The Sexy Six-Sentence Paragraph


Writing is the weakest skill because it is the most neglected skill in the classroom. Students know it; instructors know it. Any survey asking ESL students to rank their English skills always places the productive skill of writing at the very bottom of the list. Teachers and learners shirk the quill for a host of reasons.

Writing consumes a lot of classroom time and in the CLT world in which we operate. Somehow we feel that if our students aren’t continually engaged in speaking tasks we are not doing our jobs. Strong speakers, after all, must be strong writers–just write what you’d say, right?

Teachers also don’t like marking loads of written material. Students can generate some mind-numbingly bad stuff and correcting elementary errors can hurt the soul. Learners tend to give only cursory glances to the returned homework assignments, even if (or especially if) they are covered in red ink. Further, teachers delay written feedback. One wonders if it has any real impact on a student’s learning even if it is not chucked aside. So, a teacher’s expenditure of effort has little perceived value.

One approach to solving this complex problem is to consider developing writing skills from a reading point of view. We know that flooding a listener with certain types of input can help with their speaking. We also know that prolonged remedial writing sessions are boring and could have the opposite effect of alienating a learner entirely.  Helping students to notice patterns in other people’s written material may be a start. The topic > reason > explanation pattern is prevalent in virtually all writing styles. So stop clicking your pen and start clicking your mouse.

Here is a learner’s example of the  topic > reason > explanation pattern:

Fat people can be sexy. Sexy is a state of mind, and rarely has anything to do with your size. If you believe you are sexy and you project sexy, then sexy you are at any size.

If teachers can raise a learner’s awareness of this pattern, they should be able to hunt for it in text, and also model the structure in their output during restrictive writing tasks.

When students are able to write a three-sentence paragraph, they’ll be able to add three more sentences to generate a six-sentence-paragraph. (At the elementary level, the conclusion is just a restatement of the topic sentence.)

topic > reason > explanation > reason > explanation > conclusion

Fat people can be sexy. Sexy is a state of mind, and rarely has anything to do with your size. If you believe you are sexy and you project sexy, then sexy you are at any size. Sexy is not about what others think of you, it is about how you feel about yourself. If you look in the mirror and feel sexy, then you are sexy. Weight has nothing to do with your sex appeal.

TOEFL Writing

If you are interested in learning even more about TOEFL Writing, check out my course Clear Strategies & Tactics

Thanks for checking out our blog. For more information about private TOEFL training or group rates, feel free to reach out to


4 Replies to “The Sexy Six-Sentence Paragraph”

  1. I agree with your opinion. In my case, I don’t like writing. Beacause it is difficult to me. But, from now on, I will write a little essay in english in oder to improve my english.

  2. Most writers will tell you to set aside some time everyday to put pen to paper. Keeping a diary is a good way to get into the habit of making daily entries, but like any aspect of learning, it requires discipline. Why not make a promise to yourself that you will write 6 sentences everyday for a month? These can be in the form of a journal entry, or could be comments like this to an online post. Good luck!

  3. What a wonderful summary it is! Thanks to your discipline, i can make a whole structure of essay. But it’s still difficult for me to write perfect essay.
    As your upper post, keeping a diary is a good way to get into the habit of making daily entries.
    I will put in practice.
    John! I have wondering about difference between essay and columns.

  4. what a interesting topic! as you know many Korean students don’t like doing something related with writing in English. It is a big concern of L2 all of L2 learners. I think your opinion is very impressive. as you already know, I learned writing class from Ryan. at that time I have to read various type of essays and write some paragraphs based on western writing style which is the most difficult part to me.
    if L2 learners accept your opinion positively and practice their writing regularly it will be a great help for their improving writing ablity and skill.
    And there is one more thing what I want to talk to you. next time how about writing something on ‘instructors’? you know I learned some different criteria from you and Ryan. So I think precised instructor’s manual is also important to learners. If each of teachers teaches different thing in their class, student can feel confusing and even frustrating on writing. I think it can be a interesting topic for L2 learners and instructors.
    Finally, I want to tell you I really enjoyed this article! thank you again. see you soon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *