Friday, October 5, 2012

The 5 Paragraph Essay, the 5 Sentence Paragraph, and IRAC

At Teacher in a Strange Land, college professor Josh Bolt criticizes teaching the 5 paragraph essay.

College writing teachers hate the five-paragraph essay. According to Writing Analytically, the writing guide used by my first year composition department, a faculty survey conducted prior to publication indicated a consensus among college writing professors that "students are coming [to college] prepared to do five-paragraph themes and arguments but [are] radically unprepared in thinking analytically."

The writing guide takes a sharp stance against the five-paragraph essay, claiming that its "rigid, arbitrary, and mechanical organizational scheme values structure over just about everything else, especially in-depth thinking." The text completely dismisses the form, arguing that any value it holds as a helpful learning strategy is negated by its damaging long-term effects on creative thought.

The 5 sentence paragraph is open to the same criticism. And so are IRAC, CREAC, and the variations. I suppose these formulas are helpful to the beginning writer who needs some sort of structure. But, pretty soon, it’s time to permit students to move on to less rigid structures that may be more suitable to various writing projects.


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