that reassures that someone is there, someone who cares. The touch communicates more than words or gestures. It is instantly understood and speaks volumes beyond the point of contact, to the heart.
Friendship has a taste. It tastes like homemade bread, the ingredients all measured and planned, then carefully mixed and kneaded, then the quiet waiting as the dough rises. Hot from the oven, the bread tastes more than the sum of its ingredients. There is something else there, perhaps the thoughts of the baker as her hands knead the dough, or her patience as she waits for the dough to rise. Unseen and unmeasured, this is the ingredient that makes the difference. Warm, fresh from the oven with a little butter, the difference you taste is friendship.
Friendship has a smell. It smells like the slightly burnt cookies your brother made especially for you. It smells like your home when stepping into it after being away for a long time. It smells like a sandbox or a sweaty gym. Friendship has a variety of smells. Taken for granted at the moment, they define the memory of friendship.
Finally, more than the other senses, friendship is an experience of the heart. It is the language of the heart—a language without words, vowels, or consonants; a language that, whether seen, felt, heard, or tasted, is understood by the heart. Like air fills the lungs, friendship fills the heart, allowing us to experience the best life has to offer: a friend.
Evaluation: Five paragraphs in the body of this essay—one for each of the senses—provide a clear organization pattern that is easy for the reader to understand. Note that each of the five paragraphs begins with a sentence that repeats the same, simple pattern. This repetition of a sentence pattern provides unity. The use of an extended metaphor—comparing friendship to the making and baking of bread—works quite well and shows that Nate, the sixth grade writer of this essay, is willing to take creative risks.
Student Model—46

Cheating in America

Did you know that 7 out of 10 students have cheated at least once in the past year? Did you know that 50 percent of those students have cheated more than twice? These shocking statistics are from a survey of 9,000 U.S. high school students.
Incredibly, teachers may even be encouraging their students to cheat! Last year at a school in Detroit, teachers allegedly provided their students with answers to statewide standard tests. Students at the school told investigators that they were promised pizza and money if they cheated on the test as told. Similar allegations at several schools in San Diego county have prompted investigation. A student at a local high school says she sees students cheating on almost every test, and the teachers don’t do anything about it.
The kids claim that they’re tempted to cheat because of peer pressure and intense competition to get top grades. Many kids also say that their parents are setting a bad example by “fudging” on income taxes, lying about age to pay lower admission prices, or cheating their way out of a speeding ticket. They are sending a message to their kids that it is okay to cheat and lie.
Finding solutions to this problem is difficult. In our school’s math classes, each student has different problems on their test papers, so it is useless to look at someone else’s answers. Teachers could also randomly mix the problems throughout the page. Another solution is for adults to lower their expectations. Chances are that students believe cheating is the only way to meet unreasonably high expectations. Perhaps it is time for parents and teachers to seriously examine whether higher test results are important enough to encourage cheating.

Evaluation: In this problem and solution essay, sixth-grade writer Nicholas grabs the reader’s attention with some “shocking statistics” that identify the problem. The essay closes with some possible solutions as well as a point to ponder.
Student Model—47

Summer: 15 Days or 2 1/2 Months?

The final bell rings. It’s the last day of school, and summer has finally come! Students don’t have to think about school for at least another 2 1/2 months. That is the way it should always be. Schools should continue using the traditional calendar and not a year-round schedule. There are numerous downsides to year-round schooling. It has no positive effects on education, it adds to costs, and it disrupts the long-awaited summer vacation.
Contrary to the well-accepted belief, year-round schooling has no constructive impact on education. Most year-round schedules use the 45-15 method: 45 days of school followed by 15 days off. Because of this, there are many first and last days of school. All those transitions disrupt the learning process. Also, there is no evidence of higher test scores. Due to that, many schools that change to year-round schedules end up switching back. For example, since 1980, 95 percent of schools that tried the year-round schedule changed back to a traditional calendar. It is obvious that changing to year-round schooling does not help students; therefore, why is the change necessary?
Like any other facility, keeping a school open requires a great deal of money. When a school changes to a year-round schedule, the costs skyrocket. Keeping school open in the middle of summer requires air conditioning, and that adds significantly to the school’s expenses. The usual utility bills grow because of the additional open-school time. Finally, teachers must be paid for all the weeks they are working. With all these factors, the cost of keeping schools open becomes immensely high. For example, a high school in Arizona had a cost increase of $157,000 when they switched to year-round schooling. Some schools may not be able to handle such increases, and other schools that can handle these expenses could be doing better things with the money. Is year-round school really where the money should go?
An important part of a child’s life is summertime. With year-round schedules, students would hardly have any time to relax. During the 15-day breaks, they would be thinking about their quick return to school. It would also be difficult to coordinate family vacations with parents’ work schedules. Similarly, children would not be able to go to most summer camps. One expert, Dr. Peter Scales, says, “The biggest plus of camp is that camps help young people discover and explore their talents, interests, and values. Most schools don’t satisfy all these needs. Kids who have these kinds of [camp] experiences end up being healthier and have fewer problems.” Obviously, the summer is crucial to a child’s learning and development. Why should this invaluable part of a young person’s life be taken away?
It is evident that year-round schooling is not the best option for the school calendar. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional school year. Why change something that works so well? The final bell rings. Let’s make sure this bell means that the “real” summer vacation has come.

