Teaching 5 Paragraph Essays

The foundation is the five-paragraph essay, a form that is chillingly familiar to anyone who has attended high school in the US. The comfortingly repetitive structure: here’s what I’m going to say, here I am saying it, and here’s what I just said. That’s all fine until you have to write in the real world of challenging problems and the need to convince actual people, at which point your jar-filling skills are useless.In college, the model expands into the five-section research paper. The utility for everyone involved: expectations are so clear and so low that every writer can meet them, which means that both teachers and students can succeed without breaking a sweat – a win-win situation if ever there was one. As Labaree points out, the actual teaching and learning of how to write are much more labor-intensive.

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In classes with mixed objectives, there's a need for balance to make sure that students who don't necessarily need the task at hand still profit from the lesson.

This is never truer than when teaching essay writing skills.

Then in graduate school comes the five-chapter doctoral dissertation. By the time the doctoral student becomes a professor, the pattern is set. But grappling with these issues forces people to think.

The Rule of Five is thoroughly fixed in muscle memory, and the scholar is on track to produce a string of journal articles that follow from it. Having learned to think, it’s easier to put things into persuasive words.

It gives you a test you can apply to your writing, but not a formula for writing it.

Writers who internalize this need to think harder, not less.

Once students are comfortable at the sentence level, use the essay writing workshop — a total of four lessons — to proceed from brainstorming, through outlining to final essay production.

As stated at the beginning of this introduction, the main issue with essay writing is that it is not really necessary for every student.

The idea is to make writing easy by eliminating the messy part – making meaning – and focusing effort on reproducing a formal structure. Something similar happens with the five-paragraph essay. Teachers teach the format as a tool; students use the tool to create five paragraphs that reflect the tool; teachers grade the papers on their degree of alignment with the tool.

As a result, the act of writing turns from moulding a lump of clay into a unique form to filling a set of jars that are already fired. The form helps students to reproduce the form and get graded on this form.


Comments Teaching 5 Paragraph Essays

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