Student Essay

The essay below was written by one of my 7th grade students. It's fairly typical of the kind of writing I see at the middle school level. Every year, I read hundreds of essays just like it.

Please read the entire essay.

Personal Essay

I enjoyed seeing animals because, ever since I went to the San Francisco Zoo, I wondered how each animal worked and survived. So I became interested in them so I searched up on how each one lived and survived. I also searched up about sizes, pet, albino, and extinct animals. In the SF Zoo I liked watching hippos, rhinos, peacocks and other fascinating beings. My first pet was a fish but since I didn’t have any fish food they died instantly. Now I have two red-eared sliders( also known as turtles) the bigger one is Forta while the smaller one is Shield. They are still alive and chilling in their bin. I wish to carry them but they have a disease called salmonella that affects humans, and that is also the reason why it’s illegal to sell turtles below 4 inches to decrease the chances of getting salmonella. Before I had those pets I liked to have a toucan, I was a young kid and I liked toucans for their colorful bills and amazing sounds. I liked birds because of their capability of flight. When I researched, I learned that they fly because of their hollow bones, but not all birds have hollow bones and that includes emus, cassowaries, penguins, dodos, ostriches, and many other undiscovered species. Even if these birds don’t fly (the dodo is extinct) I still like them. Birds are also related to dinosaurs, people demonstrated this in many ways. One of them was tying a stick to a chicken’s back which, even though funny, showed how dinosaurs walked. Dinosaurs and birds both laid eggs in nests to raise their young. They also had hollow bones so there is proof that dinosaurs did evolve into birds. Cassowaries also look most relevant to a dinosaur especially with its sharp talons (it also looks part ostrich) . Reptiles are amazing because of their ways of life. Snakes, before shedding skin, show condensation on their eye lens, color of scales fade, and they become more aggressive. They would also look for more water because of body fluid loss. Turtles have two layers on their shell, the outer layer (a hard layer) and the inner layer ( made from bones). Crocodiles and alligators look the same but you can tell the difference between them (especially if you get really close but I don’t recommend doing that). Crocs have a V-shaped jaw from a bird’s eye view while alligators have a U-shaped jaw. The crocs and alligators have strong jaw strength because their upper jaw is heavy and is held up by a muscle that, when loosen, closes with tremendous strength. Reptiles also have effective ways of cooling off and warming up, to warm up all of the reptiles might have darker skin to absorb sunlight’s heat rays. To cool down though, most reptiles might rest in the shade while alligators and crocodiles open their mouths to cool off, like a dog panting. Marine life and fish also interests me. Blowfish and pufferfish I think are the same except pufferfish have pointer spikes while blowfish have flatter spikes but puff up to make them look bigger. Orcas are killer whales though despite the name killer whales they are actually a dolphin and when I was young I thought that the two large white spots are its eyes. They hunt in pods and work together to get their prey, by communicating using clicks and whistles just like other dolphins. Also it surprises me that some people have exotic pets. Exotic pets are wild animals tamed by people for example, the well-known spiky hedgehog. These spike balls of cuteness are exotic pets and for some reason eat their young, like komodo dragons. Also it surprised me that toucans can be kept as pets although they cost $10 million for some species.   

Was Your Reaction the Same as Mine?

Did you read the whole thing? At what point did you realize that reading this essay was not going to be much fun? Was it when you noticed that it's all just one long block of text? Did your brain scream: Not enough white space!

If you don't want me to react to your essays with those same feelings of ugh, then—for God's sake—break up your writing into paragraphs!

"But Mr. Hall," you say, "I already know how to break up my writing into paragraphs."

Wonderful. Now make them twice as short.

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.