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It was the summer of 2007, and he was on the plane home from an ordeal that would have crushed a man with a less robust constitution.An English professor, he had been grading hundreds of five-paragraph essays drawn from the 280,000 that had been submitted that June as part of the Advanced Placement Test in English language and composition.You probably won’t be surprised that the second paragraph ‘should contain the second strongest argument, second most significant example, second cleverest illustration, or obvious follow-up to the first paragraph…’ And that the third paragraph ‘should contain the third strongest argument…’ Well, you get the picture. These rules are what allows the listener to understand the relationship between these words in the way intended by the speaker.
Dorina Sackman, a middle school teacher in Orlando, Fla., uses a writing "recipe" and manipulatives to teach her 8th grade English-language learners how to structure a five-paragraph essay.
Students practice crafting a thesis statement and organizing three supporting arguments.
And that’s the real reason for education, to get those good grades without thinking too much and using up too much time.
White’s essay – ‘My Five-Paragraph-Theme Theme’ – became an instant classic.
“David Labaree is Lee L Jacks professor at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education.
He is the former president of the History of Education Society and former vice president of the American Educational Research Association.True to the form, he lays out the whole story in his opening paragraph: Since the beginning of time, some college teachers have mocked the five-paragraph theme. There are three reasons why I always write five-paragraph themes.First, it gives me an organisational scheme: an introduction (like this one) setting out three subtopics, three paragraphs for my three subtopics, and a concluding paragraph reminding you what I have said, in case you weren’t paying attention.The Rule of Five is thoroughly fixed in muscle memory, and the scholar is on track to produce a string of journal articles that follow from it.Then it’s time to pass the model on to the next generation. Edward M White is one participant in the cycle who decided to fight back.Think of all the syntactical forms that exist to define different kinds of relationships between words in the service of making a point. Graduate students in my class on writing find these templates very useful.The point is that learning to write is extraordinarily difficult, and teaching people how to write is just as hard. Fish distils the message into a single paradoxical commandment for writers: ‘You shall tie yourself to forms and the forms shall set you free.’ The five-paragraph essay format is an effort to provide a framework for accomplishing all this.By its nature, syntax – like the five-paragraph essay – is all form and no content.Its entire utility derives from the fact that a particular syntactical structure can be used to convey an infinite number of meanings.In revenge, he wrote his own five-paragraph essay about the five-paragraph essay, whose fourth paragraph reads: The last reason to write this way is the most important.Once you have it down, you can use it for practically anything. Well you can say yes and give three reasons, or no and give three different reasons. You’re sure to get a good grade whatever you pick to put into the formula.