Informal Writing Assignments
Brad hughes, martin nystrand, paige byam, and tom curtis, english.
The assignments below are generally short, informal, perhaps ungraded writing assignments that instructors might consider adapting to their classes. Students often appreciate the opportunity to explore their thoughts on paper in a way that relieves the pressure of a longer, more formal writing assignment.
The Question Box
Having students write anonymous questions about the content of lectures encourages them to think more critically about what they are hearing. Students can be asked to write these questions before, during, and after lectures. They can deposit their questions in a cardboard box near the exit of the lecture hall. During subsequent classes, the lecturer actually incorporates these student questions and insights into the presentation material, usually by reproducing the remarks on transparencies and projecting them directly to the class for comment and response.
Anticipatory Writing or Freewriting
Instructors can ask students to write informally (or to engage in a “freewrite”) about a particular course topic before they read, hear a lecture, or participate in a discussion about it. Such anticipatory writing helps students connect their previous knowledge with new information and prepares them for fuller participation in reading, lecture, or discussion.
- EXAMPLE (from a sociology course on criminal justice, before lectures about police corruption): “List the factors you can think of that lead to police corruption. How do you think those reasons might vary from urban to non-urban police forces?”
Microthemes or Minute Papers
Brief essays, written in class or as homework, ranging from a 3 x 5 card to a page in length. This kind of assignment is designed to encourage students to reflect on what they’re learning, to give feedback to instructors, and to promote specific cognitive skills, such as summarizing, argument, analysis, problem solving, or hypothesizing from data. Some benefits: students must learn to see right to the heart of an issue, to select only major points; instructors can emphasize a particular issue or type of thinking, can learn what students understand and what they don’t, and can read the microthemes quickly.
- EXAMPLE (from any course): To be written quickly and submitted at the end of the class—”What was the most important thing that you learned today?” “What were the main points of today’s lecture?” “What questions remain uppermost in your mind?” Begin the next class meeting by reading aloud selected microthemes.
- EXAMPLE (from a course in gender and the professions): “You are a writer for a major advertising firm. You have been asked to design two written advertisements for a vacation in England, one of which will attract men (Esquire) and the other to appeal to women (Ms.). You think, however, that two ads are unnecessary. Write a memo to your boss and explain why.”
- EXAMPLE (to promote specific kinds of thinking in any course): Provide students with a thesis that they then have to support in the microtheme with specifics. From a finance course: “Choose one of the following propositions and defend it in two pages: The price earnings ratio of a stock does/does not reflect the rate or return that investors in that stock will achieve.” Or provide students with specifics that they must draw a conclusion from. Or ask students to apply a theory to a new set of facts. Or ask students to explain (perhaps in outline form) a process for solving a problem.
- EXAMPLE (from a course in physiology): “Some organs of the body are functionally unique single structures (e.g., one heart, one spleen). Others are found as functionally redundant pairs (two kidneys, two lungs). Explain how the human brain might be cited as an illustration of both kinds of anatomical structure.”
These are one-, two-, or three-page exploratory “think pieces” requiring students to react to some aspect of an article or book or lecture. Typically the instructor asks students to take an idea that has come up in class lecture or discussion or in readings and develop it more fully. These pieces of writing should be treated as exploratory drafts; students might pick 2 or 3 such texts to revise and submit for grading at the end of the term. They will be most effective if instructors assign or allow students to choose a persona to adopt, a particular situation to respond to, an audience to address, a particular purpose to fulfill. To set this up, instructors should assign students a professional identity, a situation, and even a rhetorical form (letter, memo, etc.).
- EXAMPLE (from Professor Lee Hansen’s Econ. 450 class): “Imagine that you are serving as the principal economic adviser to Secretary of Labor Brock who asks you for a two-page analysis of Reissman’s proposal (attached) for a legislated four-day, 32-hour week; this would entail amending the Fair Labor Standards Act. Explain the likely effects of such legislation on measured employment and unemployment, total hours worked, the labor cost index, and earnings.”
Letters to Authors
A personal response to an assigned reading in the form of a letter. The informal style and imagined possibility of letters often makes them easier to write than essays.
- EXAMPLE: “Pick an author with whom you disagree or whom you admire. Write a letter to this person expressing your views.”
A short text in which a student role plays a particular figure, perhaps in the form of a journal entry or a letter.
- EXAMPLE: “Imagine that you are William Buckley and you are getting ready to debate Noam Chomsky on American foreign policy in Central America. Write down the points you intend to make in your debate. In order to anticipate Chomsky’s own arguments and be prepared, also write down what you expect to be his main points and how you will respond.”
Argumentative and persuasive texts geared to the classroom community or to a broader group.
- EXAMPLE (from a philosophy course): “Write an editorial for The Progressive or The National Review in which you support or argue against parents’ and doctors’ use of sophisticated biomedical techniques to detect potential birth defects in fetuses.”
