Whether it is supporting the struggling writer or introducing a new cohort to the rigours of academic writing, many schools adopt scaffolding techniques. One common scaffolding technique in school-wide literacy approaches is the use of acronym based paragraph structures, such as SEXY, PEEL, LEER, TEXAS, etc. Acronyms have the obvious advantages of reminding the student that each of the sentences in a paragraph has a particular job. But at the same time, this type of scaffolding has underlying consequences, some of which may not be helpful to the evolving writer.
Teaching a single linear paragraph approach is treating poor writing at the symptom not the cause. Teaching acronyms without teaching sentence styles, fluency, and structure is ensnaring students into mediocre writing. A SEXY paragraph, containing simple sentence after simple sentence, is anything but. If students strive for higher grades, then SEXY paragraphs are not sexy at all! In fact, they are dull, boring, and average.
Our specially-developed diagnostic writing test reveals key areas of writing strength and weakness across the school. Analysis of testing has highlighted—even in our senior students—shallow writing, lack of coherence, and high rates of repetition. Much of this poor writing can be attributed to the over use of scaffolding. Where other writing rubrics stop, we dig deeper.
Students must be exposed to alternative paragraph structures; acronyms are a tool not the answer. Teachers need the skills and confidence to take the ‘training wheels’ off and free our writers from the shackles of poor writing and under-performance.
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Over and out for now,
The Write that Essay Team