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Examples of Student Essays

Below are typical examples of literary analysis or composition essays 3rd grade, 4th grade, 6th grade, 8th grade and 9th grade students have developed during class.  All examples have the elements required for strong analytic paragraphs/essays which includes a clear claim (green), increasing in complexity with age, information or evidence (yellow) from the text to support the claim, analysis (orange) logically presented to prove the claim, and an ending (red) which summarizes and eventually extends the argument.  

Color Coding Key

    Bold: Strong Vocabulary

     Green: Topic sentence/Thesis/Claim/Sub-claim

     Yellow: Information

     Orange: Detailed Analysis

     Red: Ending

3rd Grade

Prompt:  Based on reading Aesop’s fable about the mouse and the lion, describe the mouse’s personality traits and how they help him succeed.

The mouse is brave and trustworthy and this helps him succeed by overcoming the challenge of facing the lion by making a promise to help the lion. 

He was brave by not being scared by the lion and making a trade with him so he could save his life. In the story the mouse wimpers ,"Do not eat me. I meant no harm coming so near you. If you would only spare my life, O Lion, I will repay you!”This quote shows that the mouse was able to talk to the lion because he was fearless. This is significant because the mouse is a small creature and he can't fight the lion. He had to talk because it was his only option. Talking to someone who is big and strong is probably very scary, so the mouse showed his bravery by talking to the lion. 

The mouse is trustworthy because he kept his promise and saved the lion. In the story it says ,“Hearing her loud groans, the Mouse promptly bounded over to rescue the lion.”This quote shows that the mouse helped the lion because he made a promise and that's a sign of trustworthiness. This is significant because he is a small creature and saved something that could hurt him. In this sentence it shows that the lion can rely on him. Because the mouse was trustworthy and brave, he saved the lion and himself. The author wanted us to learn that if you are smart then you can help others and yourself

4th Grade

Prompt: how did people view Louis Braille

When Louis Braille was younger, people thought he wasn’t that smart, but then they realized that he was a genius when he invented Braille, and when he died people admired him. When he was younger, people thought that Louis Braille wasn’t smart because he was blind, and when he was older, some people still thought negatively about him. The story explains, “Two hundred years ago, if you were blind, you became a beggar.” That means people thought that blind people were unable to get a job or money. That would also mean that there are not a lot of expectations for Louis and that would make him feel sad. Louis is determined and hard working because he didn’t let that deter him. The story states that when Louis was in school, there was a new director and, “This director didn’t like Louis’s dots.” This quote shows that he didn’t have a lot of faith in Louis and didn’t like the dots because they made the students too independent. Louis wasn’t appreciated by the director and there were still people that didn’t approve of his idea and judged him. Louis invented a way for blind people to read and write so people praised him. The story shows that when he was a teacher, “Students filled his classes, and he in turn filled them with hope and the promise that they each had something valuable to contribute to the world.” This quote proves that Louis is  inspiring, and is seen as a role model. He’s overcoming the public opinion about blind people. In conclusion, at the beginning of Louis Braille’s life, people thought he wasn’t smart and thought negatively about him, but at the end of his life, people were supportive, and even built a statue of him. This proves that blind people can do the same things as people with two working eyes. 

6th Grade:

Prompt: In Aesop’s fable The Ant and the Grasshopper explain the grasshopper’s point of view

Everyone has a different idea of hard work. In Aesop’s fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper, both the ant and the grasshopper think that they worked the hardest at whatever they did. The grasshopper believes that entertainment is equally as important as collecting food, that everyone should be kind and generous to each other, and that he is entitled to some of the ant’s food because he worked hard providing entertainment that motivated the ant. 

