I’ve spent the last year of my life transitioning from being a writing teacher to a writing writer.
And here’s something I’ve never, ever been asked to do for any writing gig- paid or otherwise-
Write a 5-Paragraph Essay.
And honestly, it’s kind of too bad. I know how to write 5PE’s.
I wrote them extensively in high school for my history & literature classes.
I wrote them for the AP board.
Then I started teaching them:
I taught them to middle schoolers.
I taught them to high schoolers.
I graded and graded and graded them.
I wrote formulas & designed graphic organizers & created SMART Board illustrations all to serve the 5PE.
I supervised peer editing and self editing and group revisions and held one-on-one writing consults. All to serve the 5PE.
And you know what simply Does Not Exist outside of the classroom? Yep-
The 5-Paragraph Essay.
I’m not even saying it’s useless, or harmful. Structure is helpful to writers, especially when learning to fashion a rational argument.
But it’s kind of like an in-store credit refund- you can’t take it with you and it seems useless unless you have something specific in mind. And by specific, in this case, I mean that basically if you aren’t a teacher- you won’t use it.
Here’s what our students ARE asked to write about and will LATER be asked to write about:
-their opinions In 134 characters or with an accompanying pic
-their understanding of an issue with rational argument
-resumes, CVs, cover letters
-personal essays of a certain word count
-researched topics of a certain word count or page length
-emails of varying levels of professionalism and familiarity
So what do we teach them instead? Here are some ideas that support the goals of a 5PE without living and dying by the structure itself:
1. This site provides several graphic organizers to help students get to the meat of their idea and practice structure WITHOUT bowing to the 5PE deity.
2. Here is another list of alternatives. These stick to the essay it self- a very practical and needed writing skill- but not in 5P form. There are better ways!
By allowing the content to guide the structure, students are encouraged & required to think more critically about what serves their argument.
3. This article criticized the outright dismissal of the late great 5PE in favor of proposing reasonable tweaks and alternatives based upon age group and goals. The premise is that the Socratic 5-step argument has been reduced to a 5-paragraph argument which is unnecessarily constricting.
Yet, its a starting point!
The Socratic 5-step Argument is useful, but must be, and can be adjusted for 8-year olds.
Here’s an example of the kind of printable resource provided:
Common Core requires multiple writing methods and essays of various functions, none of which have to look exactly the same or come from the same cookie cutter. If your students are sorting through complex texts & writing to think & express their ideas, you can get creative!
What has worked for you in your classroom?
What did you swap for the 5PE?