Evaluation: Jordan wants to have a nice, long summer at the end of seventh grade; her persuasive essay makes that quite evident with several points that support her opinion through the use of statistics, comparison, and expert testimony.
Student Model—48

The Best Little Girl in the World

In the book The Best Little Girl in the World, Kessa has a serious eating disorder called anorexia nervosa. But she is not alone. Many people have this eating disorder, and this book shows its harmful effects. This is an emotional and invigorating story of a determined girl and her fight to survive.
In the beginning of her story, Kessa is a normal 15-year-old. She has many talents, especially dancing. She has danced for many years and loves it. One day her dance teacher tells her to continue eating right, but maybe lose a few pounds. Once Kessa hears this, she takes things too far. Instead of cutting down on snacks and junk food, she decides to not eat at all. She does not eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Her new eating habits continue, and she begins losing weight. One after another, she loses the pounds, and her body becomes slimmer and slimmer. She loses weight to a point where she is extremely unhealthy.
As her poor eating habits continue, her parents start interfering. They want to get as much help as possible to cure their beautiful daughter. But it is just as hard for Kessa’s parents to deal with her disorder as it is for her. They are baffled by their daughter’s strict diet. She lives day in and day out, exercising to lose more pounds and planning what and when she will eat. Her parents try everything, but Kessa’s dieting continues. She is determined to have no fat on her body.
Her obsession continues. Kessa’s doctor and parents finally decide to admit her to the hospital. She is now so skinny that she can barely walk. There, she goes through a nightmare. Despite good care, all Kessa can think about is how much weight she might gain.
Throughout the rest of the book, Kessa goes through many troubles in order to cure her eating disorder. Many other people have this same disorder. This book, I think, can help to prevent people from doing this to themselves. It shows the trouble that people go through just to be slender, and all the scary things they must experience to be cured. It is an emotionally powerful book about a girl’s fight to survive, and I think every teenager should read it.

Evaluation: The voice of Joanna, the author of this book review, comes through as she reveals her concern for teenagers’ vulnerability to eating disorders.
Student Model—49

A Cowboy's Journal

I am so upset at myself. I don’t know where my head was. Finally, here I was, with $80 to my name (which is meager compensation for a two-month cattle drive), and then I lose it all gambling. Just one night, and now I am bankrupt all over again. Yesterday was my 22nd birthday, as well as my payday, so I allowed myself a little gambling in Abilene, Kansas, a cow town. But I got so caught up in the action that I couldn’t stop, and pretty soon, I was broke.
I had been hoping to save enough money to start my own business, Bronco Jones and Company, but I suppose that will just have to wait for the next cattle drive. Hopefully, by then I will have better sense.
But enough talk about that. I shall write about the cattle drive, in case I ever look back in this journal 20 years from now and wonder what it was like. Cowhands have very tough jobs, not to mention boring at times. I am a swing rider, and I help keep the cattle from straying. There are several other cowhands and, of course, a point rider and a cook. Lucky for us, we now have a talented cook who can turn anything into a delicious meal. We've had much worse cooks in the past.
One little piece of excitement that sticks out in my mind is the day a single gunshot started a cattle stampede. I didn’t even have time to wonder where it came from, for in a split second, the longhorns had already taken off at an alarming run. It was all chaos for some time. Finally we managed to slow down the stampeding herd by turning them in a wide circle. That memory shall certainly amuse me for some years to come, and I do need some fun, for tomorrow I am returning to Texas for yet another cattle drive. I hope it's my last.
—Bronco Jones
Evaluation: Eighth grader Shelley imagines she is a cowboy in the old West as she writes this journal entry. She includes historical details that add a realistic touch to the writing.
Student Model—50

Hang Up and Drive

You see it every day, especially in freeway traffic. A car is weaving back and forth, speeding up then slowing down, or suddenly stopping. No, it’s not a drunk driver. It’s a cell-phone driver. Cell phones are used everywhere, but on the road they are a dangerous distraction to drivers and should be prohibited.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported that “motorists using a cell phone were four times more likely to have an accident than those not using a phone.” The major problem is that the driver is not focused on the road, but on his or her conversation. Cell-phone drivers are very unpredictable: they weave, tailgate, drive too fast or too slow, make improper turns, run red lights, and even stop at green ones. It’s not only annoying; it’s hazardous. Cell-phone-related accidents include rear-ending vehicles; running off a road and crashing into trees, fences, and buildings; flipping over; and having head-on collisions. Many of these accidents result in fatalities. In October at the California Traffic Safety Summit, experts testified that “cell phones used by drivers lead to at least 1,000 deaths per year in California.” These are the same problems that occur with drunk driving, which is strictly outlawed and harshly enforced. For the same reasons, California needs laws that restrict the use of cell phones in cars.
Until we take action to pass new laws, drivers at least need to be more responsible when using cell phones. The American Automobile Association recommends that drivers pull off the road before using a cell phone, have a passenger use it for them, or use voice mail to answer calls. Another suggestion is to keep the phone off while moving or simply not use it in the car. Before using a cell phone, drivers should think to themselves, “Is this call really that important?”
Cell phones can be a vital link in emergencies, but drivers need to use them wisely. As professional NASCAR racer John Andretti says, “Driving safely is your first responsibility.” The best road to safety is to just hang up and drive.

Evaluation: A surprise comparison opens this editorial by eighth grade student Jessie, drawing readers in. Her position on the subject becomes evident early in the essay.
Student Model—51

