Passage Writing Samples
Writing level-appropriate passages for K-12 test prep and assessment is a challenging task, but we have lots of experience. Here are some samples from work that our writers have done.
Our Galaxy, The Milky Way
Have you ever looked up at the night sky and noticed a band of stars that have a whitish “cloud” around them? If you have, you were looking at a portion of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. It is called “milky” because of this whitish cloud that the stars live in. This cloud is actually light that the stars give off.
People who lived many centuries ago didn’t know what they were seeing when they looked at the Milky Way in the sky. Some thought it was a bridge, some thought it was a river, and others thought it was a pathway for spirits of the dead. Today, the Milky Way is much less mysterious. We know more about our galaxy now than ever before. Scientists and astronomers continue to study it and learn more about it.
What is a galaxy? It is a system of millions to hundreds of billions of stars. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains about one trillion, or 1,000,000,000,000, stars. It is hard to imagine a “trillion” stars, isn’t it?
There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. How does a galaxy relate to the universe? A galaxy is part of the universe. The universe includes all galaxies.
When you look at the Milky Way at night, the stars you can see are the brightest stars. Some people use a telescope to see more stars, or the stars that are not as bright. It is easiest to see the Milky Way if you live in the country. That is because the light from cities can make it harder to see the light from the stars in a dark sky.
The Milky Way has a pancake shape, and the Earth is located somewhere near the center of this “pancake”. When you look at the Milky Way at night, you are seeing just a portion of the galaxy. This portion appears in a different place in the sky depending on the time of year. It is higher in the sky during the summer and winter. But during the spring and fall, it is lower, and closer to the horizon.
So the next time you look up at the sky at night and see that whitish cloud of stars, remember that you are looking from the inside-out at your own galaxy!
1. According to the article, how many stars are in the Milky Way?
2. Read this sentence from the story:
Today, the Milky Way is much less mysterious.
What is a synonym for the word mysterious?
3. If you live in a city, why would you want to, or need to, use a telescope to see the Milky Way?
Use details from the article to support your answer. Enter a short answer in the space below, approximately 4 lines.
4. Which of the following statements is NOT a fact?
Johnny was very happy. He saved all of his money and he was going to the toy store! But, first, he had to wait for his mom to come home from work. “Can we go now?” Johnny asked. “Yes, Johnny, we can go,” Mom said. At the toy store, Johnny brought a toy racecar with the money he had saved. “Here’s your change,” the man said. Johnny smiled at the man. “This is going to be my best toy,” he said.
Learning karate is a difficult task. Students begin with a white belt and train for many years later so that they can earn a black belt. In between, they receive belts with colors like yellow, orange, blue, green, and brown. Each new color is like a reward for the students for all of their hard work. Karate students really like their rewards. Even after they earn their black belts, they don’t want to stop learning! They keep training so that they can earn different levels of black belt known as degrees. To become really good at the different self defense techniques, students practice the same technique over and over until they can do it without any mistakes.
On July 16, 1969, at 8:32 EST (Eastern Standard Time), Apollo 11 was launched into space from the Kennedy Space Center. Its mission was to land successfully on the moon and to return back to Earth safely. NASA chose as Apollo 11’s landing site an area on the moon that had few craters and no boulders, large hills, high cliffs, or deep craters. A tiny camera showed astronaut Neil Armstrong as he descended the ladder from the spacecraft’s forward hatch and stepped onto the moon. After Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, the astronauts collected samples of moon rock for scientists to study and even ate a meal on the moon before heading back home. It was an unforgettable experience for NASA, the astronauts, and the public, who were watching at home on their televisions!
The following samples were written for Harcourt Educational Measurement Grades 9-12 FCAT:
Vincent van Gogh (Companion piece for “Lilies” by Mary Oliver)
Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter, famous for his passionate paintings and a life of extreme talent mixed with tragedy. Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 and died in 1890, after befriending artists such as Paul Gauguin, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and Georges Seurat. During his lifetime, Impressionism became widely accepted and artists such as Claude Monet became popular with their soft, pastel palettes and play with light. In contrast, Vincent van Gogh’s intense and often dark paintings were not widely favored at the time.
