Thoughts on Five-Paragraph Essays

bdouglas1

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Hi,

I would like to inform all English teachers about the consequences related to teaching the five-paragraph essay format and hopefully stop teachers from doing so. Although you might view the five-paragraph format as a starting place for students to learn how to structure their essays, it ends up hurting them more than helping them in the long run and there are much better alternatives.

The major problem with the format is that the students get trapped using this structure for every single essay and don’t know how to structure their own work since it is the only strategy that they are taught. In both college and in the real world, 9/10 times your essay is going to need to be longer than 5 paragraphs. Since the students are only taught how to structure based on a template rather than the contents of their essay, they have no idea how to structure this new work and end up throwing paragraphs wherever they want which leads to confusing and unorganized writing.

Along with that, making the students structure their work based off a template leaves nearly no room for tone in their essays. As all teachers who have read this structure of writing know, this makes their essays extremely boring to read and very repetitive. Nobody in the real world is going to read a piece of work that doesn't have any tone and bores them, so the fact that we are teaching students to write in such a way doesn’t make any sense.

These are just a few of the problems related to teaching the five-paragraph format that can’t be resolved without getting rid of it and play key roles into why I believe that the five-paragraph format needs to stop being taught. English teachers should focus on teaching the students different structuring techniques instead. This will be much more beneficial for the students because it will teach them how to organize any piece of work that they create and will give them a much more natural writing style that following the five-paragraph format will never have.

If you would like additional information on the effects of the five-paragraph format, you can visit any of these sites:

[Hyperlinks removed]

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions.
 
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emsr2d2

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Welcome to the forum. :hi:

Please don't use the forum to advertise products. I have deleted all the hyperlinks. If you want to help learners of English here, take part in the Ask A Teacher section and answer their questions.
 

Tdol

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Any formula has limitations. Essays are full of students overusing connectives. Reducing essays to a set number of paragraphs might help some, but will reduce others to cookie cutters.
 
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Skrej

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Ironically, you pretty much used the 5 paragraph format for your post. :lol:

Teaching any sort of formulaic structure, even down to simple sentence patterns will eventually reach a limit of usefulness. However, it's a confidence booster to get them started writing (and speaking). They need a model to start with, then need to be shown ways to improvise on that base model.

Some students are naturally more inquisitive and will proactively start trying to improvise variations, while others have to be prodded a bit to try something new. And of course there's occasionally that one you have to try and reign in a bit because they're trying verbal parkour without evening knowing how to walk a straight line, orally speaking.

At some point in the learning process, I use a pattern or formula for pretty much any grammar point I introduce. Students start out literally plugging words into pattern until they get it internalized, then it's time to explore ways they can (and can't) improvise upon it.
 

teechar

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I greatly sympathize with that, especially given that many learners' interest in essay writing lies solely in passing the hurdle of IELTS, TOEFL or some similar test, which typically requires this monotonous, limited and limiting 4- or 5-paragraph structure.
 

Tdol

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And we are moving towards machine-assessed exams, including writing, which will make this worse.
 

jonathanrace

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Teach them the way of the 5 paragraph but... show them that there is more out there.
 
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