Saint Mary's University Writing Centre

Halifax, NS

What do students think about the five-paragraph essay?

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Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care

by Jennifer P. Gray, Ph.D.

Do you ever wonder what students think about the writing assignments they do for school? Lately, I am hearing about how assignments fit into Common Core areas or how assignments match up with general education requirements, and I’m curious about the students’ perspectives. What do the students think about our assignments? How do they experience them, and what are the lingering effects from our assignments?

To get a better sense of what students think about their writing, I interviewed several first-year writing students at college for a qualitative study, and asked them about their past and present writing experiences. Not surprisingly, every single one of them talked about the five-paragraph essay.

Much of the published work on the positive aspects of the five-paragraph essay focuses on the support for developing structure and the solid beginning model that the format provides (Seo, Smith). The research…

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