Fine Arts

“Fine arts are important in the curriculum because of what they do for learning,” stated Patty Taylor, arts consultant for the California State Department of Education. In other words, the arts, especially music, should be part of every school’s curriculum at every grade level. Music makes students smarter, gives children something positive to do, and builds self-confidence. Most students don’t have a chance to learn music outside of school, and everyone deserves that opportunity.
Students would be much smarter if they had some music experience. They would improve their classroom skills, like paying attention, following directions, and participating without interrupting. People develop all these skills when they learn music. Musicians are also better in math, and they get higher S.A.T. scores. For instance, a study by the College Entrance Examination Board reported, “Students with 20 units of arts and music scored 128 points higher on the S.A.T. verbal and 118 points higher in math.” A Rockefeller Foundation study states that music majors have the highest rate of admittance to medical school. Making music also lets children use their imaginations, unlike playing with video games and electronic stuffed animals. “It provides students a chance to try out their own ideas,” according to the October 1997 California Educator. Music makes children well-rounded students.
Music not only makes children better students but also gives them something positive to do. In a music program, children can be part of a band or choir instead of joining a gang. Parents can enjoy listening to their children’s music instead of seeing them glued to a computer or TV screen. In band, students get to be part of a team. They can interact with old friends and make new friends through music. While learning and making music, children can also be exploring a potential career.
Music builds self-confidence. It gives children a sense of accomplishment and success. Making music is something for them to be proud of, and it lets kids practice performing in front of an audience. As reported in the California Educator, “It gives [students] self-confidence and a feeling of importance to have a skill someone appreciates. They are also learning how to accomplish something from beginning to end and actually come out with a product that they can be proud of.” Music gives children an outlet for self-expression, and that helps develop their self-confidence.
Once again, music is important because it can make children better students, give them something positive to do, and build their character. Unfortunately, the children who need music lessons the most usually don’t have access to them outside of school. That is why music should be offered in every single grade in every school.

Evaluation: The use of an authority’s quotation to open this editorial lends credibility to the writer’s opinion. Seventh-grader Jess backs up her position in subsequent paragraphs.
Student Model—52

What Really Matters

Margaret L. is like any other teenage girl today: she talks on the phone, deals with the stress of schoolwork, and has a boyfriend. Unlike many of her peers, however, Margaret takes medication as part of her morning routine; and the time she spends in the school bathroom is not devoted to fixing her hair.
Margaret has spina bifida, a condition in which one or more of her vertebrae did not form properly, leaving her spinal cord—the most vital component of the central nervous system—unprotected. She has had eight operations and wears braces on her legs to keep them in the proper positions. Throughout all of these ordeals, she has retained her outgoing personality and positive view of life.
The 14-year-old attends high school and is not in any special classes. She is allowed extra time to get to class when she needs it. She says, “I get it [teased] a lot, but I do have a small group of friends who are great about everything.”
Margaret has had the support of her parents as well: “I think that, growing up with a disability, the best thing that I have had is supportive parents; without them I don’t know where I would be. They both have always said that I could do something if I really wanted to.”
After school on most days, Margaret works at Able-Disabled Advocacy (A-DA), an organization that helps the disabled, alongside her mother, Cindy. On other days she plays wheelchair basketball and tennis, even though she is not wheelchair-bound herself. Her evenings are spent at A-DA and doing schoolwork, such as the recent project on a genetic medical condition for which she selected spina bifida as her topic.
Margaret met her first serious boyfriend, Juan, when they played against each other during a wheelchair basketball tournament. “We were complete enemies on the court,” she says. They met again at a Spina Bifida Association conference. They danced together twice. Later she realized the special connection they shared, both having a disability.
Margaret feels that, far from having limited her, her disability has allowed her to do things she might not have been able to do otherwise. She says that she would not have been involved in sports at all if it was not for wheelchair sports, and she would not have some of her current friendships or her boyfriend. Rock climbing, cycling, and downhill racing (a kind of cycling) are some of the other activities she is able to participate in. Margaret also volunteers in an inclusion program at a Jewish community center, helping other kids with disabilities.
The prognosis, or outlook, for most people with spina bifida is excellent, and Margaret is thinking about the future. “I want to be a doctor of some kind,” she says, “though I’m not sure what kind yet.”

Evaluation: In this feature article, eighth grader Irené informs the reader about spina bifida as she highlights the achievements of a classmate who has the condition. Quotations from the classmate add a personal side to the writing.
Student Model—53

