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How important is the exact 5 paragraph essay in academic writing?


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#1 SaDonna

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 08:23 PM

I had a friend of mine debate with me today about the importance of the 5 paragraph essay style being THE style to teach throughout the school years. She said that is the ONLY style required and requested in high school & college academics, and something like the structure of WWS that we learned this year would not even be approved as an option. grrr.. it's irritating.

If that were the case why would SWB be teaching all of this? Why would Classical Writing & Classical Composition exist? How important is the exact 5 paragraph essay style to academics anyway?

#2 SaDonna

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 08:27 PM

I guess I am wondering how much college professors will allow you to vary the essay structure from something other than just the 5 paragraph essay? I just wasn't sure what she was saying... I mean .. why bother with all these great writing curriculums, if all I needed to teach them was 'Here is what I am going to say, say it in 3 paragraphs, here is what I said.'

#3 Bluegoat

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 08:29 PM

I don't know - I don't think I ever wrote a five paragraph essay in university - that seems incredibly short to address anything substantial. I always thought that the five paragraph essay was a sort of model for beginning writers to practice the basics of essay writing - making sure they include an introduction and conclusion, focusing on an argument and supporting the argument, following a logical approach, that sort of thing.

I've read a heck of a lot of academic journals as well and I haven't seen any five paragraph essays there either. The articles are far more complex structurally in most cases.

#4 Dana

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 08:32 PM

I don't know - I don't think I ever wrote a five paragraph essay in university - that seems incredibly short to address anything substantial. I always thought that the five paragraph essay was a sort of model for beginning writers to practice the basics of essay writing - making sure they include an introduction and conclusion, focusing on an argument and supporting the argument, following a logical approach, that sort of thing.

I've read a heck of a lot of academic journals as well and I haven't seen any five paragraph essays there either. The articles are far more complex structurally in most cases.


:iagree:

I don't intend to teach my son 5 paragraph essay style at all.
Former English major here :)

#5 SaDonna

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 08:37 PM

I seriously don't know what she was talking about then. I didn't think so. I understood that you needed to set up an essay that gave an idea of what you would be writing about .. sort of an introduction, but as far as the structure of the rest of it.. I thought that was why we were learning all we were in WWS, and perhaps the Chreia's and Maxims in CW and CC .. so that we had lots of tools at our disposal to form an essay with.

That being said .. I would love to hear what you are going to be using! ;-)

#6 SaDonna

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 08:38 PM

Thank goodness for the little section at the bottom when you search for something as I ran across this link -

http://www.welltrain...ead.php?t=95244

#7 SaDonna

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 08:44 PM

One of the posters on the link above spoke about the fact that it is requested in AP classes, college classes, scholarship applications, and the like .. so from the sounds of it, it IS required .. I guess my hope was like she said .. it could be mastered fairly quickly and be ONE of many options to use in writing.

I was just concerned that there would be no use for all this other cool stuff in academic writing, and then what? Certainly when I read NG Magazine or The Smithsonian I do not see the 5 paragraph essay style being IT.. so I just need to figure out how much I am supposed to force it down their throats.

#8 lauracolumbus

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 09:23 PM

I had never heard of the 5 para. essay until I started hs'ing. But, I'm old and bit clueless.

So, I asked SWB after one of her sessions at our hs conference. She pretty much said it was an artificial construct used to make teaching writing easier.

Having said that, I find it is a great way to start out for beginners, and will probably come in handy on SAT/ACT writing. I do think it becomes rather formulaic very quickly.

Laura

#9 Deee

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 09:23 PM

I'm Australian. I excelled in English through high school. I have a science degree from one of country's top universities. I worked as a scientific writer for years. I had never heard of a 5 paragraph essay until I came to this forum.

5 pargraphs is far too limited. Its a nice formula for beginners, but totally inadequate if you can think up more than three main points to cover.
D

#10 LizzyBee

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 10:31 PM

When I was in high school, we were taught essay writing, but if we asked about length, we were always told it had to be long enough to prove our point. In college, English 101 was the only class in which writing a five paragraph essay was required. I wrote plenty of essays in other classes, but none of the professors cared whether they were three paragraphs, five, ten, or twelve, as long as the thesis was proved.

