Wiley’s article demonstrates the irrelevancy of the five-paragraph essay and students are too comfortable and hesitant to change the formulaic writing that was taught to them in secondary education. Students often assume that all writing stems from this format, and continuously use the format throughout their academic careers. Last night, I assisted my sister with her writing assignment. She is taking a remedial English course at Butte College and had difficulty beginning her essay. I noticed on the instructor’s assignment sheet, they used terms such as Basic Writing and incorporated examples that presented work that reflected similar structures to the five-paragraph essay. I became concerned with the content and showed my sister a different method on how to create small excerpts.
Here is the story:
Friday night, I arrived home late from work and my sister waited in the kitchen for my arrival. She needed assistance on her homework assignment and could not write her essay. I told her I would ignore my assignments to help her, due to her emotional state. She was anxious, nervous and overall felt insecure about writing.
As we began to look over her syllabus and the essay question, I noticed the instructor mentioned that this essay would help students understand the basics of writing. That this essay will help introduce students to the basic skill of synthesizing various resources into an essay to make their argument compelling.
I asked my sister what she thought the instructor would require for her to make a great essay. She then stated, “I think she wants an five page essay, right?” I looked at my sister and told her no.
I told her (in a simple way) that formulaic writing will not assist her to create an amazing essay and that she needed to forget about the dumb five-paragraph essay. I insisted that the five-page essay is not the only method of writing. We went over various sources from the book and selected excerpts that related to the question. I had her create Memo’s like the students that I worked with in my internship and placed important quotes in the memo. We created a total of four memos and she seemed really proud that she was able to accomplish the task within three hours.
We continued to work together till four in the morning. She became frustrated, angry, and wanted to quit several times. However, after completing the assignment (the rough draft), she looked at me and said, “I cannot believe I did that,” and “I never have written anything like this before.”
I told her that her grammar was not the best or that the essay was not a finished product, however, she incorporated the most crucial part of the essay: content. She seemed to gain confidence and realized that she had the capability to learn new methods of communication by being open and willing,
End of story.
I realized that instructors in secondary education or even higher education believe that students are not capable of challenging work. That student’s should only indulge themselves in the five-paragraph essay, because of their “inability” to not comprehend writing in different forms. However, interacting with my sister and assisting her throughout her assignment proved with proper motivation and sponsorship, a student can accomplish anything.