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!
Now answer questions 1 through 4. Base your answers on the article, “Our Galaxy, The Milky Way”.
1. According to the article, how many stars are in the Milky Way?
a. 1 million
b. 1 billion
c. 2 trillion
d. 1 trillion
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?
a. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe.
b. The Milky Way contains about one trillion stars.
c. The Universe contains only our galaxy.
d. The Milky Way has a pancake shape.
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
This year, you will be learning how to use maps. Maps are useful for many things. One thing maps are used for is to find places. There are many interesting places to visit in New Jersey. Many people who visit New Jersey buy T-shirts with pictures on them to remind them of things they did and places they visited while they were in our state. Decorate the T-shirt below with different places you have visited or things that you have seen in New Jersey.
You know that the Campbell Soup Company was started in Camden, New Jersey. The Campbell Soup Company has been making different kinds of soup for many years. Imagine that you have been asked by Campbell’s to create a new brand of soup. Below are outlines for a front and back of a soup can. On the front of the can, give your soup a name and design a new label that Campbell’s can use for your new soup. On the back of the soup make a list of all the ingredients that are used to make your soup. Good luck!
New Jersey has been the birthplace of many inventions that have helped to make the world a better place. Below are listed the names of ten of these inventions. Hidden in the picture are all ten of these inventions. Find as many as you can. Circle the ones that you find. Be careful, because they are well hidden.
New Jersey is sometimes called the Garden State because many fruits and vegetables are grown here. New Jersey has many roadside markets like the one pictured below. Below the picture are prices for the fruits and vegetables shown. Use this information to answer the questions. When you are finished answering all the questions, color in the roadside market.
Tomatoes: .69 a pound
Peppers: .79 a pound
Sweet Corn: 10 ears for $1.00
Peaches: .59 a pound
White Potatoes: .45 a pound
Squash: .49 a pound
Blueberries: .79 a pint
Green Beans: .69 a pound
How much would the following cost?
10 ears of corn_____________
2 pounds of green beans __________
2 pints of blueberries _________
1 pound of tomatoes _____________
3 pounds of peaches ___________
10 pounds of white potatoes _________
On pages 69-70 of your textbook, you read about the Ice Age in New Jersey. Review the information in your text. Then try to complete the sentences by recalling what you read. Each sentence has two terms to choose from. The two terms are opposites. Only one term is correct for the sentence. Circle the correct term. The first sentence has been done for you.
1. During the Ice Age, the earth was (cooler / warmer) than it is now.
2. During the Ice Age, the winters were (long / short).
3. During the Ice Age, (little / much) snow fell.
4. During the Ice Age, glaciers, or (thick / thin) sheets of snow and ice, formed.
5. The glaciers formed in the area of the (North / South) Pole.
6. From the North Pole, the glaciers pushed (north / south).
7. The glaciers were so (heavy / light) that they could flatten hills and fill valleys with rocks and soil.
8. In New Jersey, the glaciers left moraines, which can be seen running (east / west) from the Delaware River Valley near Belvidere.
9. In New Jersey, the glaciers (formed / destroyed) mountain lakes.
10. Today, New Jersey looks (different from / the same as) the way it looked 10,000 years ago when the glaciers melted.
Choose one of the regions that you learned about in your textbook. On the front of the postcard outlines below, draw what that region of New Jersey looks like. Then write a message on the back of the postcard to a friend or relative. Be sure to tell the person where you visited, what you saw, and how you felt about your visit. Be sure to sign the card so that the person will know who wrote it. You can also write your friend’s address on the back of the postcard.
Below are some make-believe postcard messages written about field trips taken in New Jersey. Can you guess the name of each place visited? Draw a line from the message to the place on the map that the message describes.
“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)
Read each sentence below and decide whether it describes life in New Jersey when it was a Dutch and Swedish colony, life in New Jersey today, or life in New Jersey both then and now. On the line before each sentence, write the word then if the sentence describes life long ago, now if the sentence describes life today, or both if the sentence describes life both then and now.
_____1. Houses are made with thatched roofs.
_____2. High wooded walls surround Bergen.
_____3. Children go to school in a church of meetinghouse.
_____4. Dutch houses and churches are located in northern New Jersey.
_____5. Log cabins, built by Swedes and Finns, can be found in southern New Jersey.
_____6. Children have fun skating and fishing.
_____7. People live in the city of Jersey City.
_____8. Patroons bring settlers into New Jersey.
_____9. People in New Jersey learn how to hunt and fish from the Native Americans.
_____10. People must obey the laws.
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.
A fact is something that can be proven true, something that really happened. An opinion is something that someone feels or believes is true. Read each statement below and decide whether it is a fact or an opinion. If it is a fact write F. If it is an opinion, write O. Use textbook pages 132-144 for help.
_____1. The Greenwich Tea Party happened in New Jersey.
_____2. New Jersey Loyalists were wrong to remain loyal to the kind of England.
_____3. The Revolutionary War did not start in New Jersey.
_____4. It was right for the New Jersey Patriots to burn British tea in Greenwich.
_____5. New Jersey’s iron mines produced iron that was used to make guns.
_____6. It was unfair to attack the Hessians on Christmas night.
_____7. It was said that the Revolutionary Way tore some New Jersey families apart.
_____8. The Continental army spent the coldest winter of the war in Morristown, New Jersey.
_____9. It was unfair for the British Parliament to tax the colonies.
_____10. Between 1775 and 1778, New Jersey sent about 9,000 men to fight in the Revolutionary War.
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.
Imagine that the three quotes below are from the diaries of three New Jersey women who worked for reform. Read each diary quote carefully. Then write the name of the woman who might have written the quote. Review pages 196-197 in your textbook if you have trouble telling whose life is being described.
“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.Like what you've seen?