Friday, April 23, 2010

an ode to the five paragraph essay

I confess...I LOVED the five paragraph essay.

When we first started writing the traditional five paragraph essay, we'd have to fill out a little outline first. Paragraph one was the intro and it had three points. You carried these three down to be topic sentences of paragraphs 2-4 and supported each with three subpoints. The conclusion wrapped it all up. We only had to fill out these outline forms for the first year or so we wrote essays. I kept doing it much longer, either formally with full lines or informally with just short words as placeholders. I'd often start a computer document with the bullets and then expand that same piece into my paper.

When we moved to term papers, we were taught to put research tidbits on note cards that we'd sort for sections. At first, these were turned in. I held on to this one long enough that I had a box of cards for my college senior thesis. They had symbols and sub-symbols in the corner to organize them.

Yes, I'm a dork. Or nerd. Or both. I like order and structure. I was never the best in my classes. I was an English major even though I bet I'd have had a higher GPA in another subject (it was still good, just not outstanding...and my major classes were lower than my overall) because I loved studying literature even if I didn't have the same flair for it some of my classmates did. I was intimidated by my classmates, especially those in my thesis writing group. But, even if they weren't ground breaking additions to literary theory, at least my papers were organized.

(Editing to add: I was pondering further and realized the same mental tendencies that made me love the five paragraph essay probably led to my freshman year math prof suggesting I major in his field. I worked myself crazy for his class and wasn't interested, but I do wonder what my math gpa would have been.)

(Adding more: I also loved logic puzzle games as a kid. The LSAT knocked away that love...even though I kicked its butt).

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