The grasshopper feels that entertainment is just as important as food. The grasshopper explains, “We each have our own talents, I had thought as I watched others doing their own work. Sure, singing is more fun than lugging heavy food, but we both did what we could.” The grasshopper believes that everyone has a different skill set, and that the entertainment he provides is just as important as the food gathered by the ant. The grasshopper presumes that everyone who contributes what they can will still get a fair share of any benefits that are the outcome of the work that they did. The grasshopper also assumes that he is entitled to some of the ant’s food. In the story, the grasshopper “recalled how [the ant] would sway to my music as he carried whatever he found back to his nest with his friends.The grasshopper thinks the music that the grasshopper provided motivated the ant to keep gathering food, so the grasshopper wants some form of payment for that entertainment. The grasshopper feels like the ant is being hypocritical because the ant refuses to give food and acts like entertainment is not important, when in reality, the ant benefited from the entertainment that the grasshopper provided. The grasshopper expects everyone to be kind and helpful, like he was by providing entertainment.  When the ant refused to give the grasshopper food, he “ wondered how someone could be so unkind. I promised myself I would always help others, unlike this ant.” The grasshopper feels that the ant is harsh and inconsiderate because he refuses to give the grasshopper the food he deserves for providing entertainment that the ant benefited from. Because of this, the grasshopper also has an outlook that everyone should be kind to benefit society. The grasshopper thinks that he is the better person because he shared the talents that he had with everyone, unlike the ant who only gathered food for himself. He thinks that kindness means being dedicated to helping others by doing what is possible. In conclusion, the grasshopper feels like he equally contributed to finding food, that he deserves some of the food, and that everyone should be kind and generous. The lesson of the story is that being a kind person will result in others liking you and will make the world a better place.

8th Grade

Prompt:How is the theme of moral superiority portrayed in The Most Dangerous Game

     In the short story, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, the theme of moral superiority is depicted through General Zaroff’s biased view of the world and emphasized through his inhumane actions and impulsive language, showing that hierarchy is pernicious to society. 

     One way General Zaroff displays his prejudices is through his actions, illustrated by his aggressive nature towards hunters on his island including Rainsford. In the story, the General boasts about his training school disclosing, “I have about a dozen pupils down there now. They're from the Spanish bark San Lucar that had the bad luck to go on the rocks out there. A very inferior lot, I regret to say. Poor specimens and more accustomed to the deck than to the jungle." He raised his hand, and Ivan, who served as waiter, brought thick Turkish coffee. Rainsford, with an effort, held his tongue in check.” (122) The general notifies Rainsford that his school takes place in the cellar, which is usually under the main floors of a house. This symbolizes the General's perspective on his place in society’s hierarchy because he is placing people who he considers unworthy and inferior physically below him. Additionally, when the general raises his hand and Ivan brings him food it shows how he thinks of people of certain races like Ivan as inferior and believes that they should devote themselves to care for him. In Zaroff’s mind, if a person does not meet his social requirements for worth, the general believes he has the right to use them to his advantage because they are below him and do not serve any other purpose in life than to serve others. Also, when Rainsford decides to "hold his tongue" in regard to speaking his own opinion and offending the General it is clear how great the general’s actions influence Rainsford’s decisions. He fears the general will have a negative reaction to his opinion about Zaroff's cruel actions. Namely, Rainsford does not want to threaten his reputation even more. The General’s aggressive actions and behavior are having a directly negative effect on Ransfords actions and thoughts, preventing him from speaking his mind and being true to himself. 

***remainder excluded for brevity

8th Grade:

Prompt: Explain how the opening passage of The Westing Game helps the reader understand Turtle’s personality. Word limit: 300.


The opening passage in The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin reveals that Turtle is arrogant and vain which makes her more likely to experience gullibility, likely resulting in allowing others to easily take advantage of her. 


Turtle is notorious in her neighborhood for her vanity and retaliatory nature. The author explains, ”Touch her precious pigtails, even by accident, she’ll kick you in the shins, the brat.” Turtle certainly projects the idea that she is self-absorbed,  but that is merely a facade to hide the fact that her mother views her as abnormal compared to her lovely sister Angela. By acting violent and cruel towards others, she has become infamous, and hopes her mother will notice that she has become the exact antithesis of what her mother demands from a daughter. Unfortunately, this hinders Turtle in that she has achieved notoriety in her neighborhood that presents the image that she is spoiled and self-obsessed which makes people wary of her and cautious to start relationships with her. This limits her growth and makes her isolated and drags Turtle further down the hall of self-loathing without support from others. In order to keep up her facade of egotism, she accepts dares rather naively and is susceptible to gullibility. Her perceived arrogance leads to others being discouraged from starting friendships with her because she has an unpleasant reputation. 


She creates a mask for others and herself to hide her pain, but it provides her no joy, and she only receives a deep pain that originates from the absence of love and aspiration to gain infamy, until the mask eclipses Turtle and the girl she once was is lost to years of pain.  


Word count:  289

8th Grade:

Prompt: What does Rashad's art indicate about his racial views or understanding of racism?

In the book All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, Rashad is a 16-year-old artist unjustly attacked by a police officer due to his race. His experience of racially-driven police brutality motivates him to change his art to no longer reflect that he views himself abnormally compared to white people. As the story progresses, he discovers his self-worth through art, which opens up his mind, and helps him recover from his attack.

