Farm Feast: Recipes for Writing Success
by Molly Wright Starkweather, Kaplan University Writing Center
When I was still living near family in the South, I got to help my grandmother prepare for a New Year’s “farm feast.” This is a distinctly rural, Southern celebration to welcome in the year as a family. As I watched my grandma prepare the traditional lucky foods of collard greens and black-eyed peas (which my grandpa said represented “greenbacks and pennies for the year”), I saw that there was no recipe nearby.
“Grandma, did you ever have something written down to teach you how to make the greens just right?”
“No, sweetheart, but I sure wish I did. Why don’t you write this down for when you have a family and want to teach them?”
The recipe I jotted down will become a teaching tool for my daughter.
Recipes are a wonderful teaching tool for more than cooking and other at-home projects. In fact, many lessons about writing involve showing the components of a composition and then the typical process for writing it. An assignment might involve paraphrasing, a skill that involves its own set of ingredients and steps to build. Because writing for different types of assignments involves different approaches to the writing process, writing teachers and writing center tutors might find it effective to use a recipe format for modeling different kinds of writing.
Have you ever seen a brief research assignment written in recipe form? That same winter I was helping Grandma prepare the greens, I was designing homework projects for a composition class filled with nursing students, and one first-week project involved learning APA citations. The recipe for an APA citation looked like this:
- A peer-reviewed, scholarly article on a nursing concept that interests you, gathered during our library visit.
- (Topics might include neonatal intensive care protocol, brain trauma first responses, culture care, etc.)
- APA Manual (Nursing majors were required to have this manual where I was teaching at the time.)
1. Turn to the section in the APA manual on periodicals and find the type of journal article that best describes the article you chose.
2. Mark the different citation information (including author, year of publication, article title, and other information) on the copy of the article itself, or copy it down on scratch paper. Do not attempt to put the citation together; just get the information down to work with.
3. Using the model citation from the manual as a guide, build your reference page citation for the article you have selected.
This is a brief version of what became a multi-page worksheet complete with practice for quoting, paraphrasing, summarizing, and of course citing all of those uses of a source.
Several resources in the KUWC share the components and process for writing different types of assignments. Our October Quick Tips session and resource on How To Write an Abstract features the ingredients and step-by-step approach to writing an abstract for undergraduate and graduate level research.
Just like in the kitchen, the classroom and the writing center can involve lots of little moves with different ingredients. Sometimes it can get messy, but the work always improves with dedication over time by following a process, a writing process.