English writing portfolio pieces
Many of our senior students complete an English standard which requires them to keep a writing portfolio. They work hard throughout the year to produce well-crafted and controlled pieces of writing which command the attention of their readers. Their work needs to deliver a clear message for a specific audience and purpose and should follow the conventions of different forms and styles of writing.
Here are some recent examples from our Year 12 and 13 students.
I sat at the gate to Hauraki Primary, five minutes before the rest of the school got out. Anticipation built up in my stomach, a skyscraper of excitement. The sun smiled down at me from its home in the clear blue sky above. This afternoon was going to be a good one! You could hear Dad coming from a mile away. His beaten Toyota Land Cruiser tore its way down Jutland road. The wheels clattered and clunked, rims almost as dented as the rest of the car’s body, as if it were made from tin foil. The driver’s side window slid its way down and released an eruption of melody. Fat Freddy’s Drop surfed the sound waves on a quest to my ears. Doo do doo dooo do dum hmmm hmm. The sun’s rays danced on the bonnet, basking the world in gold, as they grooved to the soothing sound of trumpets and guitars. My face exploded into a smile like a child in a candy store as a shiny bald head protruded from the window. My father returned his toothy grin back to me, showing off the fashionable gap which “Supermodels loved”.
He parked with the gracefulness of a hippo breakdancing in a china shop. A fresh dent made itself seen on a rim as its respective wheel crashed its way into the curb like a sledgehammer in the hands of an especially annoyed construction worker. I ran my awkward little year 5 year old run to the car, my bag swinging wildly from shoulder to shoulder, struggling to escape its miserable yoghurt spilling owner. Dad stepped his way onto the pavement, which trembled in fear of his great belly. He held his arms out wide in what I decided was to be a hug and not a sumo wrestle, which was the general alternative.
He smelled like pie, in the way which only Dad could, mingled with his general aroma and made a pleasant smell. He picked me up, now an aeroplane flying above him, and steered me into my seat in the car. My foot kicked at some piled up coffee cups, which added to the trash pile disguising itself as a floor. I tossed my bag into the back and looked over at Dad. It had been 6 months but felt like so much longer. Brown eyes twinkled back at me, filled with life. His crooked, peeling nose inhaled air before launching into stories about Indonesia, where he had gotten back from working for the Red Cross. His enthusiasm was infectious; it was impossible to not like Gregory Maynard Johns. No matter how hard you tried to hate the man he grew on you. He was like an especially persistent pimple.
He always had a convincing tale spouting from his cracked lips. The car spluttered to a start and off we went, on our way to the 2 Dollar Shop in order to “get a refund on me” as Dad decided he liked the toy tank more.
An eerie tap on my bedroom window startles me. I look up just in time to catch a glimpse of tufts of wispy
white hair on top of a frail figure as the Grey Ghost passes out of sight. I leap from my bed and dash to
the back door, watching as the shadow rounds the corner gradually. The familiar shape enters through
the double doors, the tiredness of the wood reflected in his skin as it hangs in wrinkled folds from weary
bones. He focuses his gaze on me and his face breaks into a smile.
“Helloooo,” the strong Scottish accent announces his arrival as I leap into his arms. His cheeky smile
reaches even further, towards his left ear and what used to be his right, all the way into his sky blue eyes
as he gathers me into a hug. His soft fragile skin is protected by freshly ironed pink cotton armor as he
holds me and asks, “How are you today, my princess?” Weathered hands grasp mine tight. Rain or shine
he always finds a way to make me smile.
Occasionally my grandfather bears gifts; freshly picked grapefruit, tomatoes, herbs or flowers, all home
grown of course. Soft meat and overcooked vegetables, perfect for acrylic resin teeth, followed by a
second course of boxed cheesecake or individually wrapped ice creams, making for the family banquet.
Slow eating, made even slower by long conversations about the days and weeks previous, we all wait
impatiently for our second helping as Grandad chews leisurely through his first. Tales of school exams,
doctors appointments and flag changes are exchanged between three generations of Murrays, the
weekly family dinner.
After dinner coffee, a little milk no sugar, a box of biscuits and a pat for the cat. It is always better to sit to
his left during evening talks and speak loudly. Grandad’s war scars from battles with natural enemies
have left him with an ear gone and the one that remains, overused from long hours of coast radio and
listening to the voices of young grandchildren ramble on about things that, well, children do. Young no
more our stories have changed, but his interest has not, we will always be his princesses.