Linden’s Library

It was a normal Saturday on Oak Street—the same morning dew sparkling on the grass, the same cherry blossoms swaying in the breeze, the same daffodils bursting with color. Yes, as far as anyone could tell, it was a normal day in Washington, D.C.
When Katie awoke, she got dressed, brushed her teeth and hair, and checked her “to do” list. Then she hurried down for breakfast: rich, fluffy, chocolate-chip pancakes; fresh orange juice; crispy bacon; and crunchy, buttered toast. Katie’s stomach growled loudly.
“Smells good, Mom,” Katie said.
“Good morning!” her mother chimed happily. “Eat up. You sound like you’re starving to death!” Katie sat down and ate. “So what’s on the agenda today, Katie?”
“Today I have the Library Club with June and Cat,” Katie said. As soon as she finished eating, she scraped her plate (even though there was barely a crumb on it) and went outside.
Katie loved everything to do with nature. She wanted to be an environmentalist when she grew up. She sat in her favorite spot under the massive cherry tree, where she had a spectacular view of the Washington Monument. Before heading to the library, she thought of what to do with her week of spring break.
As Katie sat down on the rug of Linden’s Library with her best friends June and Cat (short for Catherine), she noticed a new book on the table. Its title was Wild Safari. When the librarian said they could pick their books, Katie ran to the table and snatched the book before anyone else could. Then she walked over to the checkout counter, where Linden stood.
Linden was a tall, lanky man with blazing blue eyes that were strangely magnified by his green glasses. He had brown hair styled in a stubbly crew cut. He was about 35 years old, Katie thought. Most of the time he was cheery, and he always told the truth. “Hello, Katie,” he said.
“Hi, Linden,” said Katie. “I was wondering if I could check out this new book.” She showed him Wild Safari.
“I wouldn’t take that book, Katie,” Linden said.
“Why?” asked Katie.
“Because if you take that book, bad things will happen,” Linden said.
Katie gave him a puzzled look. “What kind of things?” she asked.
“I don’t know, but they’ll be bad,” Linden warned.
“Well, will you still allow me to check out the book?” Katie asked.
“Yes, but only because I think I know how to stop the bad stuff if it does happen,” Linden replied.
So Katie checked out the book and went to find June and Cat. She saw that June was holding The Long Winter and Cat had The Secret Garden. Katie shared with them every word of her conversation with Linden.
“That’s odd,” said June. “Normally he tells the truth, but I think he’s trying to scare you. After all, it’s only a book, right?” But somehow her words didn’t convince Katie.
Katie’s thoughts were unsettled, so she went to her favorite spot, where she could always make sense of things. She sat down under the tree and started to read the book. It was full of jungle animal adventures—everything from anteaters to zebras. After reading three chapters, she brought the book inside and put it on her nightstand.
That evening, after eating a scrumptious dinner, Katie went to her room to change into her pj’s. She went to the living room to watch TV with her family, and then she retreated to her room so she could read more. When she got to the ninth chapter, she fell asleep. That’s when the madness began.
When Katie woke up, her world was upside-down. Everything in sight was covered in ivy, and it seemed to be growing out of her book! She grabbed desperately for some scissors and went outside. The landscape couldn’t have been more different. All of Washington was covered with ivy—even the Washington Monument! She ran back inside and jumped on her mom to wake her up. When her mom opened her eyes, she screamed, which woke up her dad, who also screamed. They seemed to be frozen with fear! Katie decided that they were no help, so she ran to her friend June’s house. They were just waking up and didn’t see the ivy because it wasn’t inside their house. They were all shocked to see Katie there and wondered why she looked so flustered. “Look outside,” she said in little more than a whisper. They all went outside, and their reaction was the same as Katie’s parents. June was the only one who didn’t freeze with fear.
“June,” Katie said, ”do you have any clue how this happened?”
“No,” June said, trembling, “but let’s think over the conversation you had with Linden.”
“Good thinking,” said Katie. They went to June’s room and talked for an hour. Finally, Katie remembered that Linden had said that he knew how to stop the bad stuff if it happened.
“Let’s pay him a visit,” said June.
They both ran to Linden’s house. They could tell everything was getting worse—animals were everywhere, and the ivy was getting thicker. They had to cut the ivy with Katie’s scissors just to ring the doorbell at Linden’s house! When he answered the door, Katie asked, “Can we stop it?”
Linden said just one word before he fainted. The word was “shred.”
“He must mean shred the book!” Katie said. She and June ran as fast as they could to Katie’s house and tried to find their way through the thick ivy to the book. When they eventually got to the book, Katie and June beat and shredded the book until it let out a strange shriek, sucked in all the ivy and animals that had escaped its pages, and vanished.
No one except Katie and June knew what really happened that eerie day. To this day, they still look for the mysterious book. Who knows where it will appear next . . . ?

Evaluation: This model is based on an original story submitted by Elise, a sixth-grade writer. Note how she uses dialogue and details to bring her characters to life.
Student Model—54

