My Younger Relative called me recently, and asked me to give hir some feedback on a high school writing assignment. The assignment requires students to write about three characters in a text in terms of one or more characteristics from a list. The draft YR sent was about nine pages, all in these long, overly long paragraphs. The paragraphs wandered a bit, but there were ideas there and they addressed the assignment. I realized after not too long that he'd written a five paragraph essay. And I was smart enough to realize that the five paragraphs are a requirement. And indeed, they are.
Here's this high school student who has worked hard to think of and write out his ideas, and instead of teaching him to organize them into meaningful paragraphs, the teacher is teaching him to fit them into a really nasty box.
I recognize that there's good reason to limit page numbers, but a five paragraph essay that is five paragraphs long is just nasty for the teacher, isn't it?
So, help me, dear readers. Why teach the five paragraph essay?
Do state boards require it? And why? No one who studies writing thinks this is a good idea, do they?