It is almost time for him to leave. There is always something to be done; a broken shower, a study desk,
a wooden box, a new door, a frail chair, Grandad will fix it. This house is held together by his handy
My grandfather’s little blue ‘nana’ car is illuminated softly by the glowing streetlight. He goes to buckle in,
not without a hug though. I squeeze him tight, thank him for dessert and kiss him on the cheek. Then
he’s off. Dog is on the dashboard, guarding the green container filled with mints in the glove box.
Grandad waves at us as he spins the car around and drives the six-hundred metres back to his home.
The Kite Runner – Narrative Inter-Chapter
Harvey Merton says that, “While reading Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, a mention was made of a massacre of the oppressed race of people living in Afghanistan, called the Hazara. This massacre was at the hands of a cruel man named Assef; the childhood bully of our protagonist. While this event was mentioned, it wasn’t explored very comprehensively. As this disgusting act interested me, I decided to write on my own ideas of how this event would have progressed. It is as follows.”
Assef marched down the street – his heavy boots grinding the dust under him. His thick military uniform was obscured in the front with his dark, rough beard which stayed remarkably straight despite his brisk movements. The silver rims of his black glasses glinted in the harsh sunlight – warning the helpless Hazara villagers of their impending doom.
Assef clicked the safety off on his gun and swung it towards the run-down, crumbling mud huts – grinning in a calm madness. Women screamed in the village below and scrambled with their children to huddle in the deceptive safety of their humble abodes. Some tried to flee but soon found that a ring of executioners garbed in dismal black robes were closing in on their ramshackle dwellings. Obscured by their deathly black balaclavas, some wore grim expressions of determination but most, like Assef, wore grins of pure anticipation and excitement, like children on the eve of Eid. They knew that they were doing the work of Allah; eradicating the Hazara filth that had invaded their watan and making it pure again.
Assef smelt the fear. He heard the panicked flutter of the fragile little hearts that he longed to cut short. He loved it. He loved the power he had to slaughter this filthy infection and cut it out at the roots. It was his precious homeland.
With his thick military boot he kicked open the door of the first hut. The rickety old boards shattered into spear-like splinters that spewed forth into the tiny room. Deliberately, he stepped inside; he wanted to savour his first kill of this holy day. His eyes surveyed the room and fell upon a man in the corner – arm encircling his family, shielding them from the cruelty that emanated from Assef.
‘Up you dog!’ Assef barked at the man, ‘where is your šaraf?’. He strode over and spat on the man. ‘I shouldn’t have expected more of Hazara filth like you.’
Assef reached into his left breast pocket where he kept his most precious possessions; close to his heart. He felt the familiar cold and brutal outline of his brass knuckles; savouring the feeling as if being reacquainted with an old friend.
Leaving his gun slung around his broad shoulders, he drew out the heartless, brutal metal and slipped his fingers into the holes. He clenched and unclenched his thick hands – once again familiarising himself with the feeling of power they gave him.
‘Get up you gutless kasseef!’ Assef roared. The man shook and did not move. He wanted to feel resistance! The helpless resistance and hope of a doomed man who has been given a fighting chance. But all he got was subjugation. The same meek look of a lamb that Hassan had given him many years ago. The Hazara are pathetic.
Assef dragged the man to his feet and flung him against the wall. He pummelled him with a flurry of punches until his face was bloody and disfigured.
‘Fight back!’ Assef roared in fury, ‘fight back you spineless worm!’ The man dropped to the floor, his face hardly recognizable. Assef shot him. Right in eye. Assef spun around before his body slumped to the floor. Maybe the mother would provide more resistance.
In two brisk lunges Assef was across the room – one of the little boys dangling from his hair in Assef’s rough hand.
‘No please!’ screamed the mother, ‘not my son! NOT MY SON!’ She charged at him in uncontrollable rage, wildly swinging her arms and kicking her legs. She didn’t care about her own life; her maternal instincts were too strong. She just needed to save her precious son. This is exactly what Assef wanted. He wanted this filth to beg and fight with no hope of ever prevailing.
With two powerful movements, he flung the boy across the room and brought his brass knuckles smashing down on the back of the woman’s neck; the snap filled the whole hut.
‘Kill the boys, Assef ordered his men as he spun on his heels and marched out. The sound of gunshots and terrified wailing cut short, echoed behind him.