In my dd's high school, they teach the five paragraph essay in ninth grade, expand it to ten paragraphs in tenth grade, and 20-25 paragraphs in 11th grade. Seniors are required to complete a senior project, including a paper that is 8-12 pages long, 20 hours of community outreach, and a 10 minute presentation including audio-visual aids. They have to have some video of the outreach, but I'm not sure whether that becomes part of the presentation or is submitted separately.

#11 wapiti

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 11:00 PM

I had never heard of the 5 paragraph essay either until reading around here. I never wrote one in college (and certainly none of my professional writing was ever that short). It will be useful for the SAT and therefore must be taught. IMO, the important point is to understand how written documents are structured, and how to alter that framework to suit the argument. There's nothing special about five paragraphs outside of artificial scenarios such as the SAT or perhaps certain APs.

#12 frankcassiesmom

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 12:18 AM

The five paragraph essay is the standard jumping off point for teaching essay writing. A five paragraph essay is just long enough to have an introductory paragraph with thesis, enough supporting paragraphs for it not to be too short and a conclusion paragraph. It is mastering the basis of essay writing. It's been 20 years since I took English honors in high school and the first paper we learned to write was a five paragraph essay. By senior year the framework was the same, but the papers were HUGE :)

#13 mumto2

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 04:21 AM

Learner it in AP literature. Used it for " blue book" exams all the way through college. Three essay questions per test in on class period. Other then math we wrote most exams. No multiple choice for me. So I used the 5 paragraph constantly.

#14 Laura Corin

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 08:30 AM

I just find the 5 paragraph essay a weird and limiting concept. Certainly learn to structure an essay with an introduction and a conclusion, with well turned paragraphs and a narrative arc. Why five though? Why not seven? Eight or nine?

Laura

#15 Laura Corin

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 08:30 AM

I just find the 5 paragraph essay a weird and limiting concept. Certainly learn to structure an essay with an introduction and a conclusion, with well turned paragraphs and a narrative arc. Why five though? Why not seven? Eight or nine?

Laura

#16 EKS

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 08:35 AM

The five paragraph essay is a model. Real essays have as many paragraphs as they need to get their point across.

#17 Parrothead

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 08:41 AM

I had never heard of the 5 paragraph essay either until reading around here. I never wrote one in college (and certainly none of my professional writing was ever that short). It will be useful for the SAT and therefore must be taught. IMO, the important point is to understand how written documents are structured, and how to alter that framework to suit the argument. There's nothing special about five paragraphs outside of artificial scenarios such as the SAT or perhaps certain APs.

:iagree:This has always been my understanding of the 5P also. It is useful for answering essay questions on tests where time is limited but otherwise not so much.

#18 Momling

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 09:16 AM

I always tell my students (and now my daughter) that learning to write is a little like learning to cook. It's good to start off with a recipe if you don't know how to do it, but once you learn, you are you free to toss out the recipe and experiment on your own. A 5 paragraph essay is a recipe that is good to learn on but gets boring fast.

#19 SailorMom

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 10:44 AM

Here's how I look at it:

Many, many standardized test situations (SAT's), college short essay questions (on exams), much of the writing in high school, can be well-served by a 5-paragraph essay form.
It is an easy framework to grasp and expand upon (to go from 5 paragraphs, to 5 pages, to five chapters,,,, you get the idea).
Also -in timed essays in high school (and some college classes), it helps immensely to have this format down pat. You can immediately format/outline an entire essay response, and not spend too much of your writing time just figuring that out. Come up with a thesis statement, three strong supporting details, write and intro, a conclusion - bam! - done.
It is not creative writing, but in many cases, that is not what is being asked for. Essay questions (other than in creative writing classes ;) ) require concise and well thought out answers, formatted in a logical way.
While taking graduate level history classes, we frequently had very little time to answer 5 or more short essay questions. The 5 paragraph essay format was absolutely my go-to format, and helped a LOT. It was also the spine of my 20 page papers, and the basis for my 75 page thesis.
So - the only way to write? No, of course not. Crucial to academic writing? I'd say, yes.

As to why not 7, 8, 6 paragraphs.... Of course you can do that. You just add more points you want to prove. But the beauty of a 5 paragraph essay in academic writing is that it forces you to pick the three MOST VITAL points you want to make, and support those strongly. I can tell you, I was told by my professors that my essay/paper/thesis writing style was some of the best they saw, and it was absolutely formulaic. Again - not creative writing here.....

