Five Paragraph Essay Lesson Plans

When I ask a follow-up, “What’s the difference between Didion’s essay and the ones you just described? During our discussion, I admit to students that I’ve been guilty of (over)teaching the 5-paragraph essay.

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As a young, new teacher, I welcomed the structure—yes, the rigidness—that the 5-paragraph essay offered. “Baby steps,” my teacher-friends tell me whenever they sense my frustrations. Even a small step is a step in the right direction. Change is hard.” Yet sometimes the only way to fix something broken is to just get rid of it.

After all, I had other things to worry about, like reading all the books I had to teach and managing a classroom of skeptical teenagers. It’s much easier to check if a student’s essay fulfills a template than it is to approach each student essay as its own unique piece of writing, with its own form, structure, purpose, and voice. When students don’t understand something, I try to remember that it’s not only their first time learning something new, but my first time, too. I’ve been thinking a lot about something I heard educator and author Will Richardson say at a conference last spring (and in this TED talk).

In the United States, we’ve done a good job at doing the wrong things better, Richardson pointed out.

For example, we might make improvements to standardized tests, but we don’t question enough if standardized tests themselves aren’t the problem. For a long time, I used a Band-Aid approach to teach writing.

I’m sure many people think of sites like edupeet straight away, in the knowledge that they can use those sites to help them with their essay.

Our notebooks are the building block of our writerly lives, and I encourage students to use their notebooks beyond our classroom walls.We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.” Thus, I encourage students, “Don’t wait until class to add something to your notebook. Don’t let it be a place that only has writing prompts from Mrs.Ebarvia.” (Side note: Talking about myself—or my teacher-self—in the third person is becoming habit, I fear.They relied on the teacher to tell them what to do and how to do it. This suggestion, however, has never felt right to me.And generally, they produced writing that fit the criteria I outlined. A common argument for the 5-paragraph essay is that it can be a useful tool for students to organize their ideas. We all need help when we are learning something, especially something as complex as writing. One, most students never move beyond this single tool. It seems like a good compromise: we’ll keep the 5-paragraph essay and just add other types of writing.When students find out later that these rules aren’t really rules at all, they feel offended. Only then can something become a law, like gravity; otherwise, it’s all hypothesis.Shouldn’t that be how we approach writing, how we frame essays?*** Every year, when I ask students to tell me what they know about writing, they almost always recite a list of rules.They tell me how they were taught to never start a sentence with how the thesis statement always goes at the end of the introduction, how thesis statements need three reasons, how first person isn’t allowed in formal essays, how paragraphs are 6-8 sentences long, and on and on. It’s about getting closer—through repeated observation, approximation, and experimentation—to a deeper understanding of the world around us.As a way of getting to because of three very specific reasons outlined in a thesis statement found at the end of an introduction.Much has already been written about the limitations of the 5-paragraph essay form.

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