Samples of Student Writing

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This Caller features examples of outstanding student writing, from 2nd graders to seniors.

"The Last Day"

It’s over, one of these days.
I’ve realized this only now, just as
I’m peeling away the skin of a grapefruit
And my tongue is wet with bitter anticipation.

I’m wondering if that day will bring leaves,
Skittering across the sidewalk, like those little orange
Plastic cars we used to race across the porch—
Or maybe it will bring sticky, salty, sidewalk heat,
The kind that bites the virgin skin of toes.

And what about the roaring women of that day?
Mouths twisted, tears skating down cheeks,
Because suddenly there are babies,
And two minutes before, there was, really, nothing.

That’s what it is, right?
Birth and death every second?
Or are the rates all topsy-turvy these days?
Twisted and arbitrary, kind of like this tree—
Bent-backed, knot-kneed, crouched outside my window?

By an 11th grade student


"Four Twinkling Stars"

Little clear diamonds still twinkling
in a dusty black spiral, engulfing
but those four gems,
spinning almost cheerily
until they gravitate to the center
and morph into more brilliant
than themselves.

The explosion is shattering,
a million pieces of awesome light
that rock and vibrate the darkness
until everything is more
than it ever could have been

By a 6th grade student


"This Dark is For the Light"

I’ve always loved small spaces, safely surrounded and enclosed by something. Wrapped in warmth and simple physical darkness rather than the expansive suffocating kind. This dark is different. This dark is loving. This dark is only dark to make you brighter, letting your light filter through, filling the space with each breath you take, until you are breathing light. Then your entire world is bright, shining bright, and you know.

And you know too, that when you step back into the world, you can hold it. Imagine sitting low to a ground that is rich with the scent of chocolate mulch and the subtleties of Hyacinth, waiting in this diffuse willow-dusk, surrounded by singular beautiful branches, which filter the light softly through, making it dance, filling the space until it can’t be filled anymore. And you are breathing light. Light from a sky that continues even beyond the Earth’s imagination. And you can feel it, exactly like that.

By a 12th grade student


"Where I'm From"

I am from wide-angle lenses
Seeing everything, everything present
If just from a different perspective

I am from swimming in blackberry thorns
From finding old pathways
Lost to time

I am from the chunk of asphalt on a blown-apart road
The road that I walked down for miles
I am from collecting that chunk
From placing it on top of my dresser

I am from short cuts and long-cuts
As long as they’re out of the way
From climbing cliffs to avoid the crowded path
That wide, flat, paved track
Which carries everyone, everyone but me

I am from running
Not to run, but to get away
I am from the yearning to escape
The yearning to be free
Free from life’s maelstrom
The hustle and bustle that is omnipresent

This is my time to go away
Far away

I am from that which strives to act
From the things which are unspoken yet understood
From the passage to danger, to triumph
From the secrets of nature

But that is more than I am
I am from collapsing on long journeys
Too tired to carry on

I am from waterfalls and crumbling cliffs
From recklessness and adventure
But also from the relief of safety after a long,
dangerous day
From fresh-cooked dinners
And my homemade puff pastry

I am from memories, photos, and my family
I am from me

By an 8th grade student


Death penalty debate statement excerpt: pro

The death penalty may be cruel, but certainly not unusual, as the ways in which it is practiced are not unusual at all. Society changes over time, so what may be seen as unusual changes as well—for example, whipping. It was considered normal when the Constitution was written, but now it is seen as unusual. A punishment for a crime is unusual if it is ridiculously high for a crime lower than it, such as life imprisonment for felony. But as the death penalty is far milder than the crimes for which it is given, it is not unusual. It is also not in violation of Amendment V of the Constitution, which states that no one shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”

By an 8th grade student


Death penalty debate statement excerpt: con

The death penalty is a “cruel and unusual” punishment, and an ineffective crime deterrent. It needs to be abolished before more innocent people are executed. For every eight people put to death, one innocent person is released from death row. The system in deciding punishments is not equally balanced with the crime committed, and the whole system is rampant with racial prejudice. Also, while there, people can change, and regret what they have done, but are still put to death. When someone is sentenced to death, they are not only going to be executed, they will have to also stay on death row for many years, and pray to be freed. . . .

By an 8th grade student


Excerpt from science lab report

The charged strips of acetate and vinylite attracted and repelled various bits of string. To quote Shakespeare, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” [Romeo and Juliet (Act II, Sc. II)]. Although we cannot pass this off as a scientific fact, it is logical to assume that a name has little to no effect on the object to which it is tied. This led my partner and me to believe that changing the name of the charges would change nothing about the nature of the charges themselves.

By a 10th grade student, in answer to a question about whether changing the names of positive and negative electric charges would affect how these charges act


"Its a Boy?"

As babies we sleep and occasionally coo
Boys and girls both, our differences few
But similarities end in just a blink
When boys dress in blue and girls dress in pink
We face gender choices at every growth stage
And they powerfully shape us into old age
Dolls and cute animals aren’t much of a hit
For boys dangerous toys are a much better fit
Boys hide their emotions and shed fewer tears
Putting away feelings and childish fears
Watching ballet is tough for a boy
Nothing can beat a slam-dunk by Roy
Passing, shooting, or kicking—boys want control
In all types of sports being first is the goal
Shopping for clothes is not a boy’s cup of tea
Unless shopping includes buying games for the Wii
No make-up or heels or dresses with lace
For boys it’s just clean and no food on the face
What’s important to boys is big, brave, and strong
And in a perfect world to eat all day long

But is all this true? Is this who boys are?
If it is, then we haven’t come far
The male nurse or secretary, the stay-at-home dad
Breaking gender stereotypes should make us all glad
We are impossible to classify
Except girls are xx and boys are xy

By a 6th grade student


"Flying Goodbyes"

I can feel the difference in the terminal’s width.
It’s smaller and we’re bigger. We take up too
much space.
Escalators that had appeared dormant wake to
take us up, too fast
Unloading its cargo, it drops us off like
baggage on the empty floor above.