Edited by SailorMom, 10 May 2012 - 10:47 AM.


#20 chepyl

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 10:56 AM

We learned it in 9th or 10th grade, wrote a bunch of them in response to essay test type questions. We could have 6-7 paragraphs, but a minimum of 5. It was a good short writing assignement to help develop skills for writing a thesis statement and providing good support. It also taught us not to be wordy and write for the sake of filling a page requirement. We learned to be concise.

After we learned the basics, we moved on to longer papers. Between the 5 paragraph essay and the research methods class in 11th grade, I developed the ability to write a good 10 page research paper in a couple of days. By the time I finished college, I could do a 10 page paper in one night. The method they followed to teach us worked. As I applied it, I just became more efficient.

I did continue to use the 5 paragraph essay through my master's program. As others have said, it is great for an essay test that.must be done in a 50 minute class period.

#21 SailorMom

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 12:22 PM

. By the time I finished college, I could do a 10 page paper in one night. The method they followed to teach us worked. As I applied it, I just became more efficient.

I did continue to use the 5 paragraph essay through my master's program. As others have said, it is great for an essay test that.must be done in a 50 minute class period.


Yep - 10 page papers in a day became a necessary skill, and that practice helped so much.....

#22 LizzyBee

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 12:29 PM

Yep - 10 page papers in a day became a necessary skill, and that practice helped so much.....


Wow, I did plenty of 10 page papers in both high school and college, but I never got fast enough to do them in one night!

#23 SaDonna

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 12:30 PM

hmm.. this is so interesting. Sort of all over the map! ;-) Since we are on the topic of 5 paragraph essays, where do you think a curriculum like WWS or CW / CC fit into the mix then? Is there room for a variety of essays structures beyond the 5 paragraph one in academic writing. (Honestly .. I know the answer to this is yes .. and I don't think any of this is making me second guess my use of WWS or CW in the future) Having said that though, I just wonder how you work all these other styles .. support of a maxim, chreia, the rhetoric work in Herodotus, perhaps the higher levels of WWS and ALSO teach a specific 5 paragraph essay style.

I think my major beef with it is that our local PS teaches ONLY that. If you spend years practicing only that then you are somewhat limited by the contraints of it.

Also .. IF you have taught the 5 paragraph essay style .. what has been your favorite curriculum that you have used?

#24 mumto2

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 12:38 PM

I taught it with Shurley English. No other experience teaching it. The directions are very clear and both dc's learned quickly. So I guess that is a good recommendation!

#25 1Togo

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 01:04 PM

As mentioned in another thread, the last unit of CW Maxim maps the ancient maxim essay onto the five-paragraph essay. Those lessons clearly show the connections between the types of paragraphs in the maxim essay and a modern essay. Ditto for CW Chreia, which teaches the expository essay in the last unit. There is only one unit in Maxim and Chreia that deals with a modern arrangement because the skills needed for that arrangement have already been taught throughout the year. In the case of CW, the curriculum puts everything together for you and your student. As regards CC, it does not teach the five-paragraph essay because the author doesn't think it is necessary. He didn't want to add much beyond copia work to the progym exercises, which he has been using with success for 20 years.

Edited by 1Togo, 11 May 2012 - 04:58 AM.


#26 Parrothead

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 01:14 PM

hmm.. this is so interesting. Sort of all over the map! ;-) Since we are on the topic of 5 paragraph essays, where do you think a curriculum like WWS or CW / CC fit into the mix then? Is there room for a variety of essays structures beyond the 5 paragraph one in academic writing. (Honestly .. I know the answer to this is yes .. and I don't think any of this is making me second guess my use of WWS or CW in the future) Having said that though, I just wonder how you work all these other styles .. support of a maxim, chreia, the rhetoric work in Herodotus, perhaps the higher levels of WWS and ALSO teach a specific 5 paragraph essay style.

I think my major beef with it is that our local PS teaches ONLY that. If you spend years practicing only that then you are somewhat limited by the contraints of it.

Also .. IF you have taught the 5 paragraph essay style .. what has been your favorite curriculum that you have used?