The world he strode out into was complete chaos. Hazara ran in all directions, screaming, through the piles of dead bodies of their fellows. Dismembered human body parts were strewn everywhere. Even the thirsty, dusty earth could not drink the river of blood that now flowed down the streets. The smell of gunpowder and blood wafted together in a beautiful concoction of death and suffering. This is the cleansing that Assef craved. Too late for Hitler, he thought again, but not for him.
Statement of Intent: When I visited the South Island last year Lake Tekapo was one of the
most beautiful and memorable places I saw, so I wanted to share that experience through this
piece of descriptive writing.
The lake is a bright, clear slice of blue. A breeze skips across its surface, tracing ripples with
its thin fingers, the sun picking them out in silver and gold. Waves lap lazily at the rocky
shore to create a calming rhythm. It’s as if the lake itself is a sleeping creature, the water
rising gently as it breathes in and receding when it exhales.
Across the smooth water a range of mountains turns the horizon into a sawtooth line of peaks
and valleys. This early in the mourning they have no features they’re
outlines, a strip of darker blue between the glassy lake and the gleaming sky. As the day goes
on, though, the sun will rise far enough to pull away their shadows, unveiling elegantly
pointed spires tipped by pristine, snowy crowns, like an illustration in a picture book.
On the nearer shore, short patches of grass are interspersed with longer tufts as though the
landscape had received a cheap haircut. The wind flutters gently through the thin strands. The
fresh smell of growth fills the air, mixing with the slight mustiness of the soil. Boulders,
bushes and a handful of tourists are scattered in dots and clusters along the lakefront and the
morning sun casts a warm glow across the land.
Standing at the divide between land and water a stone sentinel keeps watch over the two
worlds. The small church rises boldly against the skyline. Smooth stones lock together to
form mosaic walls broken only by slitted windows and an arched entrance. From the right
angle its peaked roof seems to rival the distant mountains for height. It cuts a striking contrast
with its surroundings sharp
lines against the hodgepodge grass, earthy browns against
blue and green, the painstakingly designed architecture against the natural beauty
of the lake.
I wander up the cobbled steps and into the Church of the Good Shepherd on legs still wobbly
from the long car ride. Outside it’s hot enough to make my skin slick with sweat but as soon
as I cross the threshold everything is cool and dark, a haven from the harsh sun. This early in
the morning the church is still empty with the only sound coming from my hushed breathing
and my footsteps padding across the floor. Strips of soft light fall through the windows but
the room still remains largely in darkness. Pockets of gloom lurk between the pews and the
rafters cast a lattice of shadows across the ceiling. The lone patch of brightness is at the
sanctuary of the church where a wide window offers a view across Lake Tekapo, to the
silhouetted mountains beyond.
From the center of the church I can gaze out at the rocky shoreline, the jagged mountains, the
cloudless sky. It makes me feel strangely safe able
to watch the world but protected from it
by thick stone walls. No pestering parents or looming deadlines can bother me. All I need to
do is stand and stare.
The boy awoke alone in his room.
Darkness, seemingly his sole companion, accompanied him with an overwhelming dominance. He lay, against the hard wooden bedframe, eyes adjusting to the cosmic darkness that coated his body. With each breath of cool air that filled his lungs, he was reassured of the immense reality surrounding him. The staggered rise of his skeletal body clearly conveyed the severity of his troubled mind and through squinting eyes, the boy witnessed daylight beginning to filter its way through perforated curtains. Their unsuccessful effort in obstructing the piercing luminescence validated their diminishing value. Light that managed to leak into the room washed over the boy, conquering the darkness that had previously resided there.
The bleak colour began to stain exposed areas that lay in its crossfire, illuminating the desolation of the interior. The room looked as if it had been stripped of direct human interaction, emotionless, as if it were a representation of the void that continuously emptied the boy's mind. The limited possessions he acquired were meticulously arranged, the exactness somewhat compensating for his mental instability, opposing his usual erratic behaviour.
Everything had to be in order.
This obsessive compulsion allowed his mind to comprehend the complexity of the outside world. Peering, almost voyeuristically, through the dotted pattern that populated the curtains, he began to observe life beyond his room. This was one of the few moments he would ever feel dominant. A feeling of superiority, an emotion unlike his usual submissive persona, liberated the boy.
For once he had complete control.
