The age-old five-paragraph essay elicits many things from students: mostly, a creative variety of groans and eye-rolls. An exasperated student might inquire: “Haven’t we done this before, like, a million times? Why do we have to keep on doing this?” Don’t let them catch you off guard. Here are five reasons why the five-paragraph essay is still a critical tool for students’ development as writers and thinkers.
1. Its function and form can be applied to anything and everything.
The five-paragraph essay is something that stretches beyond the mere walls of the English classroom – it is a way of thinking, as much as it is a way of writing. Learning how to write the five-paragraph essay is equivalent to learning how to express one’s thoughts in a cogent, organized manner – all through the efficiency of the essay’s stellar form. So, it really doesn’t matter what the contents of these thoughts maybe – they can be about A Clockwork Orange, or Euclidean geometry, or the Scopes Monkey trial alike. The five-paragraph essay is there for students whenever they need it.
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2. Structure is the gateway to style – not its gatekeeper.
One of the long-time criticisms of the five-paragraph essay is that it traps students into negating their own creativity; that they will only be able to produce mere skeletons of work, void of any individual flare. This, of course, is not true and is conceived off of the misconception that any structure automatically acts as an impediment to creativity. The five-paragraph essay is not meant to hinder students’ creativity at all: rather, it is intended to guide students towards the proper spots where they can let their creativity shine, i.e. via tone, word choice, conclusions drawn, etc. In this way, creativity is meant to shine even brighter, as opposed to if it were allowed to flounder about helplessly in a formless frame.
3. It is an extremely effective tool for practicing and perfecting basic grammar.
Due to the nature of the essay’s form, students will simply not have the room to go off on long, rambling tangents, complete with many-a run-on sentences. Thus, students will have to pay special attention to the types of sentences they do end up using: they will most likely end up being a mix of simple and compound sentences, adhering to the basic S-V-O form. Allowing students to not only practice utilizing this basic sentence structure, but in a way that is intended to express their ideas effectively, will help them become true masters of grammar. They will thus not have to think twice about the foundations of grammar in the future, but already have the idea of what makes a sentence “work” wired into their head.
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4. It allows for easy and dependable peer communication.
Although individual improvement is a principal aim of many English classes, it is not without the consistent exchange of ideas with others that one can get there. The five-paragraph essay is the perfect remedy for any roadblocks that might come in the way of students sharing their ideas effectively with one another. Students engaging in critical dialogue about their essays will amount to the brief yet hearty exchange of ideas that can make for accessible and engaging classwide discussions. When it comes to written work sparking the wave of dialogue between your students, there is simply nothing more trustworthy than the five-paragraph essay to get them going – it saves time, and therefore lets the ideas go where they please.
5. With a slightly narrowed lens, argumentation skills will be infinitely improved.
The five-paragraph essay is so important because it helps us see what is not. In the real world, when we have a point to make, there is sometimes no end to the reasons why we believe that we’re right. Consequently, we might have moderate trouble in differentiating points of true weight versus mere addendums to our passions. The five-paragraph essay, again, is a remedy for this problem: it acts naturally as a sieve for all the throwaway words and extraneous details that we’re wasting our spirit on. It forces us to be able to not only demonstrate, but understand, that saying something ought not to be a labyrinthine endeavor – three points, when they are solidly launched and grounded, can get us far, indeed.
Take these points into consideration the next time you’re debating whether or not to assign a five-paragraph essay. But remember, just because the five-paragraph essay should be preserved, does not mean that it shouldn’t be amended to meet the unique needs of students along the way. It should likewise be placed on no pedestal – the five-paragraph essay is a great way to start writers off, but by no means is it the stuff that defines their careers.