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As a writing teacher, one of the most common questions I’m asked is how do I handle the five-paragraph essay.If I’m being honest, until relatively recently, I tried my best to avoid this question, as discussion of the five-paragraph essay is the writing instruction equivalent of talking about politics at Thanksgiving.It is the third rail of ELA instruction, with an army of passionate and seemingly intractable supporters on both sides.
So far, it likely seems pretty similar to what they’ve done before, but then I throw a twist at them:. Why do a lot of teachers tell students to put a thesis at the end of the introduction? This is pushed further by the next question, which goes…
Suddenly, the students are asked weird questions like can an essay be clear if a thesis doesn’t go in the introduction (yes) or could starting with a first-person story be an acceptable technique to grab attention in academic pieces (yes as well).
There is a reason the five-paragraph form endures but there is also a reason it is so widely criticized.
Further, there is a major issue that professor Kathleen Dudden Rowlands lays out in her article “Slay the Monster” from the English Journal: If we do decide to kill the five-paragraph essay, what should go in its place?
Thinking, language usage, and the force of argument are all secondary considerations Now, based on this so far, you might not think there is much of a debate going on in my head.
Why would I offer any support for something that I just said contributes to flavorless prose and diminished thinking?Such an essay form is the very three-partitioned tombstone of human reason and imagination.It is not hard to find teachers who feel like Warner and Zarins, and there is good reason for the depth of their emotion.Instead, before the first essay my class does a genre study on the five-paragraph essay.s a high school teacher, I assume that my students have all probably encountered the five-paragraph essay before, so on the first day I put up the following question for each section of the classic five-paragraph essay: The students then work in groups, drawing upon every “hamburger” how-to-write-a-five-paragraph-essay lecture they’ve heard since elementary school, to piece together the rules for each part of the essay. This begins the inquiry in earnest and gets them thinking about the goals of argumentation.In the end, this genre study approach might not seem that drastically different than the more traditional teacher-directed five paragraph lesson approach.After all, both are filled with discussion of theses, hooks, quotes, and topic sentences.It is a learned skill like playing an instrument, baking, or coding.While occasional savants may learn these skills sans instruction, the rest of us mortals can only reach higher levels of success if someone shows us how.There is a wonderful treasure trove from Moving Writers here, but I often just pull them off of op-ed pages.As we read each, we identify how each writer uses the key elements of argumentation that we discuss early in the unit (things like establishing credibility or thoughtfully using evidence to strengthen your points).