How the Stars Came to Be

Long ago and once upon a time, there lived a princess. Her name was Oriana, and her entire court loved her. She always helped those in need and had a smile for everyone. Oriana wasn’t vain, although she had every reason to be. She had wavy, raven hair that fell past her knees; pure, olive skin; and a face that was perfectly oval. Her real beauty, however, lay in her eyes. Whenever Oriana felt an emotion strongly, they changed from their usual ebony to true gold.
It seemed that nothing could make her angry; but alas, it was not so. Her aunt ruled the kingdom while Oriana’s father was away tending to his people’s needs. Aunt Desdemona was selfish, petty, and cruel. She was proud of her immortal beauty and didn’t hesitate to show it. The people hated and feared her.
Jealous of the way the court adored her niece but detested her, Desdemona devised a plan. If she were to send Oriana on a quest to find the lost crown . . . yes, that would work. The crown was the key to the realm’s power. It had been taken away by an immortal centuries ago, and the kingdom had been having difficulties ever since. Only someone of royal blood could touch the crown, so that fact gave Desdemona a legitimate reason for sending Oriana to reclaim it. Oriana’s father wouldn’t be able to argue with such a decision.
Smiling a smile that didn’t reach her ice-blue eyes, Desdemona called her niece to her chambers. She proceeded to explain that the king needed the crown if they were to save the kingdom from ruin. “And don’t come back until you’ve got the crown.”
Oriana sighed and nodded. No matter what her aunt thought, she wasn’t stupid. She knew that Desdemona just wanted to get rid of her. Where on earth was she supposed to find the crown? They had been looking for centuries and no one had ever found it! And at night, alone, she was liable to get killed. There was nothing in night’s sky to light her way, and Oriana couldn’t possibly carry enough oil for a lantern.
“The sky is so frightful at night. During the day it is pretty, with the sun, but at night it is solid black . . .” Lost in her thoughts, Oriana didn’t realize that she had already exited the castle grounds. Then a thought popped into her mind so suddenly that she gasped.
“Maybe no one has found the crown on earth, because it isn’t on earth anymore! But where could it be?” Then her mind snapped everything into place, like pieces of a puzzle. If the immortal that stole the crown had wings, maybe it had hidden the crown in the sky. Oriana groaned. This just presented another problem: How was she supposed to search the sky?
Abruptly, an immortal’s voice echoed in her head. “Well done, Mortal. You are the first of your kind to get this far. The rest will not be easy. In a few moments it will be dark. I will place you in the sky. You have tonight, and tonight only, to solve my riddle and locate the crown. If you lose, you must stay in the sky forever. Are we agreed?”
About to say, “Yes,” Oriana was stopped by a chuckle. “I can hear your thoughts, Mortal. Be prepared to lose!”
The sun started to dip below the horizon. The rest of the sky was already dark, and the last red glow reminded Oriana of blood. Red turned to black, and then the world was below her. It was time to begin the search. The immortal spoke again, “Here is my riddle:
Near yet far,
Conquer the dark,
Is it needed by the czar?
Make your mark.
End of the day,
As the light fades away,
Remember this—
Nothing gold can forever stay.
Oriana almost started to walk before she realized that she would be lost in pitch blackness. Thinking desperately of how to light her path, she looked down. Her necklace, made of shiny beads, was glowing brightly. Breaking the clasp, she started to move. Every few seconds she dropped a bead.
She wandered all over the sky, trying to solve the riddle. It didn’t make any sense. Oriana went left, right, east, west, diagonally, all directions everywhere—occasionally, she dropped one of the sapphires or rubies from her necklace as well.
Finally, Oriana reached the round silver stone in the middle of her necklace. She had only half of her light source left and wasn’t any closer to finding the crown. Tossing the silver ball into the inky darkness, she continued.
Just as dawn was about to grace the sky, Oriana realized two things. The beads crisscrossed in every direction; some had been kicked into funny-looking clusters. And the crown? It was still lost. She remembered the last line of the riddle: “Nothing gold can forever stay.” The crown was made of gold! Did it mean that they didn’t need the crown?
“Well, have you found the crown yet, Mortal?” the immortal’s voice slammed through her head. Taking a deep breath before remembering that she didn’t have to speak, Oriana silently explained her theory about the riddle’s last line.
“You are correct, unfortunately. The crown is only a symbol of power and of greed.” The immortal sighed, “I cannot give you the crown. It was destroyed long ago. However, I can give you this.”
He handed her a golden flame. It didn’t burn or radiate heat; it just glowed. The flame tickled and was too bright to stare at for very long.
“It is the Flame of Guilt. Give it to someone who has unjustly wronged you, and watch the flame. Use it quickly, for like everything else gold, it will not last long.”
The voice had been getting softer and softer. Oriana’s last conscious thought before falling asleep was, “I’m home in my bed.”
Desdemona was furious when a maid came running to her room, shrieking that the princess was home. It didn’t help that her plan to be the center of attention had failed. She had thought that with Oriana out of the way, the entire court would love her. On the contrary, the people hated her even more because there was no one to cheer them as Oriana had.
Stalking angrily to her throne, Desdemona waited for her niece to bring her the crown. At least with the crown she would be extremely powerful and could perhaps get rid of the little brat once and for all. She continued to think in this vein for some time and didn’t realize that Oriana was in the room until a courtier announced her.
Oriana stood quietly for a moment, studying her aunt. Then she opened her left hand. The golden flame twined round her fingers and blazed in her palm, lighting the entire gathering. The court watched breathlessly as she began to speak.
“I did not find the crown. It was destroyed long ago. The immortal who stole it, however, gave me this as a reward for using his clues to solve the mystery.” She gestured at the flame. “I would like to give it to my aunt as a gift, for being so kind as to trust me with this quest.”
Oriana’s musical voice paused, and she added, “Please, Aunt, accept my gift.”
Desdemona was suspicious, but her greedy nature took command. “Yes, my dear,” her face showing disgust as she said it, “I will accept your flame.”
“There is a condition, my aunt. Only one who is pure of heart may hold the Flame of Guilt. If someone unworthy touches it, she will spend the rest of her life as a servant in the Faerie Court.” Oriana searched her aunt’s face.
Desdemona was horrified. If she refused to take it, the court would think she had done something evil. If she took it, the entire court would know she had done evil. She said, “Of course, you know you are putting me into a rather awkward position, dear Oriana. I shall need to consult with my personal psychic prior to accepting your gift; but rest assured,” she continued, an evil gleam in her eye, “justice will prevail.”
Desdemona summoned the court psychic and huddled with him as everyone looked on with great anticipation. A terrible frown overcame her face, and she screamed, “Get out! You know nothing!” Then she approached Oriana, and, resigning herself to a life waiting on picky, irritating little faeries, she took the flame.
Desdemona began to fade and, with one last look of disgust at Oriana, disappeared, never to be seen again.
That night, a blissfully happy princess looked out her window, expecting to see the usual suffocating blackness. Instead, she saw that the silver stone at the center of her necklace and all of the other beads and gems were gleaming in the sky. It was beautiful.
That is the tale of how Oriana conquered the night,
How the stars came to shine so bright.
How she planted the moon and stars as beads,
And revealed Desdemona’s evil deeds.

Evaluation: Sixth-grade student Laura wrote this fantasy in which the “storybook” voice sets the tone appropriately.
Student Model—55

My Backyard

My backyard breathes life!
The plants gather the sunlight with bending and reaching arms.
Trailing vines hold onto the fences with curling fingers.
The tall grasses and ferns dance around the garden.
A hummingbird rapidly flutters,
waving good morning as she drinks the nectar
from the shining smiles of colorful flower heads.
The wind whispers as she passes,
telling me everything she has seen
as she softly lays down the seeds she has carried.

Evaluation: Kevin, the sixth-grade author of this poem, effectively uses personification to paint a vivid picture of his backyard.
Student Model—02
Mir Flies On for the Next Generation
Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise beams you aboard. As your molecules come back together, he gives you a tour of the spotless flight deck. It’s filled with clean crew members working on equipment that’s all in perfect shape. That’s TV. The Russian Mir space station is reality, and life there isn’t glamorous. Mir astronauts are more like the early pioneers who risked their lives but kept going and made their mission a success.
Mir’s struggles begin with the space station itself. Mir is an 11-year-old laboratory that made its 69,560th orbit of the earth on May 1, 1998. That’s 1.83 billion miles! In addition to having high mileage, Mir has a computer system that is ancient. Since Mir blasted off in 1986, astronauts have had to fix 1,500 problems on the ship. Most were small, but a few were big. In February 1997, a fire shut down an oxygen generator. Then in June 1997, a spaceship carrying supplies to Mir crashed into a solar panel (Chien 97). Many times, the crew sits in the dark because there isn’t enough power to work the computers or do experiments.
Like the pioneers who headed west in covered wagons, Mir astronauts have learned to do the best they can with what they have. For example, Mir astronauts wear their cotton T-shirts, gym shorts, and socks for two weeks! The astronauts wear the clothes day and night and even exercise in them. After two weeks, astronauts just pitch the stinky stuff into space where it burns up in the earth’s atmosphere (Hoversten).
Life on Mir isn’t glamorous. In fact, it’s not even healthy. The humid air makes mold grow, and the molds spoil the food. The crew can’t wash well, and infections spread quickly, especially when new astronauts come on board. After their bodies are weightless for a long time, the bones in their lower hips and spines get weaker (Chien 99). Then, when astronauts go back to Earth, they have more problems. They have poor balance, weak muscles, and severe soreness (Covault 76).
The living conditions on Mir would make even Captain Kirk return to Earth. Fans hum nonstop. The smell of gasoline hangs in the air, and food is served up freeze-dried. Right now, the shower is broken, so the crew have to take sponge baths. Even sleeping is hard. Jerry Linenger is an astronaut who spent 132 days on Mir with these problems. He said, “There’s something about it [life on Mir] that makes you feel, ‘Yeah, I’m on the frontier’ ” (Hoversten).
Even though life on Mir isn’t glamorous, and equipment often fails, the Mir astronauts have had lots of success. Like the pioneers, the astronauts have found many useful things that help explorers who follow them. But maybe Mir’s greatest success is that astronauts from Russia and the U.S., two old enemies, have worked together as friends (Chien 99).

