Kinds Of Essays For High School Students

Types of Essays: End the Confusion

Effectively writing different types of essays has become critical to academic success. Essay writing is a common school assignment, a part of standardized tests, and a requirement on college applications. Often on tests, choosing the correct type of essay to write in response to a writing prompt is key to getting the question right. Clearly, students can’t afford to remain confused about types of essays.

There are over a dozen types of essays, so it’s easy to get confused. However, rest assured, the number is actually more manageable. Essentially there are four major types of essays, with the variations making up the remainder.

Four Major Types of Essays
Distinguishing between types of essays is simply a matter of determining the writer’s goal. Does the writer want to tell about a personal experience, describe something, explain an issue, or convince the reader to accept a certain viewpoint? The four major types of essays address these purposes:

1. Narrative Essays: Telling a Story
In a narrative essay, the writer tells a story about a real-life experience. While telling a story may sound easy to do, the narrative essay challenges students to think and write about themselves. When writing a narrative essay, writers should try to involve the reader by making the story as vivid as possible. The fact that narrative essays are usually written in the first person helps engage the reader. “I” sentences give readers a feeling of being part of the story. A well-crafted narrative essay will also build towards drawing a conclusion or making a personal statement.

2. Descriptive Essays: Painting a Picture
A cousin of the narrative essay, a descriptive essay paints a picture with words. A writer might describe a person, place, object, or even memory of special significance. However, this type of essay is not description for description’s sake. The descriptive essay strives to communicate a deeper meaning through the description. In a descriptive essay, the writer should show, not tell, through the use of colorful words and sensory details. The best descriptive essays appeal to the reader’s emotions, with a result that is highly evocative.

3. Expository Essays: Just the Facts
The expository essay is an informative piece of writing that presents a balanced analysis of a topic. In an expository essay, the writer explains or defines a topic, using facts, statistics, and examples. Expository writing encompasses a wide range of essay variations, such as the comparison and contrast essay, the cause and effect essay, and the “how to” or process essay. Because expository essays are based on facts and not personal feelings, writers don’t reveal their emotions or write in the first person.

4. Persuasive Essays: Convince Me
While like an expository essay in its presentation of facts, the goal of the persuasive essay is to convince the reader to accept the writer’s point of view or recommendation. The writer must build a case using facts and logic, as well as examples, expert opinion, and sound reasoning. The writer should present all sides of the argument, but must be able to communicate clearly and without equivocation why a certain position is correct.

Learn How to Write Different Types of Essays

Time4Writing essay writing courses offer a highly effective way to learn how to write the types of essays required for school, standardized tests, and college applications. These online writing classes for elementary, middle school, and high school students, break down the writing process into manageable chunks, easily digested by young writers. Students steadily build writing skills and confidence with each online writing course, guided by one-on-one instruction with a dedicated, certified teacher.

In the elementary years, young writers get an introduction to essay writing through two courses designed to bring excitement and enjoyment to the writing process. Narrative Writing and Informative Writing take young writers on an animal-filled adventure to beginning essay writing. Our middle school online writing courses, Welcome to the Essay and Advanced Essay, teach students the fundamentals of writing well-constructed essays. The high school online writing class, Exciting Essay Writing, focuses in depth on the essay writing process with preparation for college as the goal. The online writing classes for kids also cover how to interpret essay writing prompts in testing situations. Read what parents are saying about their children’s writing progress in Time4Writing’s online writing courses.


One of the most important goals of any English class should be to help students learn how to express themselves to an audience — how to tell their own stories, how to provide much-needed information, and how to convince others to see things from a different perspective.

Below are some essays students can read, not only to help them see how such writing is done in the real world, but also to learn more about the world around them.

Need a #mentortext for student essays? Check out these exemplars for personal narrative, argumentative, and expository essay writing. Click To Tweet

Note: This is a living list. I will continue adding to it as I find important essays and articles, and as my readers make suggestions.

If You Think Racism Doesn’t Exist by Jordan Womack | Lesson Plan

A 17-year-old Oklahoma author details incidents of discrimination he has faced within his own community. Brief, yet impactful, the author’s authenticity strikes readers at their core and naturally leads the audience to consider other perspectives.

Letter from a Vietnamese to an Iraqi Refugee by Andrew Lam

Vietnamese lecturer, journalist, and author Andrew Lam offers advice in this letter to a young Iraqi refugee he sees in a photograph on the Internet.

