I often tell students that the 5 paragraph essay, which most of them know
well and some depend on, is like a bicycle when what they really need is a
It is kind of fun and useful as well to explore the 5 paragrapher as an
ideological vehicle. For one thing--what's all this about putting your
conclusion ( which is what a thesis really is) at the front of your
argument? ESL students in particular really like having this wonderous and
quite bizarre move pointed out to them.
I also have great fun sometimes exploring with them the strategies that we
all use when we don't have 3 supporting points (invent a third point and
stick it in the middle and hope nobody notices) or when we have more than
I also show them through exploring published academic papers what strategies
do transfer from the 5 paragrapher. Topic sentences is one strategy. Of
course, not every paragraph has one--but they are pretty useful. But we also
investigate 5 paragraph break downs as well--lots of published stuff that
just doesn't follow the model because it can't--not and get the intellectual
work of the article accomplished. Situations where that Mac truck (a wider
range of strategies) is needed
But the 5 paragrapher is great little bike when you have to write that most
"school" of all "school" genres --- entrance tests or now the GRE s which
also require essays.
Too bad the world isn't as ordered, constrained and limited as the 5
paragrapher would lead us to expect.
ButThere are some strategies associated with the 5 paragraph form that are
useful but they have to be teased out and identified.
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