Unteaching The Five Paragraph Essay

I often hear college writing teachers bemoaning the five-paragraph essay for its tendency to restrict creativity and to encourage a tunnel vision approach to essay writing.Many of my colleagues make it a personal mission to "unteach" the habits students bring to the classroom during their first year of college.

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Cramming all those elements together into a single sentence detracts from both thesis and support.

It also produces an unnecessarily long and ungainly sentence with no clear focus.

I've had students ask which points should be cut in order to trim the body paragraphs down to the requisite three.

I've also seen many page-long paragraphs jammed full of topics, a clear sign that the student is trying to force the information into the proper formulaic structure.

The writers, David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephens, argue that the format "handicaps" young writers by teaching them a method that "runs counter to virtually all of the values and attitudes that they need in order to grow as writers and thinkers--such as respect for complexity, tolerance of uncertainty, and the willingness to test and complicate rather than just assert ideas" (8).

Of all the writing handbooks I've read and taught, is unquestionably the most excoriative of the five-paragraph form. My practical observations of freshman comp pedagogy confirm the assertions of Rosenwasser and Stephens.

Let’s start with the fact that not all topics lend themselves to such overt thesis statements, nor do all main ideas have exactly three supporting points.

But even if you wanted your students to produce a traditional five-paragraph theme, with a clearly identifiable thesis and three distinguishable points, that is is no way to go about it.

When beginning each paragraph in an essay, what must be done first? For decades, too many high-school teachers have been instilling persuasive writing skills by teaching students the five-paragraph essay.

How To Teach The Five Paragraph Essay is a step-by-step plan for the five paragraph essay. An assignment to write a five paragraph essay may seem challenging at first, but when broken down into pieces it is much more.


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