Unteaching the Five Paragraphs

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In the article “Unteaching the Five-Paragraph Essay”, Marie Foley argues that the five-paragraph formula restrains students from actively thinking. The five-paragraph structure is still used today because teachers are continuing to teach students the formula. The formula is said to be easier to teach to a class rather than to teach individual students different patterns of organization. Foley says that the formula being taught is easier on them to teach and to grade because of how crowded the English classes are. The formula contradicts most instructor’s basic goals because it is “depriving [students] of the pleasure of discovering new ideas”. Foley points out three reasons to end the formula. One being that it deters discovery. She states that students become too dependent on this structure once they have mastered it which makes it difficult to change writing styles. The structure “invites students to fill the five slots with what they already know” which prevents them from coming up with new ideas and exploring their minds. Foley also points out that the formula suppresses authenticity of the writer. Although the student goes through the motions of writing, “they seldom create something authentically theirs.” Students freely express themselves in writings such as personal letters and journals, but creates another title for themselves when writing an essay. Foley states that the five paragraph formula fails to portray the writer’s personality and is also unnatural in many ways. The structure is not used by professional writers because it weakens coherence, which is one of the most basic writing needs. It “limits students to a superficial, predictable level of coherence.” Foley argues that the formula hurts students rather than help them. It deprives them of the pleasure of writing and will not prepare them for academic and real world writing.

Foley compares writing an essay to a journey because the journey metaphor “gives students the sense of writing as...
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