National Writing Project

Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay

Date: August 23, 2012

Summary: Listen in on this conversation with Kimberly Hill Campbell and Kristi Latimer, authors of Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay. These authors claim, "If we want our students to be more engaged, skilled writers, we need to move beyond the five-paragraph essay." We talk with them about why and how middle school and high school teachers can do just that.


Excerpt from Show

Kimberly Hill Campbell , Associate Professor in the Lewis and Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, on what she discovered regarding myths about the five-paragraph essay:

Well, I think that was a surprise for both of us, and both of us have taught the five-paragraph essay ourselves and sell into that same notion that somehow focusing on formula would support that organization that new writers need. When in fact, when we looked at the research, what it does is focus their energies and their efforts on the formula itself and not the content. And what you get are some essays you probably don't want read, and more importantly you get kids who have a really skewed view of what writing is; that writing is somehow slotting in sentences. And so we were really troubled by that and as we looked further it went on to show that when you do teach the formula, for many writers, they never go beyond it.

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