Five paragraph essays, like many of the conventions teachers are asked to teach students, are meant as a place to start. I’m thinking about the types of things I want my students to be able to do in an essay. Some of my initial thoughts include: organize thoughts, support arguments with evidence, recognize audience and write in a style that best fits the needs of the audience, write until all points have been made and all ideas explored. Because I believe that conventions such as organization and supporting arguments are key fundamentals that all writers should be able to do, I may use the FPE to help me teach these things. Instead of stopping there though, I might move into a discussion of audience and ask students to list when the traditional FPE is appropriate. A discussion of different genres and when their inclusion in a FPE is appropriate would probably follow. Because I find it highly important to discuss with students when they should employ different writing styles, I find the FPE beneficial in that it demonstrates one type of writing that is suitable for a multitude of scenarios (standardized tests, other classes, possibly in the business world, and always as a place to start).
To move away from the formula that the FPE asks for but keeping with the writing conventions that it helps students understand, I’ve found a website that gets at the heart of the FPE without asking students to fill in the blanks. Instead, students are asked to answer questions and write until their thoughts are complete and their points have been made. http://www.csupomona.edu/~uwc/non_protect/student/Journey5cp.htm