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Work Sample & Commentary: My Life as a Sea Horse
The task
Following a month long unit focused on various aspects of the ocean, students were asked to write a paper about an ocean creature. In the following report, a student chose to write from an ocean creature’s point of view.
Circumstances of performance
This sample of student work was produced under the following conditions:
alone in a group
in class as homework
with teacher feedback with peer feedback
timed opportunity for revision

What the work shows
c Reading: The student reads and comprehends informational materials to develop understanding and expertise and produces written or oral work that:
restates or summarizes information;
relates new information to prior knowledge and experience;
extends ideas;
makes connections to related topics or information.
The student organized and restated information from a variety of sources in a manner appropriate for an informational piece of writing.
The report establishes a connection between prior knowledge about reproduction and the reproductive behavior of sea horses.
The ideas gathered through reading and research are recast within a story that incorporates the ideas in a new context. The idea that sea horses need special attention if they are kept as pets leads to the conclusion that they must be happier living in the ocean.
The report provides a connection between the information presented and the feasibility of having a sea horse as a pet.

This work sample illustrates a standard-setting performance for the following parts of the standards:

c Reading: Read and comprehend informational materials.
a Writing: Produce a report.
a Conventions: Demonstrate a basic understanding of the rules of the English language.

a Writing: The student produces a report that:
engages the reader by establishing a context, creating a persona, and otherwise developing reader interest;
develops a controlling idea that conveys a perspective on the subject;
creates an organizing structure appropriate to a specific purpose, audience, and context;
includes appropriate facts and details;
excludes extraneous and inappropriate information;
uses a range of appropriate strategies, such as providing facts and details, describing or analyzing the subject, and narrating a relevant anecdote;
provides a sense of closure to the writing.

The report establishes a context in the explanation that the sea horse is trying to make her way “around a school of fish,” and that, as she tries to “make her way home,” she will talk with the reader.
The friendly, conversational tone and the use of a female persona develop reader interest. The persona is maintained throughout the piece and the attitudes expressed by the persona are consistent with the factual data and with a distinctive personality.
The use of the first person to relay information creates an informal yet informative tone.

Facts and details are grouped and organized in an appropriate manner.
The majority of the scientific details are accurate and details that are inconsistent with the persona or inappropriate for the report’s purpose are avoided.
The framing device of the sea horse narrator is maintained throughout the piece and referred to again in the conclusion, providing a sense of closure to the work.

a Conventions, Grammar, and Usage of the English Language: The student demonstrates a basic understanding of the rules of the English language in written and oral work, and selects the structures and features of language appropriate to the purpose, audience, and context of the work. The student demonstrates control of:
grammar;
paragraph structure;
punctuation;
sentence construction;
spelling;
usage.

The student made use of:
introductory words;
rhetorical questions;
and a humorous tone to imitate the structures and features of speech. The organization, spelling, usage and sense of syntax demonstrate fluency with the conventions of the written language.