October 27, 2019- Writing Recipes
This weekend I started my holiday baking in earnest. So grateful for my enormous freezer! When I am not writing, cooking is my next favorite pastime. They are so much alike. :) And that is just what I tell my students, whether they are my elementary students, my college students, or adults when I am presenting at conferences.
As a beginning cook, we must rely on recipes so we know what ingredients, in what quantities, to put into our dish. The ingredients we use depend entirely on the final product we seek. For example, while fresh roasted tomatoes will make our sauce better, it would likely not help our peach cobbler. When writing, the final product we seek, also dictates the ingredients we add. A Who-Done-It-Mystery requires totally different ingredients than a travel book would.
Recipes guide our construction by helping us figure out the order of assembly, whether to boil or bake our concoction, and for how long. When following recipes we can strengthen our competency with basic cooking techniques and approaches. When writing, there are also accepted standards for things like plot and conflict and dialogue. By practicing these foundational skills when we follow guidelines, our overall writing competency becomes stronger.
By studying and emulating the recipes of master chefs, our own results increase in quality. By studying and analyzing the writing of masters, we can uncover writing techniques or approaches we never thought of before. Hidden gems that we can try out ourselves.
There are some within the field of education who feel that writing instruction for students should simply consist of copious amounts of uninterrupted time for writing, to allow the student to uncover their inner-writer. My Graduate Specialization Degree is in Teaching Writing K-12, so I had to read all the research. And while I agree that time to write is essential, we would never expect a beginning cook to just go into the kitchen with no guidance, to discover their inner-cook. Expecting a writer to do it seems counter-intuitive.
Therefore, my classroom is covered with “Recipes for Writing”. Templates and guidelines to assist students as they are writing. But like recipes for the kitchen, writing recipes are not carved in stone and are not meant to box us in. Rather they are a starting point. A way for us to grow our skill as we follow the tried and true recipes of the masters.
And like a gourmet cook, who no longer requires recipes and can simply go into a kitchen and produce a masterpiece, we aspire to gourmet-writer status. As my students grow in skill and expertise, I encourage them to rely less and less on the recipes, and to follow their inner voice.