Example - Leaving Independence for the Oregon Trail
Hundreds of excited people around rushed back and forth from the stores to their covered wagons, looking for last minute supplies for their big trip out west. I sat on the front steps of the post office in Independence, Missouri, watching all of the craziness around me. I was fourteen years old and had lived in Missouri my entire life. Until now. Now, my life was about to change - forever.
"Henrietta!" my mom called from across the street, interrupting my silent thoughts. She was standing next to our covered wagon. It was filled all the way up to the top with our supplies: food, barrels, medicine, guns, blankets. All the things we would need for our journey to Oregon. That was where we were moving. My family had decided to pack up everything that we knew and move to an unknown territory, all the way across the continent. My parents told me it would take six months to get there. Six months of walking or riding in the wilderness. I was not excited. I did not want to leave our home, which I loved. I would miss my friends and the home that I grew up in.
"What?" I yelled back to my mom. I was still angry at her for making us move. "Come with me to the store!" she said, waving a hand. I didn't want to, but I knew she would be upset with me if I didn't, so I got up from steps and crossed the busy street. My mom wrapped her arm around my shoulders as we walked together to the store. "What do we even have to buy?" I asked. We had already bought so much stuff for our trip."Just one more thing," she said, smiling at me. "Are you still nervous about leaving?" "I'm not nervous," I said, frowning. "I just don't really see why we have to move. I like it here in Independence."
We kept walking and went up the dusty steps of the general store. Inside, there were hundreds of things to buy: food, toys, candy, knives, and more. Everything you could need to live -- in a house, or on a wagon, like we were going to do. "There's not a lot of opportunity for us here in Independence anymore," Mom said as we walked down the aisles. "But there are so many opportunities in Oregon! President Polk told all the people that we should move West. There is a lot of land there, so we can build a beautiful new house. We can even make a huge farm to have all we need to survive. Even though the trip will be hard, our lives will change for the better." I didn't say anything to that, because I would still miss our life here. Instead, I said, "What are we here for?" "This," my mom said, stopping and smiling. She pointed to a small postcard, that had a beautiful drawing of my favorite park in Independence on it. "I wanted to get this for you. You can put it on the walls of the wagon. It'll remind you of Independence, even when we're far away." I looked at the small picture and thought I was going to cry.
"Remember, honey," my mom said, "even if we're far from home, your dad and I are still with you. And home is wherever your family is." "You're right, Mom," I said, brushing away my tears. We took the postcard up to the front and paid for it. Then, we walked across the street and I hopped into the wagon. Later, my dad and mom hooked up the oxen to the wagon, and we started to move. I put up the postcard and watched my hometown fade off into the distance. Even if I was scared, Mom was right. Everything would be alright, as long as I was with my family. Our future in Oregon was waiting.
When I started my first job as a professional newspaper reporter (This job also served as an internship during my junior year in college — I just didn’t leave for about 6 years.), I quickly realized that all my experience, and all my years of journalism education had not been enough to help me write stories about drug busts, fatal car accidents and tornadoes. All the theoretical work I’d done, and all of the nifty little scholastic and collegiate stories I had done, did not prepare me for real world writing.
At that point, I had to find a solution quickly. After all, I had a deadline to meet, and it was only a few hours away.
One of my colleagues, who also served as a mentor, had the solution. She introduced me to the newspaper’s “morgue.” This was a room filled with filing cabinets in which we kept old — dead — stories arranged by reporter. Whenever I wasn’t’ sure how to write a story, all I had to do was check the morgue for similar stories. If I needed to write a story about a local drug bust, for example, I’d find another story on a similar incident, study its structure, and mentally create a formula in which to plugin the information I’d gathered.
Once I’d gained more experience, and had internalized the formula for that particular type of story, I felt free to branch out as the situation — and my training — warranted.
I do the same thing when I want to write a type of letter, brochure, or report that I’ve never written before.
This is what writing looks like in the real world.
Research by “Write Like This” author Kelly Gallagher indicates that if we want students to grow as writers, we need to provide them with good writing to read, study, and emulate. My personal experience backs this up, as does the old adage “all writing is rewriting,” oft quoted by everyone from LA screenwriters to New York Times bestselling authors.
Of course, if you’re a new teacher like me, there is one problem with providing mentor texts to my students: I have a dearth of middle school level writing sitting around in my file cabinets.
Fortunately, the Internet is full of sources, so I scoured the bowels of Google to find examples. I know how busy you are, so I’m sharing.
Expository writing examples for middle school
Below are several sources of expository writing samples for middle school students.
Finally, here is an article in the New York Times that will help you teach your students real-world expository writing skills.
Descriptive writing examples for middle school
Narrative writing examples for middle school
Argumentative/persuasive writing examples for middle school
Reflective writing examples for middle school
If you know of any other online writing example sources, please feel free to share them in the comments below.
I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma graduate student, and a NBPTS candidate. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify my students’ voices and choices.
Filed Under: PedagogyTagged With: writing examples, writing samples