Breaking Down the Five-Paragraph Essay at Education Week

Read my five-paragraph essay piece, Should We Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay?, published at Education Week.

I often reach out to my colleagues in the blogging community to see if they’d be interested in sharing posts. That usually means other English teachers or folks who write about education in general. It’s part connecting with the community and part promotion of myself and my work. Occasionally, I’ll find someone who is in fact interested in having me write a piece. About a month ago, I contacted Nancy Flanagan, who writes a blog called “Teacher in a Strange Land” for Education Week. Nancy is a teacher herself (former Michigan Teacher of the Year) and a digital organizer for IDEA (Institute for Democratic Education in America), and as her bio reveals, her writing focuses on “the inconsistencies and inspirations, the incomprehensible, immoral and imaginative, in American education.” We clicked pretty quickly.


Nancy Flanagan and I both seek to expose truths in American education, so I assumed I would write a controversial piece for her about labor organizing or education reform, but oddly enough we decided on the more politically benign topic of the “five-paragraph essay.” I know–I never really talk much about that topic here, but as I began to write, I found I actually did have quite a bit to say on the matter.

Nancy kind of planted the seed by relaying to me that she has a friend who also teaches freshmen composition and who despises the five-paragraph essay. I mean hates it. Nancy asked if I would write a piece excoriating the five-paragraph format. I knew the five-paragraph essay was a pretty commonly taught form in high schools, so I recognized that although my topic would not be as politically charged as many of my posts, I could still stir up some controversy. So, I decided to take it on.

My five-paragraph essay piece was published this morning at Education Week. Just thought I would share it with you. Head over and check it out. See if you agree or disagree. By the way, in case you were wondering, Education Week was started by Corbin Galtney and other members of Editorial Projects in Education (EPE), which is the same group that started The Chronicle of Higher Education back in 1966. Education Week has been the “market leader in K-12 American education news for the past 31 years.” I’m honored to have had the chance to write for them and I hope to write another piece for them soon.

So please, if you’re interested, head over and read my five-paragraph essay article, support me, and join the Education Week discussion here.

  • darthvadersmom

    You never cease to amaze me, encourage me, and impress me. This article is insightful, as well as useful. A+

    • Josh Boldt


  • Vanessa Vaile

    Not just that but both it and the academic essay are a peculiarly American genres. Take a look at contrastive rhetoric and the genre elsewhere. No doubt it has a sad provenance as well.

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