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Hayes says college writing instructors need to get students to understand that the reason their K-12 teachers kept assigning five-paragraph essays was because they were working with “100, 120, 150 students,” and a standardized writing assignment “that works the same way every time” is easier to read, assess and grade.In regards to students who leave K-12 with a “strong ability to write the five-paragraph essay,” he says, ““I don’t want to snap them out of it because I don’t want to dismiss that knowledge.” Take Mc Kenzie Spehar, a Writing and Rhetoric Studies major at the University of Utah.
But because the five-paragraph essay structure dictates that there be three body paragraphs, students might try to “push everything” to those body paragraphs.
Olin does think, however, that the five-paragraph essay format is useful for elementary students, adding that fourth grade is when the state of Texas starts assessing students’ writing in standardized tests.
“In fact, it is often used with students who have been labeled as struggling.
Rather than supporting these students, or younger students, it does the opposite.” For his part, Hayes thinks the five-paragraph essay makes it easy to not be creative, not that it necessarily stifles creativity.
“It doesn’t exemplify how we talk, how we write or how most essays you read are actually structured.” Consider paragraphs.
They should be about one subject and then naturally shift when that subject changes, Olin explains.She says she learned the five-paragraph essay early on, and except in an AP English class she took in the 12th grade, the structure was pushed heavily on her at school.She can’t say she’s ever written a five-paragraph essay for college.It can’t be simply uncontrolled, because the reader’s not going to get the point if it’s all over the map.”Rita Platt is currently a teacher librarian with classes from Pre-K to fourth grade at St. She thinks the five-paragraph essay format has room for creativity, such as through word choice, topic and progression of thought.Kids can use the five-paragraph essay model to organize their thoughts, she says, and once they’re really comfortable, they can play around with it.“It cheapens a student’s thesis, essay flow and structure, and voice.” A year later, her stance hasn’t budged.“When I see five-paragraph essays come into the stack of papers, they invariably have this structural problem where the ceiling is so low, they don’t have time to develop a real thesis and a truly satisfying or convincing argument,” she says.And in a 2016 blog post for the National Council of Teachers of English, Sacramento State associate professor Kim Zarins used the five-paragraph essay structure to show why she’s against teaching it.She called herself a high school “survivor of this form.” Despite its “long tradition, the five-paragraph essay is fatally flawed,” she wrote.But once students get into sixth, seventh and eighth grade, teachers need to break away from that five-paragraph essay format and say “‘this is where we started, and this is where we need to head.’” Hogan Hayes, who teaches first year composition at Sacramento State, is the second author of an upcoming book chapter about the “myth” that the five-paragraph essay will help students in the future.” There’s a perception that if students get good at the five-paragraph essay format, they’ll hone those skills and will be good writers in other classes and writing situations, he says.But there’s “overwhelming evidence to suggest that’s not the case.” He doesn’t think that first first year composition teachers should be spending time “hating the five-paragraph essay.” Instead, they should recognize it as knowledge students are bringing with them to the classroom, and then “reconfigure it to new contexts” and use it ways that are more college-appropriate.