Thursday, October 6, 2011

Five-Paragraph Theme

Question: How do you use the model for expository writing known as the five-paragraph theme?

Answer/Quote: “This article traces the history of the five-paragraph theme and views about it, along with arguing for its elimination in writing instruction in favor of problem-based ‘rich-task’ writing experiences for students.” P. 29.

Quote: “ ‘How do you feel about the five-paragraph theme?’ I have posed this question as a conversation starter on the topic of theme writing over the past two years to first-year college writers, along with elementary and secondary English teachers, two-year and four-year college instructors, and others interested in literacy instruction who have attended conferences sponsored by the Conference on College Composition and Communication and the Iowa Council of Teachers of English.” P.. 29.

Quote: “What the continuum reveals is a lack of consensus about this uniquely ‘North American species of pseudogenre,’ a formula that puzzles those who teach writing elsewhere in the world: Assessments range from ‘very positive on the left side to ‘very negative’ on the right…creating a balanced range of responses from strong approval to strong disapproval.’ ” P. 29.

Comment: Once again, the National Council of Teachers of English creates an ‘either/or” issue that is best resolved by “both/and,” both the five-paragraph model, not a genre, for expository writing and a ‘rich-task’ writing experience for students, whatever that is. The five-paragraph essay is a model for the structure of exposition, easily expanded, and, in spite of the NCTE’s objections to it, the model followed by every published writer of articles in NCTE publications. By continuing to use “either/or” situations (grammar, writing process vs. product, phonics), the NCTE violates the very basic notions of critical thinking and common sense. RayS.

Title: “What to Make of the Five-Paragraph theme: History of the Genre and Implications.” M Tremmel. Teaching English in the Two-Year College” (September 2011), 29-42,

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