Journals (special notebooks in which students write regularly) provide students with time and a requirement to think about course material and to engage in an ongoing written dialogue with their instructors. As Toby Fulwiler explains, journals can help individualize learning and encourage “writers to become conscious, through language, of what is happening to them, both personally and academically.” Students can use journals to
- record thoughts, insights, and impressions about course material
- ask questions and speculate; clarify, modify, and extend ideas
- respond to reading, lectures, or instructor’s questions
- begin thinking about ideas that can later be developed into more formal papers
- discover connections between course materials; prepare for exams, class discussion, or course papers
- gain fluency in writing.
Journals are different from other kinds of assignments in the freedom they provide for thinking that isn’t directly evaluated by the professor; they can provide a place for personal responses and for experimentation. Because journals are personal and because instructors need to make students feel comfortable being tentative and taking the kinds of risks that journals offer, it’s important to allow students leeway in the kinds of entries that they choose to write. Some students respond well to using a journal to sponsor their own topics in an unstructured way, while others seem to need more specific guidelines for journal writing.
Even though instructors do not usually grade journals for content or expression, they should, however, expect students to write regularly and thoughtfully in their journals. Part of a discussion or participation grade or a percentage of a student’s overall grade is often based on the effort exhibited in regularly writing in the journal. (Many instructors give their students A’s for a journal-keeping requirement if students regularly write in it and “No Credit” if they don’t.) One way to stress the importance of journals is to integrate them with other class activities. For example, journals can be used as a place for students to write at the beginning or end of class; instructors can periodically ask students to read entries aloud in class as a way to open up discussion. Students can also be asked to develop formal papers out of promising journal entries. And because journal writing takes place over an extended period of time and emphasizes developing thinking, some instructors have students review and write an introduction to their journals as a culminating assignment.
To make students take a journal assignment seriously and to encourage good thinking, instructors must read and respond to the journals, especially early in the semester. To keep the reading load manageable, instructors often
- skim journals to check on progress
- collect journals on a rotating basis
- respond briefly to selected entries that appear interesting or that students have selected for response; responses can take the form of a personal comment or a question to prompt further thought.
Double-Entry Learning Logs
These are special journals in which students respond to the material they read for class, on the one hand, and “talk with the teacher about the readings,” on the other. In these logs, students summarize key information (rather than just highlight key passages in the books or articles themselves) and respond to the reading—raising questions, drawing parallels, voicing objections, confessing confusion. If instructors respond to these logs, they can focus and direct students, point our ideas for fuller treatment in formal papers, suggest other reading, answer questions, challenge ideas. (Students can use a variation of this technique as they take class notes: in the right-hand column they can summarize, respond to, or question the detailed notes in the left column.) A word of caution, however: journals and learning logs are time-consuming for both instructors and students, and if instructors assign them, they may have to adjust the amount of reading as they assign or else use the logs for only certain readings.
Summary of the class lecture or discussion, prepared by a student selected as secretary-for-the-day; duplicated for all class members, presented, and discussed briefly at the beginning of the next class.
Glossary of key terms in a course, with students producing definitions, examples, illustrations, maps, diagrams, etc. During the first part of a course, students identify main terms and major concepts; during the second part, students collaboratively compile the course dictionary. The audience for the dictionary is students who will take the course in future semesters.
Students read half a story, chapter, book, or experiment, or a partial data set, and then predict the rest and justify their conclusions.
- Letter Writing
- Informal Letter Format
Informal Letter Format - How to Write, Parts, Sample Informal Letters
To write an informal letter in English, you need to know the way in which it is written. Informal letter writing is easier than you think. It is just like a long talk with a friend or relative.
In this article, the format of an informal letter is explored under the following headings.
What Is an Informal Letter?
What can you write about in an informal letter, how to write an informal letter.
- Informal Letter Format 1 – Letter to Your Cousin Inquiring about Her First Visit to Ethiopia
- Informal Letter Format 2 – Letter to Your Friend about Arranging a Get-Together
- Informal Letter Format 3 – Reply Regretting Inability To Join
- FAQ On Informal Letter Format
Informal letters are personal letters that are written to let your friends or family know about what is going on in your life and to convey your regards. An informal letter is usually written to a family member, a close acquaintance, or a friend. The language used in an informal letter is casual and personal.
You can literally write about anything you feel or think you want to convey. Informal letters can be written to inform your dear ones about your success in a competition, about a movie you watched recently, about the trip that you would be going on, and so on. It can also be to enquire about their well-being, to invite them to go along with you on a trip, to congratulate them on their new job, to convey your regards, etc. You can be as personal as you want when writing an informal letter.
