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Welcome. My name is Corbett Harrison. I have been an educator since 1990, and a teacher-trainer and University adjunct professor since 1998. I specialize in teaching writing using differentiated instruction techniques. I also focus on critical thinking skills, especially during the pre-writing and revision stages of the writing process. I retired from the classroom in June of 2019, and I will continue to consult with schools, districts, and states who are more interested in developing quality writing plans, not buying from one-size-fits-all writing programs.

Beginning over the summer of 2019, I will be available once again to train teachers your school or district if you would like to hire a qualified and dynamic trainer. You can find general information about my workshops here.

If you would like to check my availability for a specific date or dates for the 2019-20 school year, please contact me at this e-mail address. My calendar is already fillling up with workshop engagements.


Write & WritingFix

       Because writing--when taught well--can be the most enjoyable part of your teaching day, we created this website to provide fun, adaptable ideas for teachers.

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The lesson on this page is one of the "Center Square" lessons from our ten Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards. This lesson can be taught any time in the school year, but we placed it on the October Bingo card because creating unusual recipes is a writing task that can be practiced in the notebook, then used in larger assignments or as part or a project.

Either way, if you like this lesson, please consider purchasing our whole set of Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards. Twenty-four unique ideas for writing topics every month, plus ten "center-square," much like the one found on this page are ffound on all ten Bingo Cards. Proceeds from their sales help us to keep this website off ideas online and free-to-use.

An Adaptable Lesson from the Harrisons' Classroom to Your Classroom:
How this free-to-use lesson came to be online: My wife, Dena, and I taught English, reading, and writing for 56 combined years before both retiring at the conclusion of the 2018-19 school year. We've had a lot of years to develp passion about certain teaching topics, and focusing on unique ways to teach writing has become a combined passion for both of us. After I earned my Master's Degree in Educational Technology way (way!) back in 1999, Dena and I decided to establish a website and begin freely posting our favorite lessons and resources that we created and successfully used during our time in the classroom.

We began this online task by--first--creating WritingFix in 1999, and there we began posting writing methodologies and techniques from our own classrooms. Two few years after WritingFix had been established, we teamed with the Northern Nevada Writing Project for several years, and through their popular inservice classes, we began adding the ideas of many Nevada teachers who enrolled in those classes for recertification credit. When the federal budget floundered in 2008, the NNWP was no longer able to sponsor WritingFix in any way shape or form, but Dena and I keep the site online through user donations and our own cash.

In 2008, we began creating this newer website with writing lessons that specifically focused on our favorite topics and techniques for writing instruction: 1) the six writing traits; 2) writing across the curriculum, 3) writing lessons that differentiate, 4) writer's notebooks, and 5) vocabulary instruction. This "Always Write" website has been growing--month by month--since the summer of 2008. Below, you will find a lesson we posted to inspire a unique type of writing.

Thanks for checking out this month's lesson, and if you have any questions about it, don't hesitate to contact us using this email address: corbett@corbettharrison.com

"Life is a Cookbook" --
The metaphor that inspired this writing task.

Recipe Metaphors

using the format of a recipe to write about something
you wouldn't find in an actual cookbook.

I dedicate this lesson to one of my author-teacher-mentor-friends: Barrry Lane. His 51 Wacky We-Search Reports book inspired a popular writing across the curriculum inservice course for teachers that I taught for my district between 2002 and 2008. I think I taught that course over 20 times, and each participant walked away with their own copy of the book. I made a lot of teaching friends teaching that inservice course, but I think the friendships were strongly based in the fact that I was giving these people an amazingly easy-to-implement book.

The recipe write (I think Barrry calls them "recipe poems") is the lesson idea from that book that inspired my adaptation found lower on this page. Barry's book has 50 more ideas. In my career, I think I used ten or twelve of the 51 ideas from the book, and those ideas alone, made the book worth the price.

Two-paragraph Lesson Overview: I teach this format--the recipe metaphor--early on so that students can not only contoine to use it as an analytic writing task in my classroom, but also use it in their other content-based classes: math, science, history, etc. For this task, students research or brainstorm a topic (other than food), then write about it, using the format of a recipe: 1) ingredients needed, and 2) instructions on how to mix the ingredients together. Students try to use as many measurement nouns (cups, litres, a pinch, etc.) and recipe verbs (fry, broil, cool, etc.) as they write out both parts.

The lesson on this page teaches two fun recipe writes to do as practice sessions, asssuming you are interested in using this format often as a formative or summative assessment tool, or a research/brainstorming tool. Some can, but I find most students--even my really bright ones--need several practice sessions with a writing task, especially one that involves metaphorical thinking

Essential Questions/Objectives/Mentor Text Suggestions:

  • How can expressing my research in the unusual format of a recipe help me learn the content while not copying directly from my research?
  • How can I strengthen my metaphor by paying close attention to measurement nouns and cooking verbs? Would giving it a title that sounded like food help the metaphor?
  • What personal topics or personally-interesting research topics would I like to put in the format of a recipe?

