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Welcome to the World of the Five-Paragraph Essay

A Step-by-Step Look at the Five-Paragraph Essay and Chuck Jones' "What's Opera, Doc?"

John Cowlin

on 3 March 2017

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Transcript of Welcome to the World of the Five-Paragraph Essay

The introduction (1) grabs the reader's attention, (2) sets the tone of the essay, (3) makes the central argumentative claim the essay is going to prove, and (4) provides a brief preview of the content so readers know where they are going.
Each body paragraph provides one part of the big picture. Together, these three paragraphs are the heart of the essay's argument. Each body paragraph provides (1) a claim, (2) evidence to support that claim, and (3) an explanation of just how the evidence proves the claim is true.
The conclusion (1) provides a sense of closure for readers and (2) gives readers an idea or question to ponder after they put the essay down.
The hook grabs the reader's attention.
The link connects the hook's subject matter to the subject matter of the thesis.
The thesis statement provides the central claim
the essay is attempting to prove.
Think of your bridge as a road map that lets your
readers know where they are going.
Your bridge - or map - is simply a way to preview for your reader the topic of each individual body paragraph. Your bridge presents these topics in the same order your reader will encounter them in the essay itself.

It's just like directions from a gas station. "Go north for one mile, turn right at the haunted silo, and go another three miles until you see the slaughter house. You can't miss it." That's what your bridge does.

Let's take a look at the bridge in our sample essay...
Your thesis statement is what you are trying to prove. If you prove your thesis, you succeed. If you don't prove it, you fail. Remember this trick: your thesis should be "L.A.M.E." - limited, arguable, meaningful, exact.

LIMITED- Your thesis cannot be too broad. Example:
"Religion is helpful."
To what degree? "Helpful" for whom? When? In what ways? This isn't an essay topic; it's the subject of a series of books.

ARGUABLE - A reasonable person must be able to disagree with your thesis. Example:
"Huckleberry Finn lives in the South."
No kidding. It says so in the novel This isn't a thesis; it's a fact.

MEANINGFUL - Your thesis must be interesting. Granted, "interesting" is a relative term, so do your best.

EXACT - Your thesis must be clear, concise and avoid vague language. Example:
"Religion is bad."
What does "bad" even mean? "Bad" how? The same goes for words like "nice," "good," and "interesting." These words are so vague they're almost meaningless.
Your hook can be about any topic you like. Just because you're writing about Hamlet doesn't mean you need to quote Shakespeare. How about a lyric from a Led Zeppelin tune? Or telling an anecdote about President Nixon walking his dog?

You might be wondering, "Okay, but if my hook can be about anything, how do I transition from the subject of my hook - say, a story about Nixon's dog - to the subject of my thesis - say, an examination of why Hamlet fails to kill Claudius? What do those two subjects have in common?"

Good question.
The hook is also called the attention-getter or opener, and after reading it, readers should actually WANT to read your essay. They should NEED to see what else you have to say. If they don't, you've failed. It's called a 'hook', as in, "I'm a trout and I have this hook in my bottom lip and I can't get away and some guy is going to eat me tonight."

Here is a bad hook: "Everyone has dreams." Uh, no kidding. So what? Who cares? Would YOU want to read the rest of that essay? Of course not. Hooks need to be INTERESTING, AMUSING, SURPRISING, PROVOCATIVE. Remember, this is your first sustained contact with your reader, so make it count.
A claim provides the argument that will be proven in a body paragraph.
If you're looking for a play-by-play breakdown of the legendary FIVE-PARAGRAPH ESSAY, you've come to the right place. Before continuing, however, you need to do two things. First, you need to watch the Chuck Jones directed animated film "What's Opera, Doc?" And second, you need to read the sample essay entitled "Doomed Wuv's Embwace." Once you've taken a gander at the cartoon and the essay, you'll be ready to get started learning about the five-paragraph essay. Continue when you're ready...