Like any letter, there is a format to write an informal letter in English. Unlike a formal letter , an informal letter does not need to state something specific. It can be written in an easy, conversational style. They are in the nature of a friendly chat, so it can include a variety of topics. It can have all that you want to tell your dear one about. You can use colloquial expressions, unlike formal letters. There are a few easy guidelines that you can follow to be able to write impressive informal letters.
- Forms of Greeting/Salutation: In informal letters to friends and family, you can address them by their names prefixed by qualifying terms such as Dear, My dear, Dearest, etc. You can also address them by their pet names (Eg: Dearest Rosy, Dear Andy, My dear Sweety…) or by their relationship with you (Dear Uncle, Dearest Grandma, My dear Cousin…). If you are writing to an ordinary friend who is older than you are, or of superior rank, it is respectful to use prefixes such as Mr, Mrs, Ms, etc. For example, Dear Mr Reddy.
- Introduction and Body of the Letter: The words you use determine the nature of your letter. You can start your informal letter with an introduction to set the tone of the matter that is going to be discussed. You can begin by enquiring about the health and well-being of the recipient. For instance, I hope this letter of mine finds you in the pink of health. You can then explain the reason behind the letter and provide the details as elaborate as you wish to, unlike formal letters. The letter can be more like a friendly chat than an essay. You can write in a very casual and personal tone. If you are writing to an older person, do not use disrespectful terms or sentences.
- Conclusion: End the informal letter on a friendly note. Use words in such a way that the recipient feels like they have had a wonderful time chatting with you. See to that you make sure you let them know that you would be awaiting their response to your letter.
- Forms of Subscription/Signature: You can use the following in informal letters to relatives and near friends: Yours affectionately, Yours lovingly, Your loving friend, With love, etc., followed by your name (mostly your first name).If you are writing to a close acquaintance whom you have addressed as Dear Mr, Mrs, etc., you can use Yours sincerely, Kind regards, etc.
Informal Letter Format Samples
Let us now look at some examples of informal letter formats to help you understand better.
Informal Letter Format 1 – Letter to Your Cousin Enquiring about Her First Visit to Ethiopia
34, Park Avenue
Mumbai – 400023
24 th September, 2021
I was so glad to hear from my mother that you are back home after the trip. Hope you had a safe and enjoyable trip. I have been waiting to hear all about the trip from you.
Since this was the first time you have been to a foreign land, I guess every little bit of the trip was as exciting as you expected it to be. I have heard from my friends residing there that the place is extremely beautiful and that the people there are very endearing. However, I was worried when I knew that there were a few bomb blasts during your stay there. Hope all of you there were safe. I hope everything else was fine except for this.
I had spoken to your mother earlier, and she told me that you would be coming home after two weeks. I saw your pictures on Instagram as well. I can’t wait to meet you and hear all your stories. Waiting eagerly for your reply.
Your loving cousin,
Informal Letter Format 2 – Letter to a Friend about Arranging a Get-together
Allahabad – 211005
Hope you are keeping well, and everyone at home is keeping safe and healthy. It has been a long time since all of us have met, so I was thinking we could all meet up. I have planned to have a get-together next month. I would love to discuss more about it.
All of us could meet on Friday evening and stay over the weekend at a resort in Munnar. The climate in Munnar is great and it will be a good stress reliever. We could also go around the tourist spots if everyone is interested. If you are ready, we could talk to the others also. I will visit you next weekend to discuss more on this.
Awaiting your reply and hoping to meet you soon.
Informal Letter Format 3 – Reply Regretting Inability to Join
144, Stark Lane
Mumbai – 400054
It is extremely thoughtful of you to plan a get-together for all of us. I wish I could join you, but I am sorry to say that I have a project starting next month, and it would not be possible for me to be there. If there is any way of preponing the get-together to any time before the month-end, I can definitely make it to our gathering.
I hope we can reschedule the get-together and not miss the chance to meet up. Waiting to hear from you.
Explore more informal letter samples,
- Letter to Your Friend about Coronavirus
- Letter to Your Friend about Covid-19 Precautions
- Letter to Your Friend about Lockdown
- Letter to your Friend about Your Hobby
- Letter to Your Friend about Your School Trip
- Letter to Your Friend about Your School
- Letter to Your Friend about Your Summer Holidays
- Letter to Your Friend Describing Your Ancestral House
- Letter to Your Friend Describing Your Birthday Party
- Writing a Letter to Your Friend
FAQ on Informal Letter Format
How can you write an informal letter.
An informal letter should include:
- The Sender’s address
- Body of the letter
How do you start an informal letter?
As far as an informal letter is concerned, you can start by greeting the person and conveying regards. You can then state the purpose of your letter.
What is the difference between a formal letter and an informal letter?
A formal letter is written in a professional manner where you directly state the intent of your letter and what you expect; whereas, an informal letter can be written to anyone whom you are close to about anything you want to share.
