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Transition words were to indicate shifts to new paragraphs and were limited to a small word bank of transition words first, next, then, before, finally, similarly, and a handful of others.
Each body paragraph was to have an opening sentence and at least two details to support the opening sentence.
Part of our job as seventh grade teachers was to make sure the students could write descriptive, instructive, comparative, and persuasive essays.
For the most part, language arts teachers were successful within this accountability system as demonstrated by test scores, yet the number of students, like my own son, who were not prepared for college writing raised a doubt about the focus on five-paragraph themes.
We began with the best of intentions, focusing on the writing process—brainstorming, drafting, responding and revising, editing, and publishing.
While this is a standard that I remember being modeled in the fifties and sixties when I was an elementary and secondary student, it was only one model—the five-paragraph theme.
The 5 Paragraph Essay Is Bad
In the educational reform of the nineties, one model became the only writing model for Texas students.
Prepositions took on new currency when the picture prompt was introduced.
Students were presented a picture and asked to describe the scene.
As a middle school language arts teacher for ten years in Texas, I came to believe in practice that this was the writing standard in Texas as we were given models of rubric scoring to evaluate our students' essays.
These rubrics resulted in teachers preparing students to write five-paragraph themes.