John Cowlin
Glenbrook South High School
Also known as assertions or topic sentences, claims behave like thesis statements. Claims must be L.A.M.E. - limited, arguable, meaningful, and exact.

It is the purpose of each body paragraph to prove its claim, and it is the purpose of each claim to give its body paragraph something TO prove.

The three claims of a five-paragraph essay must be organized in the same order as they are presented back in the bridge. Bridge point number two, for example, must be the subject of body paragraph number two.

The three claims from your three body paragraphs add up to prove your thesis. Here's one of the claims from the sample essay...
The evidence of a body paragraph is factual information. Most often, evidence is presented as a cited quotation. Every quotation must contain three components:

The set-up is the context of the quotation. What is happening in the text at the moment of the quotation? Who is doing what? What big ideas are being presented by the author? What's going on?

The quotation itself is a short excerpt from the text, presenting the exact word or words of the author.

The parenthetical citation lets your reader know who the author of the quotation is and the page of the book the quotation can be found on.
The explanation is also called the warrant or the analysis.

Presenting a claim and providing evidence isn't enough. You need to make sure your reader understands the connection between the two. Imagine someone says to you, "This burger is too expensive! It costs two bucks!" What's really being proven here? Nothing, that's what. What if the burger in question is a half pounder and delicious? In that case two dollars sounds pretty reasonable. You can't assume your reader understands the point you are trying to make. Your job is to make sure that connection is clear.
The conclusion does NOT repeat all of the ideas of the entire essay. All we need is a BRIEF review of the essay's main idea. This helps give your reader a sense of closure.

Here's our example...
"So what?" is an important question. ""Why am I reading this essay?" you reader is asking. "Who cares? How does this affect me?" In other words, "So what?"

Well, your job here is to give your reader an answer to that question. How IS your essay going to impact your reader? How DOES your point of view about some short story or poem relate to the real world?

If you can answer "So what?" then you've given your reader a reason for caring about what you've written, something to ponder.
The INTRODUCTION consists of 4 parts:
consists of 3 parts:
The CONCLUSION consists of 2 parts:
The five-paragraph essay – also known as the three tier or hamburger essay - is a traditional essay format that serves as a useful structural model for novice writers. The point of the essay is to make a central claim (the thesis) and then prove the claim is correct by supplying evidence. Thus, a good five-paragraph essay creates a thoughtful, thorough persuasive argument.

First we're going to first look at the general purpose of each of the five paragraphs. Then we're going to look at the individual parts of each paragraph. Ready? Let's go…
Without a transition, the leap from one body paragraph to the next is awkward.

Avoid one word transitions, such as "first," "second," "third," "also," and "another."

Try crafting a full-sentence transition. The first half of the sentence should be about the previous paragraph, and the second half of the sentence should be about the following paragraph.
You need to connect
your body paragraphs with
One more thing.
Don't forget your...
Good titles serve two purposes: they (1) pique your reader's interest and (2) preview the topic of the essay.
What makes a good title? Well, good titles are original, thoughtful, and interesting. They set the tone of the essay, and, to some degree, introduce you to your reader.
Well, there you go. Those are the basic components of the five paragraph essay.

You're probably thinking that this is a pretty limiting way to write, that there's not a whole lot of flexibility in the five-paragraph essay. Um... you are correct. But that limitation is also the five paragraph essay's biggest asset. The rigid structure of this essay will help you learn organization, conciseness, focus, and syntax. And those skills will make you a better writer.

The five paragraph essay isn't the end of composition instruction; it's the beginning. Once you master the basics, the sky is the limit. Good luck, and try to have fun. Having fun when you write is the first step in finding your own voice.
Here are some strong thesis statements that are pretty L.A.M.E. (which is a good thing):

"Willy Loman's obsession with the past
strips him of his free will."

"Hamlet's inability to kill Claudius
stems from an ill-defined sense
of self-purpose."

"Henry is a dynamic character whose
view of war matures and changes
throughout the novel."