I know at the end of CW Diogenes Maxim (the book we are currently finishing) one is instructed to write a 5P essay melding the Progymnasmata into the modern 5P essay. I've only looked at it briefly as we won't actually finish Maxim this year. So for dd the first thee weeks of school this fall will be about the 5P essay. I'm looking forward to seeing what Chreia brings after.

I could go get the books off the shelf and give a quick rundown if you want.

#27 chepyl

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 01:19 PM

Wow, I did plenty of 10 page papers in both high school and college, but I never got fast enough to do them in one night!


When you have 2-3 papers a week plus other assignments and a full time job, plus graduate assiatantships....it is necessary. Some were better than others, but they got done.

hmm.. this is so interesting. Sort of all over the map! ;-) Since we are on the topic of 5 paragraph essays, where do you think a curriculum like WWS or CW / CC fit into the mix then? Is there room for a variety of essays structures beyond the 5 paragraph one in academic writing. (Honestly .. I know the answer to this is yes .. and I don't think any of this is making me second guess my use of WWS or CW in the future) Having said that though, I just wonder how you work all these other styles .. support of a maxim, chreia, the rhetoric work in Herodotus, perhaps the higher levels of WWS and ALSO teach a specific 5 paragraph essay style.

I think my major beef with it is that our local PS teaches ONLY that. If you spend years practicing only that then you are somewhat limited by the contraints of it.

Also .. IF you have taught the 5 paragraph essay style .. what has been your favorite curriculum that you have used?


We used the lively art of writing in high school.

#28 SailorMom

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 02:02 PM

When you have 2-3 papers a week plus other assignments and a full time job, plus graduate assiatantships....it is necessary. Some were better than others, but they got done.


Yep- and this is why it wasn't a matter of creative writing, or fashioning beautiful, perfect sentences. The professors wanted to see comprehension and mastery of knowledge, they didn't care a lick about being creative in style. Now - they appreciated well written work, and it was probably refreshing for them to read, but it had no effect on a grade.
You'd be amazed how fast you can write a 10 page paper (with full footnotes) when you don't have a choice :)

#29 Bluegoat

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 02:08 PM

Ultimately I don't see how the five paragraph essay could be enough even for academic things. In my area of study the "introduction" usually included a number of paragraphs on what the problem being examined was, why it was important and consequences the answer implied, how it had been treated historically and in modern times, and then the thesis paragraph(s).

But aside from that, academic writing is not the only thing required in life. What about writing an essay to convince people of something, or speech writing, or letters to the editor, or even a blog? There are lots of real life reasons to communicate ideas in writing and the more tools we have to bring to the project the better.

#30 Laura Corin

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 02:13 PM

Ultimately I don't see how the five paragraph essay could be enough even for academic things.


For high school exams I can see that five paragraphs might cover it. But that would be short for a late high school homework essay. And I can't think of a university essay that would have been complete at fewer than five... pages.

Laura

#31 chepyl

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 02:21 PM

For high school exams I can see that five paragraphs might cover it. But that would be short for a late high school homework essay. And I can't think of a university essay that would have been complete at fewer than five... pages.

Laura


In college, it is more useful on essay exams, not essay papers. I had tests with 4-5 essay questions or 100 m/c and two essays to do in 50 minutes. Being able to write a short and clear answer covering 3-5 points was essential. The 5 paragraph essay is not meant for a paper. It is a stepping stone to a full paper. It is meant more for testing situations. In timed test situations, having a formula for sharing knowledge is important. They typically want god spelling and grammar, but hitting certain points and giving the information is the focus. Not tyle.

#32 SailorMom

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 03:55 PM

Ultimately I don't see how the five paragraph essay could be enough even for academic things. In my area of study the "introduction" usually included a number of paragraphs on what the problem being examined was, why it was important and consequences the answer implied, how it had been treated historically and in modern times, and then the thesis paragraph(s).
r.


As mentioned before - essay exams.... 5 paragraph essay skill (being very good, and very quick) is a necessary skill.
As for longer papers, I can say from experience, that taking the 5 paragraph and using it as a model for chapters works (first chapter, breaking down the problem, giving a short synopsis of points to be proved, etc; second through 3rd (or more) chapters proving points brought up in first chapter; last chapter, basically a really long concluding paragraph). Being that I got a perfect score on my master's thesis, I'd say it worked well.

#33 Laura Corin

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 04:33 PM

In college, it is more useful on essay exams, not essay papers.