Works Cited
Chien, Phillip. “Space Jalopy.” Popular Science May 1998: 96-99.
Covault, Craig. “Mir ‘Lessons’ Preview Future ISS Flights.” Aviation Week and Space Technology 9 Mar. 1998: 76-78.
Hoversten, Paul. “Life on Mir, or, roughing it on the ‘frontier’.” Florida Today: Space Online. 20 Aug. 1997. 10 Sept. 1998 <
Wolf, David. Interview. NASA Shuttle-Mir Web. 14 Nov. 1997. NASA. 10 Sept. 1998 <

Evaluation: This report is clearly focused around a specific thesis. It is evident from the writer’s voice that he is interested in and knowledgeable about the subject.
Student Model—56
I Am Latvia
In the beginning, my people were primitive, and they used my resources to survive. They used stone, and then bronze and iron for tools. They traded with other peoples from afar, beyond my reaches. They became clever and prosperous; they built permanent homes for themselves. I was happy.
I am beautiful. I stretch from the Baltic Sea to the southern Daugava River, and the lands within are rich. Or, at least, they once were . . . before the invaders came. But my lands had contained riches, of dolomite and lumber, and most of all, of amber. Amber, the ancient tree sap that had turned to rock over time, had become more precious than gold. My people traded amber gathered along my coasts to places around the vast world, and became very rich. They farmed the land, and grew potatoes, grain, flax, and sugar. Their meals were simple but wholesome. Some special foods were kisels, eaten only on holidays, and putras, a porridge of barley and oats. Their lives were simple.
Then the first invaders came. They called themselves the Teutonic Knights, or Knights of the Sword. They attacked my people, destroying whole towns! Our warriors tried to fight, but were slaughtered by the advanced weapons of our conquerors. Soon, they had taken away my lands, and they began to convert my people to a new religion called Catholicism. One of the knights founded Riga, my capital city, and the jewel of my land. Unfortunately, my people were horribly oppressed under the harsh Teutonic rule.
And so it continued. The Teutonics were overthrown by the Polish, the Polish were overthrown by the Lithuanians, the the Lithuanians were overthrown by the Russians. My people were always second-class citizens, never independent, never given their own identity. And yet, in some places, the old ways remained, and my people held on. The “St. Petersburg Paper” was published in Riga from 1862-1865. It created some of the earliest feelings of nationalism among my people. Its main editors were Krisjanis Barons and Krisjanis Valdemars. Written only a little later, in 1873, was the Latvian National Anthem (considered so 50 years before Latvia would become a country), “Dievs Svcti Latviyu,” or “God Bless Latvia.”
Time passed. The Germans captured my country next, and made my people into slaves. Then, once again, it was the Russians! I wondered if it would ever end. But I had been in existence for a long time, and I was patient. Finally, after nearly 900 years since my people had been independent at all, a Great War broke out throughout the land. The Russians, who were the rulers, had a revolution, and lost their hold on my people in 1918. We became independent! I was so proud of them. A president was elected, and my people recovered, multiplied, and prospered once more. Later, the government of my people became corrupt. A man named Karlis Ulmanis declared a state of emergency and took it over. He was a dictator, but a benevolent one, and he saved the government from collapse. My country began to become one of the richest in the land.
But disaster struck again. Another Great War began, and we were attacked by the Russians. Our armies, despite being untrained, fought better than they did, but still they outnumbered us. They pushed my people back until the only ones still fighting were trapped in a castle in the center of Riga. Then they, too, fell.
The Russians had a new form of government called Communism. They took away all the farms and made them into huge, collectivized impersonal farms, where my people slaved away to live. Then the Germans and the Russians fought, with both sides burning my fields and killing my people. We were caught in the middle, and we couldn’t get out. In the end, the Russians “won” control over us. They polluted my air, land, and water with foul toxins in the name of “industrialization.”
And so we were ruled, for nearly another 50 years. My people wanted independence, for, beyond the bad treatment of their land, the Russians had no similar culture. Not even their language or alphabet was the same! My people use a Roman alphabet, and the Russians use Cyrillic. My people speak Lettish, a language totally different than Russian.
Then things finally began to change. The Russian government began to weaken. My people, allied with people of the neighboring lands of Estonia and Lithuania, spoke out against the Russians. Protesters formed a human chain across the three countries. The Freedom Movement in Riga, a giant statue of a person holding three five-pointed stars, was sculpted by Elmars Rudzitis at this time. When the Russian government collapsed, we were officially granted independence! The new government was a democracy. The president and Prime Minister were elected, and so was the 100-seat Saeima, or parliament. Many political parties sprang up.
There was much to recover from, but my people still had their culture and their heritage. Without the supplies that the Russians had made my people dependent on, there was less money and fewer jobs. And cleaning up the pollution was a huge job. But my people struggled through it. Slowly the economy began to improve, and my people began to manufacture goods to be sent to other lands. Some of the old way of life resumed when the farms were de-collectivized, and freedom grew.
Many aspects of my people’s culture live on. The dainas, which were sacred four-line poems/songs, are still known today. My people are very fond of singing. Since 1876, they have held the Latvian Song Festival, where thousands of people go to sing and dance. It has gone on every five years since then. Folk dances are very popular, too. Many of my people still wear the national costume, which is a traditional suit for men, and a brightly woven skirt over a white blouse for women. Women also sometimes wear glittery golden headbands. Traditional instruments that are played are the stringed kokle, the reed stabule, and the percussion trejdeksnis.
Much song and dance goes on during the holidays. During Ziemas Zvetki, or Winter Holiday, everyone sings of the sun soon to be returning to warm my lands. Though I exist far to the north, the Atlantic Current flows into the Baltic Sea and keeps me warm. Jani, or St. John’s Day, is a holiday where people sing and chant all night to ward off evil spirits. Men and women wear wreaths of wildflowers, and this holiday brings together the ancient Earth-worshipping beliefs and the newer Christian ones. During the Russian occupation, my people were often not allowed to practice any religions, and nearly all my people who were Jewish were killed when the Germans came through. Now, though, many religions are flourishing, and religious tolerance is practiced.
The Coat of Arms is a symbol of myself and my people. On it are a red lion that symbolizes the southern half of my lands, and a white griffin that symbolizes the northern half. A ribbon ties the two halves together. In the last millenium, my people had only been independent for 40 total years. But this time, they were going to hold on to their freedom and national pride.
And so, I sit back and watch them. I am proud of my people, they have accomplished much in the face of terrible odds. They are a beautiful people in a beautiful land. I have seen them. And I remember.