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.*.7 -- Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
    Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Sometimes structure meets creativity. This Recipe Metaphor assignment has always been one of my favorites because it does both. Mind you, it's easy to create a pretty uninspired unusual recipe if you put lackluster effort or minimal creativity into its creation, but the more you teach your kids about metaphorical thinking, the better their future recipes turn out to be. I use the recipe write throughout the school year, but it's in the writer's notebook that we first "play with" the task.

This lesson introduces the concept of Recipe Metaphors to my students by having them FIRST create one based on a personal experience; I use the idea behind my mentor text Enemy Pie to inspire them with a personal idea, as you'll see below.We use After taking the recipe through the writing process, students record and illustrate a clean, edited copy of this recipe in their notebooks. They save the adjacent page for a future recipe on a different topic.

A few days (or weeks) later, students are challenged to create a recipe that--rather than being about a personal experience--is about a topic from a non-fiction text they have studied. I used the mentor text Thunder Cake to guide my final few groups of students towards researching weather and writing a recipe based on their research. These content-inspired recipes--which can be on ANY topic--are edited and copied onto an adjacent page of their notebooks, where they too are illustrated.

Once established, this notebook page can be easily referred to when you are using the Recipe Metaphor task later. I find the recipe metaphor format works really well as a content-inspired group project, and I have been toying with the idea of students creating critical recipes during persuasive writing units; a recipe for "How to Change the World" is an idea I have for a critical recipe.

My classroom mentor texts that encourage us to practice using the "recipe metaphor" format::

Thunder Cake
by Patricia Polacco

Enemy Pie
by Derek Munson

51 Wacky We-Search Reports

by Barry Lane

Step #1: Creating a recipe verb word bank
Play a round of "Verb Boggle
" in groups of three or four

Before I bring out Patricia Polacco's Thunder Cake as my initial mentor text, we first brainstorm "cooking verbs" in my classroom version of Boggle. This version of Boggle requires you to brainstorm words silently (but without cubes with letters on them like in real Boggle) in small groups. After time is called (I usually give them two or three minutes), students compare their lists, crossing off any that two or more students thought of. Only words that don't get crossed off earn points. The game encourages unique answers that others might not think of, and that often leads to arguments about answers that are trying to be a little too creative. You have to monitor well when your kids are playing this workd game in small groups.

I hand my students my standard Alpha-Topics brainstorming list to launch the game, letting them know they can put as many answers in the single boxes as they wish; they aren't limited to one answer per box.

I tell them they will have three minutes. As soon as I announce the topic, they may begin. The topic for this "Brainstorm Boggle" game is COOKING VERBS--or VERBS YOU'D FIND IN A COOKBOOK. I have to remind them that usually the verb "burn" is not included in a cookbook because it's usually an accidental act, so it's not a good verb to use here.

I love this game with this topic because--based on the sophisticated words they may use or ask to spell--you find out who your cooks are in your classroom, if you're lucky enough to have any. I love to cook, and each of my writer's notebooks (I have almost a dozen now) has the story of me trying to perfect a recipe that I've always wanted to learn. One of my notebooks tells the tale of me learning to make eggs benedict, my wife's favorite breakfast. One of my notebooks tells the tale of me mastering the subtle art of smoking ribs, which I love. My current notebook (2019) details our travails of learning to perfect a loaf of sourdough bread for two people. I show these pages to my student cooks, and they realize they can write about what they do in their kitchens, and it's but another way to reach out to a community of writers to make sure everyone belongs in some way or another.

My aspiring student cooks who've actually used recipes that don't come from the side of a box of contents do really well with the Boggle portion; they, then, do quite well with the recipe write-up.

Step #2: Making a practice recipe for Thunder to teach the organization of the recipe and introduce the verb challenge
A Little Research and a Recipe Draft for Practice

It's probably time to show the students an actual recipe for actual food. I always print a basic one from the internet, like this one. We dsiscuss the way the recipe is broken into two parts: 1) list of ingredients (with kitchen measurement nouns in front of them) and 2) instructions/directions on how to mix the list of ingredients (using lots of kitchen verbs).

"In the future when I challenge you with an Recipe Metaphor task, which I will do regularly," I explain to them, "I want you to write a recipe for something that would NOT actually appear in an actual cookbook, like a recipe for erosion, or a recipe for problem solving, or a recipe for the Gettysburg Address." Today, students will be practicing the recipe format by writing a recipe for thunder.