It’s smaller and we’re bigger. Why do we take
up so much space?
We sink into the thick green carpeting,
swallowed whole and unable to speak.
We’re like our cargo, dropped us off like
baggage on the empty floor above.
Our smiles flicker off, like the open signs on
the shop doors.

The thick green carpeting cushions the blow,
swells our throats until they are tight.
The calm voice from the PA matches the air
conditioning, soothing our dry skin like lotion.
Somehow we can’t turn our smiles back on.
Her eyes are weighed down with fear but she
keeps a brave face on. We all do.

The air conditioning soothes our wet eyes
when she turns away while the woman on the
PA tells us everything will be alright.
Our words run through the conveyor belt,
making sure nothing sharp or metal enters our
We keep on our brave faces and don’t look up.
I watch her plane roll on to the runway.

Our conversation is littered with tiny shrapnels,
no matter how hard we try and keep them out.
Escalators that had appeared dormant wake to
take us farther from her. It’s too fast.
We watch her plane from the empty shell of
the parking garage.
I can feel the difference in the terminal’s width.

By an 11th grade student


"Cloud Pattern"

Of Chang Tuan’s cats,
Cloud Pattern was the loneliest.
She would look upon her brothers
and sisters:
Silk Brocade’s fur was the softest in all of
Drive-Away-Vexation’s dainty paws were the swiftest rat-catchers
in all the land.
Purple Blossom had the most gentle mew ever heard in that dynasty.
Guardian of the East’s ears reached the farthest; she heard the
cream bowl hit the tile before it had.
White Phoenix’s tail was the bushiest and waved about a great deal.
And lastly, her brother, Ten Thousand Strings of Cash.
He was the most well-loved among the staff and visitors at
Chang’s house for his golden eyes.

Of all those magnificent felines, those careful creatures
Cloud Pattern was the loneliest.
His fur was often matted;
His paws, at times, had failed at Cat’s domestic duty.
His voice was loud, and screeched at Master Tuan’s ears;
He was always last in the scramble for the cream, since he
never sensed the delicate clink of porcelain on tile.
His tail was thin, and oft hung limp;
And, above all, Cloud Pattern’s eyes were not gold;
They were green, green on his stained fur.

And for these reasons,
Cloud Pattern was Master Tuan’s favorite.

By an 11th grade student, inspired by Wang Chih, 1100 C.E.


"The Night Painter"

The mist
sweeps over my face
cleansing my soul
twirling and dancing in the wind
bringing on a heavy sadness
in the water colored air
with gently painted strokes
dipped from a stormy ocean
Grey wisps which kiss the silent leaves
flying through the stars
continuing on forever
as I stare out my window
on a dark night

By a 6th grade student


"The Two Aliens"

Once there were two aliens and they liked pie. Their names were Bob and Joe. Bob looked like a shark. Joe looked like a firebreathing orange-headed wolf. It had been ten years since they blasted off the planet.

The next day they landed on a pie-covered planet. There were frog leg pies and pasta pies and spaghetti pies and bunny pies and eraser pies and underwear pies and rice pies and ball pies and seaweed pies and feather pies and hair pies and they didn’t know if they were poisonous.

They walked around to see if anybody was there to tell them if the pies were poisonous. Six years later they found some fish to tell them if the pies were poisonous. None of the pies were poisonous, so they started eating the pies. Then one day they were too full. They went to sleep and they got knocked off the planet. They did not know where they were. They were on their home planet. They wanted more pie.

By a 2nd grade student


Untitled poem

I am a small, free-flowing river rushing through
a forest.
I feel energetic as I stream over damp, mosscovered
I laugh as fish tickle me as they dart upstream.
I hear deer softly trample grass as they come
to lap up my water.
I feel frisky as I hustle over waterfalls.
I feel good when the sun heats me up on a
cold day.
I feel scared and race away when bears
come lumbering in to eat my fish.
I am curious as I flow into
a larger river bound for
the sea.

By a 4th grade student


Excerpt from essay "Gods Soldiers"

Eight years later, September 11 has had a larger impact on recent global history than any other date in the last five decades. Two wars, countless bombs, and endless amounts of civil unrest, misery, grief, and sorrow have defined the results of this monumental date. Dozens of nations engaged in painful arguments and arrangements, all involving the increasing interest in the Middle East and her oil. Car bombs killing hundreds explode every day in India, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, many traced back to the same causes that fueled 9/11.

I remember this date myself, although I was thousands of miles away from the catastrophe; the date was a day of shame, despair, and unity for all Americans. I recall being shuffled into the school library, and being informed of the recent tragedy just hours after the event. The nation was on red alert. I also remember knowing that my uncle worked in the World Trade Center, and I remember thinking for days that he was dead until he finally called, and notified us he had actually just taken the day off to spend time with his family. All his colleagues were dead. All their deaths in vain because of one single cause: religion.

By an 8th grade student