Friday, April 13, 2007

Elbow/5 Paragraph Essay

The Five-Paragraph Essay is the form of writing that I was taught probably since the 7th/8th grade. I remember it became very important for us to k now how to organize it in the 9th/10th grade. It began with the usual brainstorming and writing down what our main ideas were. Then as it has been described in the readings we were to choose the top 3 most important ideas in order to have a topic sentence per paragraph. When those 3 were ready then we had to organize the introduction and were taught to not forget to include the thesis statement as the last sentence of the introduction. It was very important to state the 3 main topics in that thesis and organize the paragraphs in the order that was previously mentioned. I did not have much of a problem doing this type of essay and thought that I was a good essay writer. There were many times when I had an essay to write and as soon as I had my 5 paragraphs I was done. I think this was definitely negative for my development of ideas because I had my 3 topics explained them in about 5-6 sentences and that was it. Then I do remember one teacher telling us to state everything as a fact and because of that I never really explained what I thought or incorporated how those facts affected my thinking.

My last year of high school I was in the AP English class and of course had endless amounts of practice essays to write. My teacher always gave me the average grade and always said I had to develop my ideas and include more detail. Although, we were still instructed to write in the 5 paragraph form and to state things as facts. I definitely think that students should be exposed to different types of essay forms and not forced to construct their ideas around only the 5 paragraphs. It does limit what they can say and it seems that because its so focused on the structure that they are not free to express or develop a style that is unique to them.

1 comment:

Michele R said...

This semester I have had to read more than my share of critical essays and I can say with all confidence that none of them were in the 5-paragraph essay form. Additionally, only a handful of them state their thesis in the first paragraph and if they do they usually revise and restate their thesis further along in their argument. So the question is how does the 5-paragraph essay teach students to write other than learning form and grammar? Besides that what college course can you remember in which you were required to write an essay in 5-paragraph form? Not one that I can think of. I don't know enough research on the topic to say that it should be thrown out but I do feel, based on my experience, that it is suspect in that there seem to be better ways to teach students to be accomplished writers.