Recipe for Success

This is an idea I’ve just started to kick around: it’s by no-means fully-formed and if you think it might have some mileage, all contributions / suggestions are very welcome.

Family Recipe Card

In basic terms it’s a way to get students to think about how they construct answers to essay-type questions by using an analogy – in this instance, constructing an answer is analogous to constructing a meal; the link between both is the recipe.

This has developed, in part, out of two ideas I’ve seen used that are tangentially linked to the general “cooking theme”:

  1. Takeaway Homework lists – where students are given a “menu” from which they can select different types of homework.
  2. Essay Menus that encourage students to think about the broad structure of their essays in terms of three parts:
  3. Starter – the introduction
  4. Main – the body of the essay answer
  5. Dessert – the conclusion.

While Recipe for Success is built on similar on ideas about essay structure and choice it differs from both because of its focus on the actual essay-writing process, rather than simply its structure. In other words, the focus here is on the ingredients – key theories, concepts and sources – that can be identified and combined to produce a coherent and well-structured answer.

At the moment I’m leaning towards the idea of encouraging students to think in terms of paragraph construction, where each paragraph must have:

  • Meat: the central idea – what the paragraph is “about”
  • Garnish: a range of concepts that complement the central idea through illustrations, explanations, application and evaluations.
  • Sauce: examples of writers / studies that connect the meat and the garnish.
  • In other words, for each paragraph students have to use:

  • a single idea drawn from the “meat” ingredients
  • any number of ideas drawn from the “garnish” ingredients.
  • at least one idea drawn from the list of sauces.
  • A further possibility is to add a “stock” or “store” section that contains a range of concepts students might want to apply in their answer; these are deliberately general (class, age, etc.) and may or may not be used as required.

    Recipe 1 in this document illustrates this idea. It also contains some variations on the general theme.

    And once you’ve read and understood the document you can see how this all pans out in terms of an actual essay recipe card.

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