Friday, March 15, 2013

Really Writing: Ice Cream!

In a future post, I will address the very important concepts of purpose and audience, but for now, one reality-based writing project that provided an initial purpose--a little kickstart--for my reluctant writer (whom maybe I'll call writers-in-waiting, to be positive). Not to mention a great side benefit for all involved: ice cream.

Ice Cream Parlor Field Trip (and Review)
We made it our mission to find the best ice cream parlor in our area--we visited a bunch, then evaluated them and wrote a couple of reviews.
  1. Choose a few great ice cream parlors (or throw in a mediocre one, just for kicks).
  2. Decide on a few criteria on which to rank each shop.
  3. Go and take notes. Practice observing and recording details. Take pictures and videos (Tai's idea) for future reference, or for posting. 
  4. Eat. Have lots of tastes. Chat up the servers. Take more notes.
  5. Write. Turn your notes into paragraphs, maybe based on your criteria. Assign stars (or ice cream cones, or scoops) if you like.
  6. Send a draft to Auntie Joan and revise so that her questions are answered.
  7. Publish. Send the reviews to future out-of-town visitors. Start a Visitor's Guide binder. Post to restaurant review sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon, Tripadvisor. Or post on your own blog.

  • Before we went anywhere, we read a few sample reviews: we checked out blogs, articles, and Yelp, and went over their attributes together. We look at rating systems, criteria, how the writers organized their information. We asked ourselves: What features do these reviews have in common? What makes a good review? What do we want to include in our review?
  • Then we brainstormed a list of criteria or attributes that we wanted to evaluate: ambience, service, ice cream quality? Number of flavors? How many free tastes you get? Seating? Lines? Price? Toppings? We put them on "note-taking paper" so you have a way to organize field notes. Another option would be to put each criteria on a separate index card.
  • We brainstormed a list of descriptive words to help talk about the criteria we chose. Then I added a few, just in case: creamy, luscious, sweet, mild, bitter, heavy, grainy, rich; cluttered, homey, sleek; indifferent, genuine, snobby. You can get advanced and go for nouns and verbs, too: stretch, crunch, gleam. This helped my kid get beyond "I would give it 4 scoops. It was really good."

You can do this for bakeries (who makes the best chocolate croissants?), pizza places, public swimming pools, beaches, movie theaters, arcades, food trucks...the list goes on and on.

Any improvements you can make? Any great variations? Let me know.

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