21 June 2006

The five-paragraph theme has long been a staple of the composition curriculum. This can be credited to several factors: it is simple, makes its case clearly, and is easy for the reader to understand. It is also versatile--the form can be applied to almost any subject. Most important to students, however, is its simplicity.

A five-paragraph theme begins with an introduction. This paragraph is designed to catch the reader's attention, state the subject, and limit it to the single topic which will be discussed. This may be done with a funnel, bringing the reader from a broad opening topic to the limited thesis; an interesting or startling quote which is pertinent to the subject; or a brief anecdote. The most important part of this paragraph is the thesis, which is usually its final sentence. This sentence states the writer's position on the topic.

Once a thesis is stated, it must be developed. This occurs in the paper's body paragraphs. When there are three major points supporting the thesis, each will be given a body paragraph. This is what usually happens, because unless the writer has at least three points, she probably doesn't have enough support to justify holding the position her thesis presents. In developing the thesis, examples are often helpful in clarifying exactly what is intended. This clarity is important, because these are the paragraphs which explain the writer's argument.

After evidence in support of the thesis has been presented, most of the writer's work is done. All that remains is to let the reader know that the paper is finished. This requires a conclusion. The most common method of conclusion is the summary, which briefly recaps the evidence and restates the thesis.

And this results in a five-paragraph theme. By following the simple format of introduction, development, and conclusion, anyone can write a paper on almost anything. What remains is to revise the paper, if time allows, and put it into the required manuscript form. This done, the writer may turn it in knowing that, while it may not be the most exciting paper in the world, it will present her argument clearly and competently.

3 Comments:

Blogger lillian loop said...

The five paragraph theme is comparable to a dog learning basic commands. If a student were to write a FPT for the SATs, that student would not get into college. Unfortunately, this aniquated, 19th century solution to teachers' overload of reading is the milestone of many state-wide standardized tests.
I teach writing, and I also teach FPT writing to my students. Most importantly, I teach my students that while the FPT is the way to pass the state testing requirements and papers for teachers who area not qualified to teach writing.
Then I teach the students how to really write.

9:27 PM  
Blogger lillian loop said...

The five paragraph theme is comparable to a dog learning basic commands. If a student were to write a FPT for the SATs, that student would not get into college. Unfortunately, this aniquated, 19th century solution to teachers' overload of reading is the milestone of many state-wide standardized tests.
I teach writing, and I also teach FPT writing to my students. Most importantly, I teach my students that while the FPT is the way to pass the state testing requirements and papers for teachers who area not qualified to teach writing.
Then I teach the students how to really write.

9:27 PM


The five-paragraph theme has long been a staple of the composition curriculum. This can be credited to several factors: it is simple, makes its case clearly, and is easy for the reader to understand. It is also versatile--the form can be applied to almost any subject. Most important to students, however, is its simplicity.

A five-paragraph theme begins with an introduction. This paragraph is designed to catch the reader's attention, state the subject, and limit it to the single topic which will be discussed. This may be done with a funnel, bringing the reader from a broad opening topic to the limited thesis; an interesting or startling quote which is pertinent to the subject; or a brief anecdote. The most important part of this paragraph is the thesis, which is usually its final sentence. This sentence states the writer's position on the topic.

Once a thesis is stated, it must be developed. This occurs in the paper's body paragraphs. When there are three major points supporting the thesis, each will be given a body paragraph. This is what usually happens, because unless the writer has at least three points, she probably doesn't have enough support to justify holding the position her thesis presents. In developing the thesis, examples are often helpful in clarifying exactly what is intended. This clarity is important, because these are the paragraphs which explain the writer's argument.

After evidence in support of the thesis has been presented, most of the writer's work is done. All that remains is to let the reader know that the paper is finished. This requires a conclusion. The most common method of conclusion is the summary, which briefly recaps the evidence and restates the thesis.

And this results in a five-paragraph theme. By following the simple format of introduction, development, and conclusion, anyone can write a paper on almost anything. What remains is to revise the paper, if time allows, and put it into the required manuscript form. This done, the writer may turn it in knowing that, while it may not be the most exciting paper in the world, it will present her argument clearly and competently.
posted by Everett Wiggins at 8:52 PM on Jun 21, 2006

9:29 PM  
Blogger Ms. Brenner said...

I disagree--I have read for the SAT and a FPT is exactly what they want! Is it writing that will inspire? Of course not. But is it the training wheels some students need to get there--absolutely! I wish they were teaching it in 4th grade, where I learned it, along with those ideas that Rosa Parks was just tired and didn't want to stand up...sure it is over simplified, but one more rung on the scaffold!

1:56 PM  

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