To start the process, we begin with some non-fiction Pass out this information/drafting sheet, which provides some simple-to-understand facts about thunder from a kids' educational weather website I have cited. Working with a partner, they are to use the information they learn and transfer it in to a recipe's format. When they list ingredients, you must encourage them to put kitchen nouns in front of each ingredient: 1 teaspoon, 1 cup, 1 gallon, etc. I require the students to justify the amounts they decide upon; if they put a large amount of something into the recipe, they better be able to why the amount is larger than the other ingredients in the recipe.

The goal of the handout on thunder is for students to practice creating a short recipe; there aren't too many ingredients to deal with here. Once they have the ingredients listed, then comes the real writing task: writing the step-by-step cooking instructions, which I tell the students to complete on the backside of the handout. I always say, "There are some tier-3 science vocabulary words related to thunder from the handout that perhaps didn't make their way onto your list of ingredients--like cumulonimbus, spring, or summer. I challenge you to include some of those words--along with the cooking verbs from our class lists-- when you craft your cooking directions. For example, your recipe might say, 'In a cumulonimbus cloud bowl, mix the following ingredients...'"

Partners create a rough draft of the thunder recipe's step-by-step instructions. The first time out with a creative writing challenge like a recipe metaphor, I think it's important to have the support of a partner or a group. A lot of students writers need support when the task is particularly creative. What's amazing is if you have both partners bring out copies of their "Recipe Verb Boggle" sheets while they are drafting, they'll be reminded and challenged to use really good recipe verbs in their drafts in clever and interesting ways. Walk around and spy on them talking; loudly announce good things you see without giving away too much of a student's solidly creative idea. If you loudly say things like, "I love how you used the other meaning of that particular kitchen verb in your write up" instead of "I love how you used the other meaning of the word broil here," you earn the respect of your writers who are genuinely trying to show you they're creative, but they don't necessarily want you to

When all have a rough draft, I then bring out Patricia Polacco's Thunder Cake and ask the students how many have read it before. Although the story isn't about a recipe for thunder (they're actually making a real cake during a storm), it contains superb vocabulary words and imagery about an approaching thunderstorm. Sharing words and descriptions in a similar-themed published piece of writing often encourage revision, especially if students hear the strong language--like that of Polacco--after having completed a rough draft, most of which would benefit from stronger descriptions after they have written ones that aren't quite as strong. A mentor text used in this way, I call a "Craft Mentor Text," and it's one of the unique mentor text strategies I share during my workshops for teachers.

As students listen to the story, I have them jot down storm-related words near or on their recipes' rough drafts. As a revision strategy, I then challenge them to find a way to add several of Polacco's best words or descripttive phrases into their recipe rough drafts, if they believe that extra word choices will help their writing come across as more clever or accurate or detailed.

Partners share their revised recipes with other partnerships; then, they discuss other "weather elements" that might make interesting "unusual recipes," if we were to ever do this activity with weather phenomenon again.

Step #3: Creating an emotional-inspired or seasonal-inspired recipe
A Third & Final Practice Recipe

Come on...the following are all solid ideas for writing topics that can be easily written about by an individual student who is using the format of a recipe:

  • a recipe for making a sibling jealous/nervous (emotional)
  • a recipe for an exhilirating thrill ride/experience (emotional)
  • a recipe for a boring/exciting class period (emotional)
  • a recipe for the perfect spring/fall day (seasonal)
  • a recipe for the perfect winter/summer day (seasonal)
  • a recipe for the perfect [insert any holiday name here] (seasonal)

The purpose of practicing a recipe metaphor with a partner in step 2 was to further develop the skills to create one independently. After the previous practice session, if asked to write a recipe metaphor, students should know they need to create 1) a list of ingredients and 2) a written set of step-by-step instructions. As I assign this first draft of a final practice recipe metaphor, I make sure I am looking out for the students who still haven't grasped onto that structural necessity.

I show current strugglers my recipes or past students' recipes if they are still having trouble grasping the idea of this metaphor write-up. There are links above or pictures below to help you do this. My suggestion, as always: make your own example to show them; they'll be impressed.

The easiest way to go for this final practice is giving them the "perfect season" recipes. I have yet to have a student who can't 1) tell me which season is his/her favorite and why it's their favorite, and 2) tell me something specific you do on one of those perfect days that might make a good recipe metaphor.

The other/optional way you can go with this final, independent practice is to have the students create recipes based on emotions. I use the Famous Faces of Mr. Stick handout as a catalyst to helping my students think beyond simple emotions. Usually, the emotional recipe metaphors focus on what caused the emotion, not the emotion itself, but they work well in both regards.

My goal in this final independent practice is to make sure they understand that I want them to--if they are so inclined--use the recipe metaphor format in their own writer's notebooks. During Sacred Writng Time, I encourage the recipe idea for several weeks. I have a few students who make too many, but mostly I havee students who appreciate that they have a new way to express an idea that they'd never thought of before.