“About Latvia.” Web Design Sixteen-Nine. Last updated 4/23/99. 4/27/99 <>.
Engelmann, Kurt E. “Latvia.” Encarta ’97 Encyclopedia. 1997.
Flint, David C. The Baltic States. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press, 1992.
“Latvia.” CIESIN Baltics Regional Node WWW. Last updated 8/30/96. 4/15/99 <>.
Latvia, Then and Now. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications, 1992.
Lufkens, Matthias. Riga in Your Pocket Dec. 1995. Vilnius, Lithuania: Riga In Your Pocket Company.
Ruggiero, Adriane. The Baltic Countries. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon-Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Evaluation: The author’s approach to this report is fresh and original; speaking as the country makes the paper very readable.
Student Model—57
The Aloha State
More than any other state, Hawaii is world famous for its beauty and pleasant climate. This is probably why Hawaii, the “Aloha State,” is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, and why I would love to visit this state someday. Besides being a great place for tourists, though, Hawaii is also a great place to live and has over one million residents.
Hawaii is made up entirely of islands and is located in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The closest of its islands to the U.S. mainland is about 2,091 miles southwest of San Francisco. Hawaii is the youngest of the 50 states; it joined the union in 1959.
The state of Hawaii has a mixed population of Japanese, Filipino, Polynesian, and Chinese. The people are proud that their state is a community with many different backgrounds. Many people are mixtures of several nationalities and races. More than four-fifths of its people live in urban areas, mostly in Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
The climate in Hawaii is mild throughout the year with little difference between the hottest and coldest month. Honolulu, for example, has a normal daily temperature of 72 degrees in January and 80 degrees in July. Precipitation is uneven throughout the year because of the surrounding water. Usual precipitation for the year is about 480 inches of rainfall. However, Honolulu receives only 23 inches annually, most of it falling between November and March.
Tourism is the leading money maker in this beautiful state, with service industries accounting for 87 percent of Hawaii’s gross state product (the total value of goods and services produced in a state in a year). Each year, the islands attract over three million visitors. Oahu is the leading destination for most tourists. The state’s warm climate and its fine sand beaches are the leading attractions, as are the many top golf courses. There are also other attractions to visit in Hawaii, like Haleakala National Park on Maui and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park contains two active volcanoes at the present time. In this park is Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano. This park is about 229,000 acres in area. It was created in 1961 and extends eastward from the summit of Mauna Loa to the Pacific Ocean, passing a 30-mile section of the coast. Mauna Loa is 13,677 feet above sea level. Its submerged portion rises 20,000 feet above the seafloor. Kilauea, the park’s other active volcano, rises from the eastern flank of Mauna Loa to an elevation of just over 4,000 feet.
Haleakala National Park boasts Haleakala Crater, the world’s largest inactive volcanic crater. It measures about 20 miles around and is about 3,000 feet deep. Another great thing to do in Hawaii besides sightseeing would be fishing. The fishing industry is very small in the state, although it is expanding. Some major types of fish caught there are yellowfin and skipjack tuna.
It would be easy to communicate while visiting Hawaii because almost all of the people speak English. But they frequently use some of the more musical words of the Hawaiian language in their speech. For example, they call tourists “malihini,” meaning newcomer. Another familiar Hawaiian word is “aloha,” which means love, greetings, welcome, and farewell. They also communicate through their “hula,” which means dance. These dances tell stories about the islands. Hawaiian music uses steel guitars and the ukelele, which means “leaping flea.”
One of Hawaii’s only problems is transportation. Most goods have to be shipped by air or sea, so things are very expensive. Airlines are the quickest and easiest way to travel in Hawaii. But travel within the state is expensive because the islands are widely separated. The biggest airport is the Honolulu International.
Another problem is keeping the islands beautiful with all of the increased tourist business. Tourists spend over $4 billion in Hawaii each year, but the people who live there don’t want all of these people destroying the natural beauty of their homeland.
Despite the problems of transportation and increased tourism, Hawaii is still a great place to visit or live because of the warm climate and the beauty of the islands. There are also many amazing things to do and see on this group of islands. Every American should visit Hawaii at least once in his or her life.

