Informal and Formal Writing Assignments
Defining Informal and Formal Writing
Informal Writing/Writing to Learn: Writing for the main purpose of finding out if students understand material, have completed reading, or done assigned work.
Formal Writing/Learning to Write: Writing for the main purpose of having the student present content from the discipline in a style and form that practitioners could readily recognize and accept.
- By articulating their analyses and opinions on paper, students digest information more quickly and are able to reflect critically on course content.
- Theoretically, students end up improving their writing by writing a lot, but the main goal is to improve their learning.
- Using writing activities in your classroom creates an active classroom with engaged students.
Characteristics of Informal Writing Activities
- Collaborative, discussion-like, and/or loosely structured.
- Other students and/or the teacher are the audience (or the assignment lacks an audience).
- Activities may begin and end abruptly.
- All informal writing can serve as prewriting for formal writing projects.
- Examples: journals, in-class responses, and WebTycho conferences.
- Designed to help students communicate according to the professional standards of the discipline by acquiring certain discipline-based skills of communication.
- Students learn that writing is diverse and that each career field has its own set of language conventions.
- Formal writing assignments work to create a professionally-focused classroom.
- Students end up learning both the content and the types of communication that convey that content in the field.
Characteristics of Formal Writing Assignments
- Assignments conform to the conventions of the discipline in which you teach.
- Audiences are often beyond the classroom (simulated or real industry audiences, etc.)
- Assignments require particular language use and style (passive voice in some scientific writing, expected literature review styles in psychology and sociology, etc).
- Assignments are in the genres of your discipline: law reviews, lab reports, case studies, memos, briefs, etc.
Examples of Informal and Formal Writing Assignments