Here's what I actually expect from my students after all these practice sessions: My students are told early on in the month that they will draft, revise, publish, and decorate two recipe metaphors in their notebooks by month's end. One recipe will be about a non-fiction topic of their choosing, and the other will be a more personal recipe based on an emotion or a favorite season.

Other ways I've used the recipe metaphor:

  • Character recipes from class novels
  • Chapter summary recipes for class novels
  • Over the years, we also made class-generated cookbooks on the following topics:
    • the Pantheon
    • the original thirteen colonies
    • the planets/celestial bodies in our solar system
Samples to Help you Teach this Lesson:

This is the final page I expect from my students during the month we do recipe metaphors: one personal recipe (left) and one non-fiction recipe. Click on the image to project it for your students to see. You could also make your own model to show them. Just saying.

A student model of a personal recipe
A student model of a non-fiction recipe

Sarah's personal day on a cruise Ship

Tayler's non-fiction recipe he made based on his science notes
Share one of your student's best recipe metaphors by posting it to this Twitter hashtah: #RecipeMetaphors

If you have samples, please share them at Twittier: #RecipeMetaphors If you have ideas for adapting this lesson, please share them with us at corbett@corbettharrison.com

Like Recipe Metaphors? Here are Additional Resources:

In two of Barry Lane's best books--Reviser's Toolbox and 51 Wacky We-Search Reports--the author cites the power of using the recipe format in class as a way of processing information, especially information learned about in content areas, like math, science, and social studies. I like how Barry's examples always do clever things with the names of the recipes; he likes to cite an alliterative food alongside the topic of study. In 51 Wacky We-Search Reports, for example, he shares his "Suffragette Souffle" recipe, which is about the women's liberation movement.

Such cleverness with recipe titles is contagious, I find. At right is a link to a You-Tube video Barry posted of a student--Marlene Martinez--reading the "Flapper Fondue" recipe she created as part of their unit of study of the 1920's. If you are accessing this page in your classroom, you might not be able to access the video, since it's on You-Tube, but you can certainly view it from your home computer.

Plan ahead!
October 25 is World Pasta Day,

and we have a Sacred Writing Time slide for that!

The lesson on this page is about food & recipes.
Photograph your students' finalized recipe metaphors after using the lesson on this page, then Tweet them with the hashtag #RecipeMetaphors

You can order all 366 Sacred Writing Time Slides by visiting our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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Socratic Seminars!

I created these "formula poems" with two purposes: 1) to build small group cooperation; and 2) to add a strong new word to our socratic seminars. The day or week before our next seminar, students group together to write one of these poems as a team.

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When you visit our Teachers Pay Teachers store-page for this product, select PREVIEW to download full, complimentary access to two of the eighteen Socratic Seminar poetry formats we created for this for-sale product. All proceeds from sales like this keep our Always Write website online and free-to-use.

Even if you don't purchase the entire set of poems from us, please use the two poems we share freely as a group-writing task in class one day.

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Tired of boring book reports?
We were too!

Dena created these twenty-five reflective tasks for her students who were responding to chapters in novels. Each week, her students completed one new activity, and after four or five weeks into a novel unit , the students each had a small portfolio of writing about their book.

Please try before you buy...

When you visit our Teachers Pay Teachers store-page for this product, select PREVIEW to download full, complimentary access to three of the twenty-five instead-of-book-reports writing response formats we created for this for-sale product. All proceeds from sales like this keep our Always Write website online and free-to-use.

Even if you don't purchase the entire set of twenty-five ideas from us, please use the three writing formats we share freely instead of summarizing a chapter one day in class.

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Try Amazon Prime for free, and we receive a small donation from Amazon that we use to stay online. Use this link please. Try Audible for free, and we receive a small donation from Amazon to stay online. Use this link please. You'll get two free books!

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Notebook Mentor Texts that Inspire Student Writers:
This resource page features one of the freely posted ideas we share with our fellow writing teachers. We hope this page's idea inspires the establishment of a writer's notebook routine in your classroom.

If you're a teacher who is just getting started with classroom writer's notebooks, welcome aboard. We fund this website--Always Write--by selling just a few of our products from our Teachers Pay Teachers store. Before buying, kindly take advantage of the free preview materials we share so you know if the resources will work with your grade level and teaching style before you purchase the entire product.

366 Ideas for Writing/Discussing:

-- Teachers Pay Teachers Link --

Did you miss this freely posted lesson?

The Worst School Picture Day Ever Lesson

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Loved by both my gentlemen and lady writers
I got my money's worth from this mentor text! Tons of writing ideas!

Original Superheroes
inspired by Bob McLeod's
Superhero ABC

Here's another of our free-to-use writing lessons:
Creating Acrostic-Styled Lists of
Examples and Non-Examples

Vocabulary Acrostic Riddles
inspired by Bob Raczka's Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word


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