Today, on Twitter, I posed the question, “Do today’s students need to learn how to write a five paragraph literary essay or is it an out-dated skill?” I’ve been wondering this for a while being as the only time I ever read a five paragraph essay is when I’m marking student work. Nowhere else in my daily reading do I come across this style of writing and I can imagine that outside of teaching, very few people ever read essays in this format.

I know that the purpose behind the five paragraph literary essay to see a demonstration of both critical thinking and good writing skills, but couldn’t these qualities be assessed in a more authentic, project-based style of writing? Why do we pigeon students into this style of writing in high school? I wonder if we aren’t doing them a disservice since we could be helping them to learn about writing styles they will use in post secondary and the workforce. In fact, the University of Toronto Writing Centre website suggests that students need to “unlearn” the five paragraph style of writing once they make the transition to university.

I would love to hear your thoughts since it’s something I’m struggling with on the evening before an onslaught of grade 12 literary essays.


4 thoughts on “The 5 Paragraph Essay and its Relevance

  1. I like to think about writing like an art class. It would be silly to ask students to start by mimicking Picasso. They need to learn the basics, the rules, before they can break them. Even Picasso started as a realist. In my 11 honors class I start by demanding the exile of the 5 paragraph essay. We instead start with the University of Chicago’s Uncommon Application Essay. The hope is that they take the concepts of organization and development that they learned and now apply them with voice, style, and creativity.

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