Allowing Teenage Boys to Love Their Friends by Jan Hoffman

Learn why early and lifelong friendships are as vital for boys as they are for girls and what happens when those friendships are fractured.

Chris Cecil: Plagiarism Gets You Fired by Leonard Pitts Jr

The Miami Herald columnist and 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary winner castigates a Georgia newspaper editor for plagiarizing his work. This column would go great with this followup article from The Boston Globe: Ga. Editor is Fired for Lifting Columns.

Class Dismissed by Walter Kirn

The author of Lost in the Meritocracy postulates that getting rid of the high school senior year might be good for students.

Complaint Box | Packaging by Dylan Quinn

A high school junior complains about the impossible-to-open packaging faced by consumers of everything “from action figures to zip drives.”

Drowning in Dishes, but Finding a Home by Danial Adkison

In this 2014 essay, a teenager learns important lessons from his boss at Pizza Hut.

How to Tame a Wild Tongue by Gloria Anzaldua

An American scholar of Chicana cultural theory discusses how she maintained her identity by refusing to submit to linguistic terrorism. 

Humble Beast: Samaje Perine by John Rohde

The five-time Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year features the University of Oklahoma’s running back.

In Praise of the F Word by Mary Sherry

An adult literacy program teacher argues that allowing students to fail will actually help them.

The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me by Sherman Alexie

A Native American novelist recounts his experience loving reading and finally writing in spite of a culture that expected him to fail in the “non-Indian world” in order to be accepted.

Lane’s Legacy: One Final Ride by Keith Ryan Cartwright

A heartbreaking look back at the hours before and the circumstances surrounding Lane Frost’s untimely death, followed by reflections on his rise to fame — before and after death.

Learning to Read by Malcolm X

The 1960s Civil Rights leader writes about how educating himself in prison opened his mind and lead him to become one of the leading spokesmen for black separatism.

Learning to Read and Write by Frederick Douglass

A former slave born in 1818 discusses how he learned to read in spite of laws against teaching slaves and how reading opened his eyes to his “wretched condition, without remedy.”

Learning From Animal Friendships by Erica Goode

Scientists consider studying the phenomenon of cross-species animal friendships like the ones you see on YouTube.

Losing Everything, Except What Really Matters by Dan Barry

After a 2011 tornado destroys a house, but spares the family, a reporter writes about what’s important.

The Marked Woman by David Grann

How an Osage Indian family in Oklahoma became the prime target of one of the most sinister crimes in American history.

Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him on Watch List by Lizette Alvarez

Read about what happens if you happen to share a name of a “suspicious person” on the U.S. No-Fly List.

Newly Homeless in Japan Re-Establish Order Amid Chaos by Michael Wines

After the tsunami that resulted in nuclear disaster in 2011, a reporter writes about the “quiet bravery in the face of tragedy” of the Japanese people.

No Ordinary Joe by Rick Reilly

Why in creation did American Football Conference’s 1981 best young running back Joe Delaney jump into that pit full of water that day, even though he couldn’t swim?

Politics and the English Language By George Orwell

Animal Farm and 1984 author, Orwell correlates the degradation of the English language into multi-syllabic drivel and the corruption of the American political process.

Serving in Florida by Barbara Ehrenreich

The Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America author tells about her experiences attempting to survive on income of low-paying jobs.

Starvation Under the Orange Trees by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck, who later authored the fictionalized account of Okies in California, The Grapes of Wrath, first wrote this essay documenting the starvation of migrant workers in California during the Great Depression.

To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This by Mandy Len Catron

Is falling in love really a random event, or can two people “love smarter?”

We’ll Go Forward from this Moment by Leonard Pitts

The 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary winner pens a column chronicling the toughness of the American family’s spirit in the face of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks. He wrote the column one day after the attacks.

What’s Wrong with Black English? by Rachel L. Jones

Jones, a student at Southern Illinois University in the 1980s, wrote this piece for Newsweek. In her essay, Jones adds her story and perspective to the debate over Black English.

Why the Best Kids Books Are Written in Blood by Sherman Alexie

Alexie speaks on the importance of Young Adult literature in the lives of students struggling to survive abuse, racism, poverty, depression, gang warfare, negligent parents, drugs, and poverty.

Explore highly relevant issues & practice reading comprehension through short essays written for authentic audiences. #litchat Click To Tweet

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma graduate student, and a NBPTS candidate. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify my students’ voices and choices.

Filed Under: PedagogyTagged With: Model Essays

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