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Journal Buddies Jill | September 9, 2022 April 11, 2018 | Journal Prompts & Writing Ideas
32 Fun Letter Writing Topics, Prompts, and Ideas
Letter Writing Topics, Prompts, and Ideas for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders— Letter writing may not be in fashion anymore, but it’s still an incredibly valuable skill for people of all ages to have—and there’s no better time to introduce students to letter writing than in your classroom.
Of course, you know that students in grades third, fourth, and fifth may not be totally familiar with the letter-writing process. Still, we hope that they will quickly grow to appreciate the art and the opportunity for deeper communication that letter writing brings. Which is why…
The 32 topics to write about in a letter shown below begin with a few guiding questions to help your writers explore the value of the written letter. Then, students will dive into a variety of prompted letters and convey their thoughts and feelings to people like their parents, friends, popular media figures, and even their past and future selves.
As students write, they’ll learn how to clearly and concisely express their thoughts to a specific intended audience—all while practicing a traditional social experience. So get to it and use this wonderful list of letter writing topics and prompts for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade class levels to help your kids learn the benefits of written communication!
Letter Writing Topics, Prompts, and Ideas for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Graders
- Why do people write letters to one another?
- Have you written many letters in your life? Who have you written to?
- What are the merits of writing a letter versus having a verbal conversation with someone?
- What scenarios can you think of where it would be beneficial to write someone a letter?
- Does a letter have the same impact if it is written digitally rather than by hand? Why or why not?
- Write a letter of thanks to one or both of your parents for the most recent thing they helped you with.
- Write a letter to your grandparents that describes what you’ve been doing lately at school.
- Write a letter to a friend that includes one or two of your favorite memories together.
- Write a letter to the president and share your opinion on a current event with him.
- Research a local issue and then write a letter to a local congressperson about it.
- Write a letter to “the world” in which you share your ideals for the future.
- Write a letter to your past self. Tell him or her things you wish you had known then.
- Write a letter to one of your ancestors telling them what your family is like today.
- Write a letter to someone from the future telling him or her what life is like here in the early 21 st
- Write a letter to someone your age who lives in another country. Describe your life and find out how his or hers differs.
- Write a letter to an anonymous stranger. Tell him or her anything you’d like to share.
- Write a descriptive letter that could convince someone why your stance on an issue is correct.
- Write a letter to your favorite celebrity and tell him or her what you love about his or her work.
- Write an encouraging letter to yourself to read when you are feeling sad.
- Write a coded letter to a friend. Then, exchange letters and try to figure out what the other person wrote.
- Write an opinionated letter to your local newspaper about an issue that matters to you.
- Write a letter to someone you admire and tell the person what you appreciate about him or her.
- Write a letter of commitment that you want to make to yourself. Then, plan when and how often you will re-read it.
- Write a letter to someone you haven’t seen in a long time and catch him or her up on your life.
- Write a letter to someone you’re angry at and express all the things you’ve wanted to say—and then, destroy the letter!
- Write a letter to someone that you’d like to get to know better and introduce yourself.
- Write a letter to a school official and tell him or her one thing you’d like to see improved at our school.
- Write a letter in support of a charitable organization that you admire.
- Write a letter to your favorite character from a book, movie, or TV show. Ask him or her all your questions or share your favorite parts of his or her story.
- Write a letter nominating someone you know for an award they deserve. Explain why he or she is deserving of the honor.
- Write a letter to someone you appreciate and let him or her know how he or she has made an impact on your life.
For even more letter writing fun, check out these 55 Inspiring Letter Ideas for Kids and Pen Pal Prompts for Summer (and Beyond)!
Until next time, write on…
If you enjoyed these 32 Letter Writing Topics for students , please share them on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest. I appreciate it!
Sincerely, Jill journalbuddies.com creator and curator
Links & Resources
- Grades 3-5 Free Letter Writing Units
- More grade 3 prompt lists
- More grade 4 prompts
- More grade 5 topics
A personal response to an assigned reading in the form of a letter. The informal style and imagined possibility of letters often makes them easier to write than essays. EXAMPLE: “Pick an author with whom you disagree or whom you admire. Write a letter to this person expressing your views.” Persona Pieces
An informal letter is a letter that is written in a personal fashion. You can write them to relatives or friends, but also to anyone with whom you have a non-professional relationship, although this doesn't exclude business partners or workers with whom you're friendly.
You can use the following in informal letters to relatives and near friends: Yours affectionately, Yours lovingly, Your loving friend, With love, etc., followed by your name (mostly your first name).If you are writing to a close acquaintance whom you have addressed as Dear Mr, Mrs, etc., you can use Yours sincerely, Kind regards, etc.
Over 32 letter writing prompts for students in the 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade to even 6th graders: Favourite things: Write a letter to your pen pal asking them about their favourite things. Start by asking them about their favourite colour, food, animal and favourite subject at school. Then you can talk about your own favourite things.