Let's look at the sample essay's thesis...
Remember, if someone reads your hook and says, "Uh, no duh" or "Um, who cares?" then your hook is weak. Be careful not to preach about topics with which you don't have much experience. Don't be vague, and don't be trite. Don't simply snatch a quotation from the internet by some dead French philosopher you've never heard of expect your reader to care about him any more than you do. Here are some pretty weak hooks:

"Everyone has goals."

"Throughout history, there have been wars."

"There has always been racism, and it is bad."

"In the world, people have many points of view."

"George is a character in Steinbeck's novel."
Here are a few attention grabbing 'modes' you may wish to try out:

a surprising fact or statistic
a provocative point of view, statement, or quotation
an interesting historic, political, or literary anecdote
a thought-provoking rhetorical question

Remember, it takes more than just a sentence or two to craft a good hook. Take a moment and do it right. Check out the hook in the sample essay...
Avoid the following conventions when writing a title: (1) merely using the title of the text you are analyzing, (2) using a single word, (3) using a trite or cliched expression, and (4) simply using a quotation from another source. Here are some examples of pretty weak titles:

Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men Essay
To Be or Not to Be
Let's be honest. Sometimes writing a five paragraph essay can feel a little stifling. The title is one opportunity you have to cut loose and be creative, to show what you're made of. So don't hold back. Try something one step beyond your comfort zone. Worst case scenario? You change it during the revision process. Here are some titles that might work pretty well, depending on the context:

Chainsaw Lullaby
Magic and Technology in a Newtonian Universe
One Half of One Breath
Fate's Hot Breath
Fifty Eggs in an Hour
God's Last Bullet
Tragedy, Irony, and Three Little Duckies
I'm in Love; Grab a Bucket

Let's look at the title of our sample essay...
That's where the link comes in. Your hook grabs your reader's attention, and your link takes a few sentences to make sure your reader understands what the heck it has to do with your thesis. The link makes a connection between the two - like a link connecting two parts of a chain.

The link is also the place where you introduce the title and author of the text you are analyzing. Here's the link in our sample essay...
Welcome to the world of the
Quotations must employ correct punctuation and parenthetical citations. For example, if you were quoting Ray Bradbury, you would write:

"Those who don't build must burn" (Bradbury 89).

Notice the lack of commas and the use of a period at the end. It all matters.
Quotations must also be incorporated into your own sentences. That means they can't just be floating there by themselves in the middle of your paragraph. Here is an example of how you might incorporate a quotation into your own sentence:

Faber explains that Beatty will never give up trying to destroy the lives of those around him because people "who don't build must burn" (Bradbury 89).

See how part of the sentence is Bradbury's words, but much of it is ours? We've INCORPORATED Bradbury's words into our own sentence.

Here is the evidence - the set-up, quotation, and citation - in one of the body paragraphs of the sample essay...
Don't rush through the explanation. This is the fun part. This is your words, your ideas. This is what people enjoy talking about most. This is the WHY. This is your own personal point of view.

Let's look at the explanation in the sample.
For example, let's say we're writing an essay about super heroes, and we want to transition from a paragraph about Batman to a paragraph about Spider-Man. We might try this:

While Batman chooses to dress as a flying rodent,
Spider-Man prefers to dress as a pest of the
eight-legged arachnoid variety.

Transitions can come at the end of the previous paragraph or at the start of the next paragraph. The choice is yours. Also, note that you don't need to put a transition between the intro paragraph and the first body paragraph. The bridge already make that transition for us.

Here's a transition in the sample essay...
Look, there are many ways to conclude a five-paragraph essay. The "So what?" method is just one of them. It is an effective one, however. Keep in mind that your teacher is probably reading between 25 and 90 essays at a time. The conclusion is one more way to help yours stand apart from those of your peers. Instead of rushing through the conclusion, take your time and make it count. Use it to make a lasting impression.

Here's the conclusion in the sample essay...
And now you're ready to learn about the five-paragraph essay...
DISCLAIMER: This presentation is intended for
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