... my essays had to be longer than that. They were more like two or three hour exams with maybe two essays to write. They had to be more in-depth than would be covered by five paragraphs. There was no multiple choice. It's a different system, I suppose.

Laura

#34 SailorMom

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 04:54 PM

... my essays had to be longer than that. They were more like two or three hour exams with maybe two essays to write. They had to be more in-depth than would be covered by five paragraphs. There was no multiple choice. It's a different system, I suppose.

Laura


When we had one or two hours two write 5 or 6 essays questions, 5 paragraphs was about it for each one. That amounts to about a seven or eight page paper, at least, written in about 90 minutes. I wouldn't call that multiple choice.
This whole thread is amusing - many of us are commenting about its usefulness in graduate degree situations. Some may disagree on the usefulness of the format - but to call a 5 paragraph essay a "multiple choice" format is absurd.
If the exam was ONE question, then yes - of course you would write more than 5 paragraphs on one item. However, the 5 paragraph essay format can be very effectively APPLIED to a 5 page paper.... I just don't understand the resistance to saying, yes - this format can be useful.....
Is it the only way to write? Of course not. It is a useful writing skill that should be taught, though.
If you don't want to teach it - don't; but, don't try to say it isn't a useful skill when obviously many of us found it was.

Edited by SailorMom, 10 May 2012 - 04:56 PM.


#35 NittanyJen

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 05:47 PM

I had a friend of mine debate with me today about the importance of the 5 paragraph essay style being THE style to teach throughout the school years. She said that is the ONLY style required and requested in high school & college academics, and something like the structure of WWS that we learned this year would not even be approved as an option. grrr.. it's irritating.

If that were the case why would SWB be teaching all of this? Why would Classical Writing & Classical Composition exist? How important is the exact 5 paragraph essay style to academics anyway?


The 5-paragraph essay is a crutch. It is fine for students who are having difficulty grasping how to organize their writing, but it should be banished as quickly as they have grasped and mastered the concept for any students capable of moving onward from that structure (and I say this with the intent that the majority of students either do not need the 5P structure at all, or should quickly be able to leave it behind, kind of like counting on fingers in arithmetic, but there is a reality that writing is not everyone's strong suit, so it is good to have a structure to fall back on if you need it, just like some people need spell-check).

Even my math professor husband has been tempted to stop his math lectures for a couple of weeks to teach writing and composition to both graduate and undergraduate students still plagued by the 5P structure, writing stilted, shallow, and boring responses instead of college-level papers.

My father was a curriculum supervisor for a well-regarded PA district, and he absolutely forbade the teaching of the 5P essay anywhere in the district, except for struggling students with a demonstrated inability to organize their writing after one-on-one tutoring had failed.

I do not plan to teach my kids the 5P essay, except as a last resort. I get kind of passionate about the issue, perhaps out of proportion to its life importance :) however I do feel that communicating clearly is a critical life skill.
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#36 chepyl

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 08:43 PM

... my essays had to be longer than that. They were more like two or three hour exams with maybe two essays to write. They had to be more in-depth than would be covered by five paragraphs. There was no multiple choice. It's a different system, I suppose.

Laura


I guess it depends on the major. For my comps for my MA, I had 5+ essays to wrote in 90 minutes, no m/c there. The ability to formulate and orginize my thoughts in a quick amd concise format was important. The more I squeezed into the written, the less I was questioned on my orals. I was only asked to clarify three written answers in my orals. Now, those essays were longer than 5 paragraphs. I wrote two pages per answer except for one that I was not in my comfort area (technical theatre rather than history and theory). But, I will still say that the study of the five paragraph format led me to be able to put my thoughts together quickly. I have a structure, a formula yes; but that does not mean my writing was stilted.

You cannot just teach a formula, you have to teach style as well. I am just trying to say that the formula works as a tool to develop writing skills. 5 paragraph essays were step one in our writing education. It os a starting piunt, but in my opinion, an important one.

#37 Colleen in NS

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 10:44 PM

I thought that was why we were learning all we were in WWS, and perhaps the Chreia's and Maxims in CW and CC .. so that we had lots of tools at our disposal to form an essay with.


I think you are correct, and I think you can use any of these tools in many combinations in an essay of whatever length you want.

