Posts Tagged ‘five-paragraph fix


Welcome to new readers and my greatest hits list

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had my blog mentioned on the internet king of all miscellanea, BoingBoing, last week when they published an email I wrote to one of the co-founders. That single mention has brought more readers on the blog, which is always a good thing in my book.

If you’re new or just finding this for the first time, here’s a greatest hits list of some of the most popular posts and among the posts that I am most proud of:

Since one of my jobs is helping students transition from the widely taught five-paragraph essay into a more fluid format, I also constructed a series of posts called “The Five-paragraph Fix.” Here are some of the better posts in that series:

I should also take this time to mention that I’m eager to talk to readers and to develop a community here where others have a voice. If you have specific topics you’d like to seen written about or you have topics that you want to write about, please comment or drop me a line.


The Five-paragraph Fix – How to write longer essays

So many student writers conceive of how close they are to finishing a paper in terms of how many words or pages they have to write to get the minimum threshhold. If a teacher hands out an assignment without a page length requirement, the first question will likely be, “How many pages does it need to be?” If that teacher wishes to amp up the students’ stress level to eleven, s/he need only respond, “As long as it needs to be.” Students in our Writing Studio routinely describe a paper that is “only two pages” as easy and a paper of ten or more pages as a monumental task.
For more experienced writers with a lot of expertise in their subject area, the reverse is true. Condensing a complex idea into two pages can be much more of a headache than it can be writing ten pages.
Why is writing longer papers so hard for student writers? How does someone get past that fear of the longer paper? Continue reading ‘The Five-paragraph Fix – How to write longer essays’

The Five-paragraph Fix: Critical thinking essentials

Learning to write analytical essays is one of the harder adjustments most students will have to make in college. A lot of composition teachers blame high school teachers and their commitment to the five-paragraph essay for  students’ struggles, yet that position is a bit reductive. Even after students know and readily acknowledge that they can no longer write the five-paragraph essay, they still have trouble producing essays that demonstrate critical thinking.

Understanding why writers have trouble with critical thinking starts with trying to understand critical thinking. We’ll do that here, and then look at how teachers and students can apply that knowledge. Continue reading ‘The Five-paragraph Fix: Critical thinking essentials’


The Five-paragraph Fix: A new template

The other day, I asked groups of first-year students to identify the five biggest differences between high school writing and college writing. When they finished, I asked how many of the groups said something about leaving the five-paragraph essay behind. Nearly all of them. I asked why. One said, “We can’t just fill in the blanks and end up with a good essay.”

Then, I asked, “How many of you just wrote down the first five differences that came into your head?” All of them raised their hands.

That’s a problem.

Student’s are quick to figure out the limitations of the five-paragraph essay, but that’s not a fix. They still need to break the habit of just filling in the blanks and learn to exercise their critical thinking skills.

Let’s start that process off by giving them better blanks to fill. Continue reading ‘The Five-paragraph Fix: A new template’


The Five-paragraph Fix: Why it’s needed.

A few days ago, my site stats showed that someone found my blog by searching for “how to write a non five paragraph essay.” Yesterday, someone came here after searching for “why is the five paragraph essay bad?” These searches evoked feelings of both satisfaction and guilt.  I was happy to see the gremlins who run such search engines would send those types of questions my way: those questions are why this blog exists. My guilt came from the fact that I’ve not yet covered this topic. However, given the fact that I did the same Google search and found it didn’t yield many successful results, I suppose it’s time to get on with it. So Anonymous Googlers, this one is for you.

Welcome to the first post in a series that I’m calling the “Five-Paragraph Fix.” To kick things off, let’s answer the second Googler’s question first. Why do we need a five-paragraph fix? Continue reading ‘The Five-paragraph Fix: Why it’s needed.’

Good Writer, Bad Writer

Good writer, bad writer reflects the philosophy behind the first writing lesson I attempt to teach students. Too many of them come into college believing that their writing abilities are set in stone. The bad writers continue to struggle, and the good writers don't take enough risks in their writing, figuring that any misstep will throw them back into the "bad writer" category.

Good writer, bad writer is my attempt to break the power of that dichotomy. On here, I share the lessons and attitudes that I teach, but I also talk about the attitudes I have towards my own writing since many of those have informed my own teaching. Thanks for visiting.

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