Addressing the Ill Effects of the Five Paragraph Theme

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Addressing the Ill Effects of the Five Paragraph Theme

A student has an idea; a great, huge, expansive idea. She wants to write about it, so she turns to the only way she knows how to write. The Five Paragraph Theme. In all of her years of school, she has been led to believe that it is the only good way to write an essay. In the process of writing her essay and forcing all of her ideas into three main topics, she loses a great deal of the important information she had previously planned to write about. But that’s okay, she thinks, because at least her writing is well organized and written in an “acceptable” way, right? Wrong! All their lives, students have been manipulated into believing that five paragraphs in an essay is the only way to go. In reality however, according to Mrs. Kimberly Wesley, an English teacher at Berkeley Preparatory School,
Tampa, Florida, becoming complacent with only being able to write in one format “stunts the growth of human minds” (57).
The FPT was meant to help students with their writing and organizational skills after they mastered the art of writing in itself. Instead, what’s been happening is that teachers have become satisfied with staying on the edge of the status quo, and have fallen back on using the simply structured “national phenomenon” FPT as their main teaching method to teach their students how to write efficiently. To create an easy grading system and keep organized order in the class so students think they know what they’re doing, they have forced the belief on the children that the FPT is the only way they will ever, and should ever write essays. I myself remember on separate occasions in junior high when I would receive less than satisfactory grades mainly because I didn’t stick expressly to the FPT. With time, I conformed to the idea, as all of my classmates with me and before me had. Now, in high school, learning that it’s not the only way to write, and that it’s actually desired to write in a different



Cited: Wesley, Kimberly. “The Ill Effects of the Five Paragraph Theme.” English Journal 85.1 (2000): pp. 57-60, PDF, Web 9 Sep 2012. <http://www.csun.edu/~bashforth/406_PDF/406_Genre/00Sep_EJ_IllEffects5ParaEssay.pdf>

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