Against the five paragraph essay

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Against the five paragraph essay

By Nancy Flanagan on October 1, Creative elaboration--expanding on ideas in novel and creative ways. Have we done this to children, with "eminently gradable" assignments? Josh Boldt, who teaches writing at the University of Georgia in Athens, shares his thoughts: College writing teachers hate the five-paragraph essay.

According to Writing Analytically, the writing guide used by my first year composition department, a faculty survey conducted prior to publication indicated a consensus among college writing professors that "students are coming [to college] prepared to do five-paragraph themes and arguments but [are] radically unprepared in thinking analytically.

The text completely dismisses the form, arguing that any value it holds as a helpful learning strategy is negated by its damaging long-term effects on creative thought. 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.

Is its critique too harsh? My practical observations of freshman comp pedagogy confirm the assertions of Rosenwasser and Stephens. 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.

But, I have seen the negative effects of the form firsthand. When students think the five-paragraph form is the only acceptable way to write an essay, it can be paralyzing and creatively-stifling, which leads me to my primary concern with the form.

The worst offense of the five-paragraph essay is its ignorance of the fact that good writing must also be interesting. Professional writers shirk the format in favor of a looser and more creative style that engages readers rather than lecturing to them, as the five-paragraph form often does.

On this point, I agree with the Writing Analytically denouncement. Creativity and voice take a backseat to structure. The antipathy ultimately comes down to our encounters with students who have become imprisoned by the method and have lost the ability to write and think creatively or maybe never developed it.

What began as a good thing becomes a crutch that students are reluctant to give up for fear of falling. I believe this is a big part of why the format is so widely criticized in freshman writing courses.

The value lies in its usefulness as a teaching tool and as an entry-level organizational strategy for young writers. It works great as a foundation upon which students can later build. Incorporating outside research, crafting topic sentences, and using transitions are all strengths of the format.

Nunnally has also explored the merits of the form even as he critiques them in his essay "Breaking the Five-Paragraph Theme Barrier. When composition pedagogy isolates these independent steps and teaches them as a function of the writing process, the structure of the five-paragraph essay can be immensely valuable.

It allows teachers to emphasize the role of research and support, and it also provides a convenient framework for teaching basic writing skills like the use of transitions and topic sentences. College writing teachers and handbooks pick on the form and, to a certain extent, the criticism is deserved.

What are your thoughts on the five-paragraph essay?The 5-Paragraph essay is the universal standard format. Whether you are writing a persuasive piece or just a story, this is the go-to structure! 5 paragraphs form a standard structure of an essay. Do you understand how important a 5 paragraph essay is for your final grade per course?

If yes, discover the ways to write it and 30 good topic ideas below. What Is a 5 Paragraph Essay and How to Write It?

Against the five paragraph essay

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How to Write an Essay (with Pictures) - wikiHow

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An essay has been defined in a variety of ways. One definition is a "prose composition with a focused subject of discussion" or a "long, systematic discourse". It . A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of course, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills.

Against the five paragraph essay
How to Write a 5 Paragraph Essay | Time4Writing