Changing Practices: Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay

Changing Practices for the L2 Writing Classroom:
Moving Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay
edited by Nigel A. Caplan & Ann M. Johns
University of Michigan Press, 2019

Buy now direct from the publisher or Amazon (print edition) or as a Kindle e-book or Adobe Digital Edition.

“If you have already rejected the five-paragraph essay, we offer validation and classroom-tested alternatives. If you are new to teaching L2 writing, we introduce critical issues you will need to consider as you plan your lessons. If you need ammunition to present to colleagues and administrators, we present theory, research, and pedagogy that will benefit students from elementary to graduate school. If you are skeptical about our claims, we invite you to review the research presented here and consider what your students could do beyond writing a five-paragraph essay if you enacted these changes in practice.”

The five-paragraph essay is more than a student paper with five paragraphs: it’s an approach to writing that ignores situation, context, and genre. And it doesn’t teach students to write well. Why don’t we teach the five-paragraph essay? What else do we teach? Find out from this all-star cast of L2 writing experts! Chapters discuss the full range of educational contexts, from elementary to graduate school. Changing Practices will be of interest to all writing teachers, ESL curriculum designers, future teachers and TAs, and students in BA/MA TESL programs.

The book is a thorough look at the research and practices surrounding the use of the five-paragraph essay, particularly as it has been employed in second language writing instruction, though I believe it speaks to all writing classrooms.

John Warner, Inside Higher Education

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION (Nigel A. Caplan & Ann M. Johns)

Part I – Understanding the Five-Paragraph Essay
1: Have We Always Taught the Five-Paragraph Essay? (Nigel A. Caplan)
2: Is the Five-Paragraph Essay a Genre? (Christine M. Tardy)
3: Does Everyone Write the Five-Paragraph Essay? (Ulla Connor and Estela Ene)

Part II – Writing Practices Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay
4: Interactions With and Around Texts: Writing in Elementary Schools (Luciana C. de Oliveira and Sharon Smith)
5: Rethinking the Five-Paragraph Essay as a Scaffold in Secondary School (Christina Ortmeier-Hooper)
6: Transferable Principles and Processes in Undergraduate Writing (Dana Ferris and Hogan Hayes)
7: Writing in the Interstices: Assisting Novice Undergraduates in Analyzing Authentic Writing Tasks (Ann M. Johns)
8: Preparing Students to Write in the Disciplines (Silvia Pessoa and Thomas Mitchell)
9: Writing for Disciplinary Communities (Christine B. Feak)

Part 3 – Issues Beyond the Classroom
10: Standardized Testing Pressures and the Temptation of the Five-Paragraph Essay (Deborah Crusan and Todd Ruecker)
CONCLUSION: Where Do We Go from Here? (Ann M. Johns & Nigel A. Caplan)

Continue the Conversation

In the Conclusion, Ann and I suggest ways to “fight the good fight” against decontextualized, formulaic, five-paragraph writing. These include forming a book club with your colleagues, looking for willing colleagues to make small changes together in your teaching, and inviting a genre expert to talk to your department or campus. You can reach me through my contact page or any of the authors through the University of Michigan Press. And feel free to comment below! We love to hear from our readers!

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