Van Gogh lived modestly and sold only a few paintings while he was alive. With financial and moral assistance from his beloved brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh was able to survive and pursue his desire to paint. He lived in Paris, then moved to Arles in Provence, France, and was later institutionalized in Saint-Remy, but continued to paint and draw.
He was a solitary man, absorbed in, and some say obsessed by, his art. He was also a very compassionate man, giving away many of his possessions to those less fortunate. Originally, Vincent van Gogh had decided to become a minister, like his father. However, he later discovered his passion for painting and in only ten years created over 800 paintings and 800 drawings.
Vincent van Gogh found subjects in his surroundings, thus painting portraits, landscapes, and images of places and people he encountered. He would often associate with humble, impoverished people, while he himself often lived in poverty. One of his most famous paintings is “The Potato Eaters,” which depicts peasants and expresses how their lives are intertwined with manual labor and the earth. Many subjects of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings also included beauty found in nature as he would take long walks in wheat fields, along ponds, through fields of flowers, and among giant cypress trees.
Vincent van Gogh expressed the desire to leave “some memento in the form of drawings or paintings—not made to please any particular movement, but to express a sincere human feeling.” Many years after his death, van Gogh’s paintings have been sold for millions of dollars and in 1973, Amsterdam, Holland, dedicated an entire museum to Vincent van Gogh’s work. The passion and emotion Vincent van Gogh expressed in his paintings continue to inspire those who witness them.
Poets often express themselves in diverse forms. One of these forms is called prose poetry, which describes poetry that could be read without line breaks as if it were a paragraph or essay.
May Swenson’s poem “The Snowy” is an example of such a prose poem. Born in Utah in 1913, Ms. Swenson earned a science degree from Utah State University and wrote numerous poems that reflected her interest in nature and science. Throughout her lifetime of writing, she also explored various forms of poetry. She became well known for her concrete or shape poems, which she called “iconographs.” She has also been referred to as the “poet of the perceptible.” In her own words, she has described poetry as “based on the craving to get through the curtains of things as they appear, to things as they are, and then into the larger, wilder things as they are becoming.”
Passages from New Jersey Yesterday and Today Workbook, for Grade 4
How much would the following cost?
10 ears of corn_____________
1. During the Ice Age, the earth was (cooler / warmer) than it is now.
“Now we know how soup is made. We visited the Campbell Soup Company here.”
“It was fun to visit the state capital. We did not see the governor, but we did see the buildings where are state laws are made.”
“We could see for miles and miles. We felt really tall. It was very exciting to stand in the highest point in New Jersey.”
“Our textbook is right. It is not barren here. We saw many different animals and beautiful plants.”
“We took pictures on the place where the Delaware River cuts through the Kittatinny Mountain. It was beautiful!”
(Labeled map shows: High Point, Delaware Water Gap, Trenton, Camden, and Pinelands)
_____1. Houses are made with thatched roofs.
Now write a sentence of your own. In it, tell one thing about life in New Jersey today that might surprise the Dutch, Swede, and Finn settlers if they were able to come back to life.
_____1. The Greenwich Tea Party happened in New Jersey.
Write a fact you have learned about the Revolutionary War in New Jersey that is not listed above.
Give an opinion you have about the Revolutionary War in New Jersey.
“Women must be given a chance to get a good college education. I am very glad that women will have this chance.”
“I am happy that women from all over the country are joining my Suffrage League to fight for women’s right to vote.”
“Fighting to be able to practice law was very important to me. But so is fighting to help women get the right to vote.
Now imagine that you are working for reforms in the early 1900s. Write an entry for your diary, explaining what reform you are working for, why you think it is important, and what you are doing to bring about the reform.