#38 Corraleno

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 12:07 AM

FWIW, I was never taught the 5-paragraph essay format, nor did I ever use it in college or graduate school. I also worked as an editor for academic books and other publications, and I don't remember ever seeing it there, either. I do think it's a useful template for teaching the structure of an essay to middle/high schoolers, but I think of it as "training wheels," and wouldn't really encourage it's use beyond that.

Jackie

#39 Corraleno

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 12:09 AM

When we had one or two hours two write 5 or 6 essays questions, 5 paragraphs was about it for each one. That amounts to about a seven or eight page paper, at least, written in about 90 minutes. I wouldn't call that multiple choice.
This whole thread is amusing - many of us are commenting about its usefulness in graduate degree situations. Some may disagree on the usefulness of the format - but to call a 5 paragraph essay a "multiple choice" format is absurd.

I think you misunderstood Laura. She was replying to this post, in which Cheryl specifically mentioned that some of her exams included multiple choice questions as well as essays:

In college, it is more useful on essay exams, not essay papers. I had tests with 4-5 essay questions or 100 m/c and two essays to do in 50 minutes.


Laura was simply pointing out that her own exams were 2-3 hours, with 2 essays and no multiple choice questions. She was not saying that the 5 paragraph format equals multiple choice.

Jackie

#40 SaDonna

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 12:50 AM

Parrothead, I am considering CW Maxim for next year so anything you can tell me about it is helpful.. ;-)

#41 SaDonna

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 12:55 AM

I think I am figuring out that while it might need to be taught, it is certainly not the be all end all when it comes to writing an essay.

Initially when she sort of gave me the 'stink eye' at the thought that I might be teaching my 11 & 9 year olds how to write like they do in NG, I was a bit concerned that perhaps I have had my head in the sand or something like that and not realized that EVERY paper is a 5 paragraph and I don't know what I am talking about.

Of course I know that not to be true, but I wasn't quite sure in college, as all I can remember using is the 5P format. For some reason though I have shied away from that thing like the plague. I probably need to make nice with it at some point, but only as ONE of many options.

#42 Laura Corin

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 01:33 AM

In college, it is more useful on essay exams, not essay papers. I had tests with 4-5 essay questions or 100 m/c and two essays to do in 50 minutes.


Some may disagree on the usefulness of the format - but to call a 5 paragraph essay a "multiple choice" format is absurd.
If the exam was ONE question, then yes - of course you would write more than 5 paragraphs on one item.


I think you misunderstood Laura. She was replying to this post, in which Cheryl specifically mentioned that some of her exams included multiple choice questions as well as essays (snip)


I do think that teaching the short essay is useful for high school exams (although I still don't think that a strict five paragraphs is a gold standard) but it would not have been useful in my university career. I do not equate it with multiple choice, although I am surprised to hear about multiple choice exams at university level.

Laura

#43 chepyl

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 02:11 AM

I do think that teaching the short essay is useful for high school exams (although I still don't think that a strict five paragraphs is a gold standard) but it would not have been useful in my university career. I do not equate it with multiple choice, although I am surprised to hear about multiple choice exams at university level.

Laura


I spent my entire high school career preparing for college exams where there would be no m/c or multiple guess as my teachers called it. I got to college and was unprepared for the different method needed to prepare for m/c tests.

Is your experience with smaller private universities? That is what my school prepared us for, but do to finances, most of us ended up in the two public universities. But I had many classes of 200-400 people. Two stat classes of 1000 each. Yes, exams are on scantrons. My honors classes were smaller and more writing intensive. But university level classes do have m/c tests and quizzes.

#44 Laura Corin

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 04:26 AM

Is your experience with smaller private universities? That is what my school prepared us for, but do to finances, most of us ended up in the two public universities. But I had many classes of 200-400 people. Two stat classes of 1000 each. Yes, exams are on scantrons. My honors classes were smaller and more writing intensive. But university level classes do have m/c tests and quizzes.


My French lectures, for example, had about 100 people in them, the tutorials had about eight, the language classes about twenty. You wrote essays for the tutorial teacher and language exercises (mostly dictation and translation) for your language teacher.

Exams were annual and were essay-based. There were no pop-quizzes or other exams: through the year you were expected to read the reading list, do your own research, learn the curriculum and produce your own essays. It was independent learning, which was expected at that level.

