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April 2014 | Volume 71 | Number 7
Writing: A Core Skill Pages 60-65

Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay

Kimberly Hill Campbell

The five-paragraph essay format often puts students' thinking in a box. There's a better way.

"We must teach the five-paragraph format! Students need a starting place when writing essays."
"They need the formula to do well on standardized tests."
"We need to be sure kids are prepared for college writing."

The defense of the five-paragraph formula was strident among the secondary English teachers to whom I was presenting on writing and the Common Core State Standards—and trying to make the case against relying on this formula. Ironically, hanging on the wall was the diagram of the formula—a triangle represented the introductory paragraph with the thesis statement as the concluding sentence, three rectangles represented the evidence paragraphs, and an inverted triangle showed that the fifth paragraph begins by repeating the thesis, then builds out for the conclusion.


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