The Five-Paragraph Essay

The Five-Paragraph Essay-31
But because the five-paragraph essay structure dictates that there be three body paragraphs, students might try to “push everything” to those body paragraphs.

But because the five-paragraph essay structure dictates that there be three body paragraphs, students might try to “push everything” to those body paragraphs.Olin does think, however, that the five-paragraph essay format is useful for elementary students, adding that fourth grade is when the state of Texas starts assessing students’ writing in standardized tests.

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Her papers have all needed to be longer, though she does note that they do tend to stick to a five-paragraph type format—an introduction, a body and a conclusion.

“In general, the consensus is you need more space than a five-paragraph essay gives you,” she says, adding that it’s a good place to start when learning how to write academically.

“In other words, the first five pages are the introduction with a thesis near the end, and you have two to five points, and it just expands out.” The five-paragraph essay is a topic long debated by educators, and strong opinions abound.

Ray Salazar called the five-paragraph essay an “outdated writing tradition” that “must end” in a 2012 post for his blog White Rhino.

“In fact, it is often used with students who have been labeled as struggling.

Rather than supporting these students, or younger students, it does the opposite.” For his part, Hayes thinks the five-paragraph essay makes it easy to not be creative, not that it necessarily stifles creativity.He believes creative students can work their imagination into any structure.Allen, the retired English professor, stresses that even if writing isn’t argumentative, it always needs some structure. She still stands by a piece she wrote in 2014; in it she said she was “being really brave” by stating she believes in teaching elementary school students “the good old fashioned” five-paragraph essay format.“It cheapens a student’s thesis, essay flow and structure, and voice.” A year later, her stance hasn’t budged.“When I see five-paragraph essays come into the stack of papers, they invariably have this structural problem where the ceiling is so low, they don’t have time to develop a real thesis and a truly satisfying or convincing argument,” she says.She wants students to read a variety of essays, and pay close attention to structure.The students can then develop ideas in a writing workshop.Dennis Allen doesn’t think the five-paragraph essay is dead.In the years before his retirement in May from West Virginia University, the Professor Emeritus did not assign “strict” five-paragraph essays.And in a 2016 blog post for the National Council of Teachers of English, Sacramento State associate professor Kim Zarins used the five-paragraph essay structure to show why she’s against teaching it.She called herself a high school “survivor of this form.” Despite its “long tradition, the five-paragraph essay is fatally flawed,” she wrote.


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