Now what? Responding to Informal Writing

Whether or not their informal writing receives a grade or comment, students should be given credit for doing it. Allocating a percentage of their final course grades to informal assignments and/or class participation can allow you a place to accumulate the minor number of points given to these small assignments. You might also ask students to compile and turn in all “process pieces” like drafts and informal writing with a final project, and allocate a percentage of that project’s cumulative grade.

If the primary purpose of informal writing is learning (rather than communicating what has been learned), and if the intended audience is usually limited to the writer, how are instructors advised to grade or respond to the writing generated by these activities? Unlike finished student work elicited by more formal assignments, informal writing is not assessed for style or grammar; you’ve asked students to formulate and pursue ideas in a creative and potentially messy process. With this in mind, consider the following strategies for working with completed informal assignments:

For in-class short-writes:

  • Do nothing more: continue with the discussion, demonstration, or lecture, confident that the activity succeeded in allowing students to deepen their understanding of the target content.
  • Follow the activity by giving students class time to voice ideas and/or questions they may have uncovered by writing. In large classes, ask students to discuss ideas from their writing with a peer in order to share or synthesize responses that you then pull into discussion.
  • Collect the writing with or without student names. You can read them quickly for your own information, and then summarize this information in the next class session, or you can grade them (check, check minus, check plus).
  • Ask students to keep their writing until the semester’s end, then hand in their five best for grading.