“Hawaii.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 1990.
Armstrong, R. W. Atlas of Hawaii. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 1973.
Bates, John F., Jr. People and Cultures of Hawaii. Salt Lake City: Holt, 1973.

Evaluation: The details in this report are presented in an organized manner, and the writer’s strong feelings for Hawaii come through in her writing voice.
Student Model—58

Unique Wolves

Can you imagine hearing the howl of a wolf during the night? A while ago you could hear howls in northern Wisconsin, but the wolves were driven out. They were killing livestock for food, so ranchers really hated them. The federal government assisted the ranchers in eliminating the wolf population up through the 1950's.
Wolves are relatives to coyotes, foxes, jackals, dingoes, and our pet dogs. Some people mistake wolves and coyotes, but wolves are much larger and stockier. A wolf is like a German shepherd except with longer legs, bigger feet, a wider head, and a long, bushy tail. Like a dog, a wolf has very good vision, smell, and hearing, which allow it to track and kill caribou, deer, elk, and moose. Wolves sometimes eat 20 pounds of meat at one time with their 42 teeth. Wolves hunt mainly at night and early in the morning.
At birth, a wolf pup weighs one pound. At three weeks, pups start to eat meat. Each spring, wolves have six to fourteen pups, which are born in dens. A den can be a cave, the hollow trunk of a tree, a hole that the mother dug, or a thicket.
Wolf packs have eight to twenty members. The leader, called the alpha male, always gets food first, and if anyone butts in, they get growled and snarled at. Wolves communicate by howling, tail actions, and mouth actions. When wolves can’t find food, they eat leftovers from other kills that they have buried, but they can go several weeks without food. Packs need 100 to 250 square miles to live in. Wolves can run up to 24 miles per hour. Most animals they hunt can run faster, but wolves can run tirelessly for hours and can leap as high as one-story buildings.
Wolves used to live all over North America, Europe, and Asia, but after the 1950’s wolf populations survived only in northern Minnesota and Alaska in the United States, in Canada, northern Europe, and northern Asia. Wolves can live in any type of climate except for the desert and the highest mountains. Their color varies from pure white to jet black, depending on where they live.
Wolves are fun to watch and listen to. Now wolves are starting to move back into some of the lower 48 states; so go camping, and you might hear the wolf’s howl again.

Evaluation: Sixth-grader Bryan wrote this report in support of having a wolf on a commemorative postal stamp. He also drew a picture of the stamp.
Student Model—59
The Incredible Egg
On October 5, I gathered a large Styrofoam cup, an egg, some vinegar, some corn syrup, and some water. Before I started the lab, I weighed the egg on a scale. Because the egg would just roll off the scale if I set it down by itself, I weighed the cup, and then added the egg. After I knew how much the egg weighed, I poured enough vinegar in the cup to submerge the egg. I then covered the top of the cup with plastic wrap and set the egg aside. The next day, I washed the egg and the cup and weighed the egg. Then I poured in enough corn syrup to cover the egg, and I once again covered the cup with plastic wrap and set it aside. The third and final day of this lab, I cleaned the egg and the cup and weighed the egg again. For the last part of the experiment, I covered the egg with water, put plastic wrap over the cup, and set it aside, following up the next day with another weigh-in.

After letting the egg sit in vinegar for 24 hours, the hard part of the shell had been eaten off. The part of the soft shell that was left was very smooth and slimy. The egg weighed a little less than the day before because the heaviest part of the shell was gone. The egg also had a small dent in it because the outside was so fragile. When I tried to wash off the extra vinegar, I almost dropped the egg because it was so slippery.
On the second day, when I washed off the corn syrup, the egg was very light. It had numerous dents in it, and it was so fragile that I could barely wash it off. The egg was very slippery and extremely slimy, but I managed to hold on. It felt like I was holding a blown-up balloon in my hand—that’s how light the egg was.
On the third day, when I took the egg out of the water, I found that it was a little bit heavier than the day before. There were not as many dents in the egg, so it was much easier to wash off. The egg was still a little bit slippery and kind of slimy, but overall, it was in much better shape than the day before.

I discovered that the shell peeled off in the vinegar because of an acidic reaction. The acid in the vinegar peeled away the shell.
When the egg was soft and light from the corn syrup, it was because water had left the egg to cause a state of equilibrium. The water had made the egg heavy and somewhat sturdy.
When the egg was in the water, the water diffused into the egg to cause a state of equilibrium, and that is why the egg was heavier on that day.
I really had a fun time experimenting with my egg. I learned a lot about diffusion and equilibrium.

Evaluation: Hannah’s seventh-grade science class tried an experiment involving an egg, vinegar, corn syrup, and water. Her observations include not only the outcomes of the different steps in the procedure, but also her personal reactions to the experiment.
Student Model—60
983 Elm St. SW
Flagstaff, AZ 86001-3441
April 2, 2000

Dr. Heidi Larson
Larson Veterinary Clinic
9179 Highbury Ave.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001-3862

Dear Dr. Larson:
Your accountant, Rusty Silhacek, is my neighbor. He mentioned that your office stays very busy, so I wondered if you could use some extra help. I would like to apply for a position as a part-time veterinary assistant.
As far as animal care goes, I’m experienced in feeding, bathing, exercising, and cleaning up after small and large animals. I truly love animals and have always given them special attention and care. I would be available to help after school and on weekends.
I would be happy to come in for an interview at your convenience. You can contact me any weekday after 3:00 p.m. at 523-4418. Thank you for considering my application.
Andrea Rodriguez

Evaluation: This letter of application is clear, organized, accurate, and engaging. The author gets right to the point—always a good practice in business writing.

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