Laura

#45 Jen in PA

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 08:47 AM

So, I asked SWB after one of her sessions at our hs conference. She pretty much said it was an artificial construct used to make teaching writing easier.


:iagree: It is designed to make sure the student remembers to include an introduction, spends time on major points, and then closes the essay properly. Once the student has the habit of doing all of that. there is no reason whatsoever to insist on following the formula to a T.

#46 RegularMom

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 07:32 AM

I remember learning how to write essays in middle school and high school. It was never officially titled "The Five Paragraph Essay", but we were taught about introductions, topic sentences, body paragraphs, transitions, closing paragraphs, etc.

I think it's a valuable skill. One of the best quotes I ever heard about learning writing mechanics went something like this: "Learn all the rules, and then break them." So, we're learning all the rules now. I think that the "five paragraph essay" is a manageable length for younger writers. Mastering shorter essays now will make writing longer, more complicated papers later on in high school and college something that comes naturally.

We used Hake 5's writing portion this year, and it took my 5th grader through all of the concepts listed above. I don't recall ever hearing the title "Five Paragraph Essay" in the book though. But she worked through a series of exercises designed to teach, and reinforce through practice, all those same concepts. Then she wrote various assigned essays. I'd go over her drafts and make comments and sometimes those comments would be: "this essay would probably work better as a 3-paragraph piece".

We're at the end of the book now, and we've gotten to the portions where she is assigned more creative pieces, which she likes much better.

But I'm quite glad to have done a year of essay structure, thesis development, plus a few other varied assignments. Most recently, she had to write a chapter review.

This is not very glamorous writing, I agree. But I do think skills like these are important and useful down the line. Grammar isn't very glamorous either, but I wouldn't skip it for the world. Neither of my girls are reluctant writers, and they both write creatively in their spare time. Creative assignments aren't hard to come by. Mechanics and writing to convey ideas and information, though... I'm not opposed to that at all. Even if it is given the suspicious title of "Writing the Five Paragraph Essay".

We'll keep on doing these things in the future. And we'll make sure there's room to deviate from strict structures when an essay calls for it. Knowing when that will work can be an intuitive thing, but I also think it's something that can be taught and that is worth practicing. And we'll work in more time for creative pieces, using other curricula, sure.

For us, the idea is: write. And write some more. But think about what you're writing. And why. And yes, sometimes the reason why is: because that's what the assignment calls for. Chances are, at some point in their future academic careers, and professional careers, this will be required of them. ;)

Edited by RegularMom, 15 May 2012 - 07:40 AM.


#47 HomeschoolingHearts&Minds

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 01:35 PM

My random thoughts, obviously not in a five paragraph essay format... :D

In a sentence: the "five-paragraph" essay can be useful, but it is not an end to strive for. I agree with the earlier poster who referred to it as scaffolding or training wheels.

It also doesn't need to be 5 paragraphs. It's more about having a particular framework for developing your paper. ;)

Since the op asked if it's necessary for academic writing---My husband teaches philosophy to undergraduates. The five paragraph formulation is not necessary to academic writing (he doesn't look for it, or have it in his rubric), however, it can be a helpful tool for getting students to organize their thoughts or research into a cohesive argument. I think he would probably love to see more essays that follow that organization for that reason. Undergraduate papers tend to be a mess. If your child can write well and support their argument, they will succeed, whether they follow that particular format or not.

What does he look for? Supported claims, demonstrated understanding of the material, answering the actual question asked in the assignment, proper use of terminology, etc. You'd be surprised at the papers he gets. He's not even really looking for independent or original thought at that level, just understanding and something more than assertions.

On a personal note: I have a degree in English and Philosophy, and I never followed the five paragraph rule in college. My writing was more organic than that, but I was taught the form in middle school. I hated it because my teacher would not accept anything that didn't strictly follow the 5-paragraph essay as she taught it. I found it too limiting, but I recognize the value of learning it for some students.

I don't think it is a necessary milestone for all students, though. Just as I have one child who needs a strict, rules-based spelling program and another who doesn't really need a formal spelling program at all, some of my children will need to learn this form and others will not (at least one in particular won't).

And how do you teach it? You don't actually need a curriculum. But you can probably find something on Scholastic's dollar sale: http://teacherexpres...com/dollardeals

Outlining can be easily used to explain the 5-paragraph form, too.


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