Schaffer method

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The Jane Schaffer method is a formula for essay writing that is taught in some U.S. middle schools and high schools. Developed by a San Diego teacher named Jane Schaffer, who started offering training and a 45-day curriculum in 1995, it is intended to help students who struggle with structuring essays by providing a framework.[1][2] Originally developed for personal narratives and essays about literature, the curriculum now also covers expository and argument essays.[3]

Essay structure[edit]

The essay is to consist of an introduction three or more sentences long and containing a thesis statement, a conclusion incorporating all the writer's commentary and bringing the essay to a close, and two or three body paragraphs; Schaffer herself preferred to teach a four-paragraph essay rather than the traditional five-paragraph essay.[1]

Body paragraph structure[edit]

Each body paragraph should consist of eight sentences: a topic sentence (T) followed by two "chunks" made up of a sentence presenting a concrete detail (CD) such as a fact, quotation, plot point, or example, followed by two sentences of commentary on that material (CM), and then by a concluding sentence (SC).[1][4][5] To help students internalize this formula, teachers use methods including colored pens[3] and writing "fact, opinion, opinion, fact, opinion, opinion" in the margin.[6] Longer body paragraphs are possible but must maintain the same 1:2 ratio of CD to CM in the "chunks".[7]

Commentary sentences often start with a transition such as the following:

  • This (also) shows that
  • This is (important) because
  • In addition
  • Furthermore
  • Therefore
  • Also
  • For example

Conclusion sentences usually start with one of the following:

  • Finally
  • In a word
  • In brief, Briefly
  • In conclusion, To conclude
  • In the end
  • In the final analysis
  • On the whole
  • Thus, to conclude
  • To summarize, In sum, To sum up, In summary
  • Mostly
  • As a result
  • Therefore

Critical analysis[edit]

Mark Wiley, coordinator of the composition program at California State University, Long Beach, evaluated the Schaffer method in 2000 as providing a valuable guide to the basics of academic writing, but not conducive to students' exploring their own responses to complex ideas and best taught as a possible strategy.[1]

The Schaffer method has been studied in several master's theses in education. In 2002, Heather McClelland sought to evaluate the effect of teaching formulaic strategies in order to assist teachers.[8] In 2012, Richard Roybal taught the method to a group of 60 8th-grade students and reviewed their success in stating a thesis and formulating three supporting topic sentences in an essay about a work of literature; 40% had three topic sentences, but 62% had two.[9] In 2015, Patricia Solomon related instruction in scientific writing for a high school course in biology to the students' Schaffer method instruction in writing about literature; she found little evidence of transfer of learning to the new field.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d Wiley, Mark (2000). "The Popularity of Formulaic Writing (And Why We Need to Resist)". The English Journal. 90 (1): 61–67. doi:10.2307/821733. JSTOR 821733.
  2. ^ Louis, Deborah E. "Official Jane Schaffer Writing Program". Louis Educational Concepts. Archived from the original on July 4, 2015.
  3. ^ a b "The Jane Schaffer Academic Writing Program". Retrieved June 5, 2022.
  4. ^ "Jane Schaffer Writing Terminology". Quia. Archived from the original on January 8, 2019.
  5. ^ Frappucino Freak (April 10, 2004). "The Jane Schaffer Writing Program". Retrieved June 5, 2022.
  6. ^ Young, Lindsay (June 15, 2013). "Jane Schaffer Paragraph Writing". Ms. Young's Teaching Strategies (blog). Retrieved June 5, 2022.
  7. ^ "Jane Schafer Essay Format" (PDF). Quest Garden.
  8. ^ McClelland, Heather (2002). Understanding Formulaic Writing Processes: The Six-Trait Model and the Jane Schaffer Method (MA Ed.). Antioch University Seattle.
  9. ^ Roybal, Richard A. (April 2012). Creating Critical Thinking Writers in Middle School: A Look at the Jane Schaffer Model (PDF) (MS Ed.). Dominican University of California.
  10. ^ Solomon, Patricia (Summer 2015). Effect of Transfer of Learning of Jane Schaffer Writing Strategies on Writing a Scientific Explanation in High School Biology (MA, Curriculum and Instruction). California State University Dominguez Hills – via Proquest.

External links[edit]