The school year is winding down, and my students (and I!) are feeling a bit squirrely. We just took our last test of the school year on Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and there are a mere six regular school days left before final exams. So what do we do with this odd in-between that doesn’t allow enough time for another full unit, but is certainly too much time to descend into the pit of meaningless movie-watching day after day? The answer is: We write.
Now, tell that to most students, and they cringe. But I’m not talking about five-page-research-paper-in-the-MLA-format writing. I’m talking about fun writing. I know, I know. If my students remember what an oxymoron is, they’d apply it to the term “fun writing.” And of course, as a writer, I’m a bit biased; I think almost all writing is fun.
But I think my students did have fun writing today. Here is what we did:
Students will: analyze nonfiction writing; analyze authentic texts; review and identify verbs; write using strong, specific verbs; write creatively, informally, and for enjoyment; analyze the structure and elements of an authentic, nonfiction text; work cooperatively; engage in the creative process; think critically, creatively, and abstractly; share their written work aloud
several sheets of notebook paper, composition book, or spiral notebook for every student
writing utensil for each student
several copies of cooking magazines or various copies of different recipes
- Put students into groups of three or four.
- Pass out magazines or recipes, so that each group has two or three magazines, or at least six to ten individual recipes.
- Give students five minutes in their groups to look through the recipes together, and instruct them to write down all the strong, specific cooking verbs they come across.
Each student should keep his or her own list.
- After five minutes, ask the students to call out the verbs they wrote down, and write them on the board for the class to see.
- Next, give students five minutes to start a new list. This time, they should write down all the units of measurement they see in the different ingredients lists.
- After five minutes, ask the students to call out the units they wrote down, and write them on the board for the class to see.
- Next, give students three minutes to examine the structure and format of the recipes together. They should write down elements they notice most or all of the recipes share. This should include items such as: prep time, cooking time, ingredients list, steps/process/procedure, servings, etc.
- After three minutes, ask students what elements a recipe should have, and write the elements on the board for the class to see.
- Explain to students that in a few minutes, they will write a recipe poem. A recipe poem is a poem that explains how to “cook” something abstract, such as a certain type of person, a certain emotion, or an experience. Give them some examples: a recipe for success, a recipe for a best friend, a recipe for the worst day ever, etc.
- Give students five minutes to brainstorm together in their groups. They should write down experiences, types of people, and emotions they think they might want to describe by way of a recipe poem.
- After five minutes, ask students to call their ideas out, and write them on the board for the class to see.
- Remind students that their recipe poem should include all the elements of a recipe, and be formatted like a recipe. Instruct them to pick a topic, but not to tell anyone else in the class what their topic is.
- Give students about 15 minutes to write their recipe poem, allotting more time if needed.
- Once everyone has finished (or mostly finished) a recipe poem, instruct students to go around in their groups and read their recipe poems aloud to their group members, still withholding the subject. After each student reads, his group members should try to guess what his recipe is for. After each group member has guessed, the poet can reveal what his topic was.
- After each person in each group has had a chance to share her poem with her group, ask willing students to share their recipe poems aloud with the class.
My students really seemed to enjoy this activity–so much so, that we actually have to finish tomorrow because so many students were so eager to share their poems with the class. We ran out of time!