He savoured this feeling of power. The sudden surge of ascendancy encapsulated his thoughts entirely. For the boy, the former hierarchy he was previously assigned to, instantaneously reversed. He, currently the unnatural heir of his high school, had mentally reconstructed the social status quo.
The boy believed, without a doubt, he was at the top.
As he clambered out of bed, his brittle bones began to creak with discomfort. He was slender in build, but also appeared severely malnourished. His limited growth understandably resulting from his mental illness caused him to regurgitate whatever he consumed. Clearly having an influence on his growth and after numerous years of bulimia, his physical development had been stunted. His disproportionate limbs flailed uncontrollably resembling similar movements to an overturned beetle and once again, the boy was back to his usual vulnerable state.
Vulnerable and exposed - the few emotions the boy currently felt. Consequently after his initial step outside, he was blinded, his eyes slowly adjusting themselves to the harsh light that confronted him. His pupils, mimicking a camera lens, defocused then resolved a clear expanse of deep blue looming above. The shear size of the sky became a reminding portrayal of his insignificance.
As leaves began to rain down in front of him, a vivid hallucination of colour overwhelmed the boy. The array of earthy red tones fighting with lighter green colours obscured his already limited vision. Voices began to fill his head, crowding his previously absent mind. His thoughts, almost as if old friends, were the only thing that kept him company on his journey to school.
The sound of his footsteps began to echo through the main entrance, matching the same, rhythmic sounds of his heartbeat.
The surrounding buildings towered above him, a monument in which he once called his school. Buildings that inflicted so much misery towards him would now ironically become the place responsible of setting him free.
Every step brought him closer to liberation.
As he took the final steps towards the classroom, he saw the large door handle responsible in deciding his fate. He felt a flourish of dominance overwhelm him once again. He was no longer at the bottom of the metaphorical food chain.
Grabbing the handle, the boy stepped inside.
He’s always over prepared. The sun is scorching and the sky blue, yet he insists we have wetsuits and thermals. I hear him hauling out the tangle of snorkels and wet suits from the back of the car, and the crunch of the gravel as he walks to my door and thumps on the glass with his blistered rower’s hands. “Hurry up Clepa,” he says barely able to contain his excitement. It’s been months since our last snorkelling adventure. Studying law as well as marine and having a schedule brimmed with flat warmings, photography club meetings, and uni lectures seemed to do that. He slaps on his cap, ruining his hair which he spent a lifetime working on in the morning. When I finally decide it’s time to get out of the car, Gordon’s already unpacked the boot and is all set to go: camera bag over shoulder, snorkelling gear in hand.
He patiently waits for me to get ready and we head off down the path towards the beach. As usual, he streaks ahead, his long strides reminding me of when I was little. The only thing I could beat him in was touching my toes. Finally, we reach the glistening water and cautiously enter, testing the temperature with our feet. Masks go on and snorkels enter mouths. I turn to see if he’s ready but he’s already slipped under water, sneaky bugger.
Like the creature he adores, he glides around like a humpback whale, flipping his fins and diving down to further investigate the sea floor. I turn myself around to follow a school of Red Moki and Spotties that swim past. Before long I’ve lost sight of Gordon. Oh no, not again. Panicked, I break the surface, anxiously scanning the sea of heads and flippers popping in and out of the water. Something grabs my foot and I kick, my heart thumping so hard it could have been capable of creating tidal waves. Suddenly, a head appears in front of me, and I breathe a huge sigh of relief. “Hey Clepa” he muffles as he pulls out his mouth piece. Relieved, I sigh, then immediately prepare myself for another one of his random facts he’s picked up from a lecture or some ocean documentary he’s seen. Clearly, even just after scaring your little sister is a great time to share ones love of the ocean.
I watch as he dives to the sea bed, scanning the floor for anything that was Instagram worthy, only in his eyes, it all is. He stays down for a while, and I wonder how he holds his breath for so long. Maybe he’s half fish, I laugh at the thought. Slowly, we make our way over to Goat Island, pointing out all the different types of wildlife we see. We pull ourselves up onto the rocks and he immediately gives me his diving socks so I can walk around, despite my endless protests. “You need them more, my feet aren’t small and pruney like yours”. That called for a stare off. Only even with my narrow eyes, I couldn’t keep them open for more than ten seconds.
The sky is filled with a golden haze now. The sun is retiring after a busy day. He calls me back to the water, and we swim back to the shore. I’ll miss his company when uni starts again and his timetable fills up, but I know he’ll always have time for his little sis.