Rashad’s original racial view was defined by the media; black people were inferior to white people and were incapable of having normal lives. Rashad explains why he held onto these stereotypes when he says, ”Maybe I was fascinated by the fact that it seemed like white families, at least in comics, lived simple, easy lives.”  Rashad’s favorite comic book is about a normal average white family, which he believes is much different than his own black family. Rashad had internalized stereotypes that white people live easier lives than non-white people and that non-white people are abnormal. Because of this, he felt a sense of diminished self-worth due to never seeing himself, a black man, portrayed as worthy of recognition or even portrayed at all in the media.  He was spoon-fed the image of a perfect white family his whole life through society and the media, making him believe that whites are normal. Black people were invisible to the media and this led him to believe that he was not worthy of recognition, and that black people weren’t either. As the story develops, Rashad, through his art, discovers his self-worth and that black people deserve recognition. He explains his artwork to a nurse, ”Anyway, all of us looking at the scene see the person who has the hand put through his chest. The dude with his heart torn out. It’s impossible to ignore him. He has a face. He deserves a face.” Rashad originally drew only generic white families that he saw in his comic books, encased in a peephole. But later, Rashad grows more confident and draws black people, though his subjects have no features, reflecting his lack of self-worth. But through his art, Rashad relives his traumatic experience of being attacked and that shows how much stronger he is than the world and media are trying to tell him. Once Rashad sees past the lies and stereotypes he had been subject to his whole life, and he realizes that he is powerful, he starts drawing black his subjects with faces and features. His empowerment led to the realization that other black people are probably struggling like him, caught in the bonds of racism, so Rashad tries to spread the message of empowerment and equality through his art. Rashad was evidently affected by black people’s lack of representation in the media, and something as simple as a comic book could affect his self-worth. Rashad is able to break free of the stereotypes he’s been fed, but most people aren’t able to, and it is an example of dereliction of duty on the media’s part for continuing to perpetuate a false narrative, which is the antithesis of what media’s purpose is; revealing the truth and providing entertainment for all.

9th Grade:

Prompt: what defense mechanisms does Holden employ?

Accepting the responsibilities that come as one matures can be difficult, however it is vital to developing fully as an adult. In the first chapter of the novel Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger the protagonist, Holden, is a teenager who fears growing beyond his juvenile innocence. To prevent having to mature, he purposefully fails out of school and distances himself from his friends and family. His actions make him appear haughty, thus keeping others from understanding his vulnerabilities. Holden hides his authentic self behind a barrier of juvenile arrogance to protect himself from others' perceptions of him, which allows him to preserve his innocence. 

Holden adopts an immature image that makes others expect less of him, preventing him from maturing. In an effort to insight disappointment, he ignores his “frequent warnings to start applying [him]self” and nonchalantly explains “but I didn’t do it. So I got the ax.”  He allows himself to fail out of school. Holden behaves as though he does not care about succeeding in school, which lowers his parent's expectations for him because they won’t pressure him to do well. He also acts like school is unimportant by saying “But I didn’t do it”, as though it as simple as whether or not to stop and get coffee in the morning.  This ignorant behavior stunts his emotional advancements because it prevents him from having to take on responsibility, thus enabling him to stop working and deny opportunities. Ceasing all work efforts can lead to numerous devastating familial scenarios that keep Holden from progressing in his personal life.


 Holden maintains  a distance between himself and everyone else to keep their judgement from affecting him, allowing himself to evade growing. He does not want to appear attached to others, so Holden expresses judgment towards them by claiming “that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father.”  Holden’s apparent perception of his parents allows him to keep an emotional distance from them. His complaining has a tone of superiority that allows him to function as though he does not care. These insolent words prevent him from having to grow as an individual because he speaks as though he is emotionless and reckless. His mindset could not only stunt the growth of his relationships, but the maturity and responsibility that Holden will one day have to face. Ultimately, his snobbish words are used as an emotional barrier between himself and other’s which significantly lowered their expectations of him.  


Holden’s biggest fear is that if he is honest with other’s then they will dislike him for who he truly is.  Holden distances himself from other’s because he believes that when they inevitably judge him that it will hurt less if there is a barrier between them. The fear of judgement is one that most teenagers have, but a part of maturing is learning to overcome that fear and be authentic despite it. The value of being authentic is that one can be happy with oneself. If one cannot be authentic, then it will prevent them from growing and it will keep them stuck living in their past innocence which becomes ignorance. 

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