“Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay” — now in print!

Yesterday, I was excited to receive my copies of the new TESOL publication, Effective Second Language Writing (in the Classroom Practices series), which opens with my chapter: “Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay: A Content-First Approach.”

In my essay — which is far longer than five paragraphs! — I set out the arguments against teaching (only) the five-paragraph essay/theme form, which I have been making for several years along with my former colleagues Andy McCullough and Ruelaine Stokes at Michigan State’s English Language Center. I then describe the sustained content-based writing course Andy and I developed at MSU for the advanced level of the IEP. (Another article we all wrote together appears in this month’s Second Language Writing Interest Section newsletter.)

The volume was edited with remarkable thoroughness and patience by Susan Kasten, and includes a total of 18 chapters on different aspects of second-language writing from around the world. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it. Come to think of it, it’s so long since I wrote my chapter, I should probably re-read that, too, and see what I said. (This project was launched at TESOL 3 years ago!)

Author: Nigel Caplan

Nigel Caplan, Ph.D., is an associate professor of ESL and materials developer in Delaware, in the United States.

5 thoughts on ““Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay” — now in print!”

  1. The chapter by Nigel Caplan about moving beyond the five-paragraph essay is needed for three important reasons. First, many ESL writing teachers are not aware that there are other models for writing, and this will serve to inform them of another model. Second, the five-paragraph model, while taught in many writing classes, is not really the predominant style in academic writing. Students need to learn how to write in a manner that can cross genres and disciplines. Third, this idea of content based writing may affect the writing textbooks being produced in that there may be a move away from the classic five-paragraph model and a move toward a more vibrant and realistic content model. In conclusion, there are three reasons why Nigel’s ideas should be heard and discussed.

    (-: There, that’s my attempt at the one-paragraph model!! 🙂

    1. I’d give that about a 3.5, David (revise the concluding sentence and you can get an A)! Seriously, this is a great example on when an explicitly structured paragraph works well — I have three points to make, and I want to make sure everyone understands them!
      Plus, you managed to include fantastic analytic content in your paragraph …

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