10-second review: The five-paragraph essay results in writing without thinking.
Title: “From the Editor.” Ken Lindblom. English Journal (July 2010), 14-16.
Quote: “One of the many problems with the five-paragraph essay—at least as it is most often taught—is that it does the thinking for the author. Or, to put it more precisely, it creates a rhetorical situation in which thinking has been rendered virtually unnecessary. Often, that this form creates a pre-thought-out structure is seen as a positive for students: it is intended to help them compose a piece of writing that will allow them to survive typical school-writing scenarios. Unfortunately, the popularity of the five-paragraph essay as a method for helping students get through standardized exam situations has also helped to create a curriculum in which logic and critical reasoning get too little attention.”
Comment: I would suggest that the wrong villain has been selected. Try the short amounts of time available (25 minutes in the SAT and an hour in most state tests). There’s no time to think in these situations. Don’t blame the five-paragraph essay. If used as a model for how to organize expository writing, given enough time, hours, days, etc. students will not only think and shape their thoughts in writing, but they will certainly not limit themselves to five paragraphs.
Although I have used the five-paragraph essay as a model for how to organize expository writing, I’ve never had a student yet who did not expand the opening paragraphs to multiple paragraphs, including the thesis, expanded the middle paragraphs, and broken even the final paragraph into two or three paragraphs. RayS.