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The Essay Machine: Demystify the Five-Paragraph Essay

If I can get my students to leave my class knowing how to write predictable, formulaic five-paragraph essays, I feel like I've done my job. I believe that before young writers can learn how to dance, they need to learn to be pedestrian, and I find that my students still have a hard time walking. I've offered handouts, lectures, activities, and group discussions about how to structure a five-paragraph essay, and when they turn in their work, still too many of their essays are disorganized messes. Then I created The Essay Machine.

The Essay Machine is simply a Google Docs template using a table in a text document. The table has two columns with my instructions on the left column and a place for students to write their sentences in the right column. I have the rows divided into six different sections. One for each paragraph and a separate section for the title. Within each paragraph section, I have rows that explicitly instruct what kind of sentence goes where. Writing becomes fill in the blank. 

Since it is a template, students click on it, and Google Drive automatically creates a copy of the template and saves it in their Drive. Once they finish filling in the boxes, they have a clear, organized, and well-defended essay. They can simply cut and paste their sentences into a separate document, format it to comply with MLA, share it with me, and they're done.

Over 150 teachers have already used The Essay Machine, and I only created it a couple months ago. Feel free to use it yourself. Sign in to your Google account and click here. Or watch this video.

My students really seemed to appreciate the structure The Essay Machine provides. They never had to face a blank computer screen, they knew what sentence went where, and their essays ended up less chaotic and more pedestrian. I'm good with that.


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