18 Functional Writing Questions for Your English Classroom

Functional writing questions help teachers teach students to practice writing skills, and these 18 are some of the most practical you’ll find.

Functional writing is a type of writing that teaches students how to write information that mirrors real-life scenarios. While these might seem obvious to seasoned writers, they do not come naturally to many students. For that reason, secondary school and high school teachers often work functional writing prompts into their lesson plans.

If you want to incorporate functional writing into your English writing curriculum, you need some writing prompts. Here are some functional writing questions that can get you started. 

Functional writing questions

1. How to Cook Something

A step-by-step guide to cooking something is a great example of functional writing activity. You have to give the reader plenty of information, including the order of the steps, for them to accomplish the task. For example, the cooking tasks can be simple, such as how to make toast, or it could be complex, such as how to make a five-course meal.

When writing a how-to cook piece, make sure that you do not make it into a recipe format. The idea of functional writing is to write something in paragraph form that guides the reader through the process. You must think about every step and include it because your readers may not remember parts that you automatically know to do.

2. Write a Book Review

Functional writing questions: Write a book review

A book review is another example of a functional writing task. When done well, the book review is more than just a synopsis of the book, though it should include one. It also must include the personal thoughts of the reader about the book and whether or not it was good.

This type of writing can be hard for some learners because it involves sharing opinions. The writer must consider the work and what they liked and did not like about it.

3. Write an Internal Memo

An internal memo is a memo that goes from one person to others within the same organization, such as a school or business. When writing an internal memo, you must include the recipient, sender, and basic subject in the opening, along with the date and a reference number, if appropriate to the subject. After the body, the sender should sign the piece.

The key to this functional writing question is helping the writer understand all of the things that the memo should include. Everyone who receives the memo should understand what they need to do with its information. Though memos should be concise, they also need to be thorough.

4. Create a Packing List

A packing list is an interesting type of functional writing. When making a packing list, you must think about all the items you need for your trip. However, you do not need to create full sentences or paragraphs. But you need to list the items.

When doing this functional writing prompt, make sure that you are careful to think through all the details. List every clothing item with the numbers that you need. Think through toiletries and other items you would need for the trip when making your list.

5. Write an Informal Letter

An informal letter is a good way to practice functional writing. Informal letters are used for many reasons, such as when apologizing for an infraction, inviting someone to an event, explaining something, or just touching base with someone who lives far.

You do not need a professional, formal heading in an informal letter. Instead, start with “dear friend,” or the recipient’s name, and open the letter. It should still have good grammar and end with a salutation and greeting.

6. Write a Notice

A notice is an announcement that talks about an upcoming event or give a warning or advice. The organization sending the notice will place it in a public place, so people can read it when they need to.

A notice needs to be concise and to the point. People will not learn the information they need if they read a lengthy letter. It must include all relevant information so the reader knows what action to take. For example, if describing an event, the notice must include who, what, when, where, and why.

7. Write Meeting Minutes

The minutes from a meeting state who speaks and what they talk about. The minutes also record any votes from the business meeting and the result of those votes.

Writing meeting minutes without actually going to a meeting can be challenging. First, the writer will need to imagine the meeting. The writing prompt could start with some basic details of the imaginary meeting, teaching the writer how to record them appropriately if the meeting were real.

8. Write a Formal Letter

A formal letter has more parts than an informal letter. This letter type is usually part of professional communication from a business or within a business organization. It includes a header that has the name and mail address of the sender, a dateline, and a subject line before the opening.

Business letters are short and contain only relevant information. They may have some pleasantries at the opening, but they are rare. This type of writing aims to convey information, so the recipient knows the details they need to make a decision or take action.

9. Create a Shopping List

A shopping list is a simple, functional writing question that creates a real-life scenario. When writing a shopping list, the writer must consider all the ingredients needed for the upcoming meals. The list must contain everything necessary for those meals because a missing ingredient could spell disaster.

To elevate the shopping list, consider organizing it based on where things might be in the store. For instance, canned goods could be listed together, while fresh produce is listed in another part of the list. This organization makes the shopping process easier.

10. How to Do a Task

Another functional writing question that can be quite effective at teaching writing skills is instructing the writer to describe how to perform a process. For example, the writing prompt may say, “Describe how to wash a car” or “How to create a PowerPoint presentation.” The writer must go through the process step-by-step.

A key to a how-to-do task writing prompt is to think through every step of the task. The writer must write about gathering supplies, preparing supplies, and performing the task. One way to see if this task is done well is to have someone else follow the instructions without

11. Write a Note of Condolence

Expressing sorrow for something challenging or sad a person has experienced is not as easy as it might sound. While there are many words in the English language to express condolence, putting them together into a meaningful note can be hard. Nevertheless, writing a note of condolence to someone who has lost a loved one or pet is a great exercise, especially for high school English students, because this is a real-life skill they will need.

Make sure the writer puts information about the sad event or loss in the note. Then, ask the writer to tell the person that they care in a way appropriate for the relationship. Using words that convey emotion is helpful with this writing task.

12. Write a Congratulatory Note

Like a note of condolence, a note congratulating someone can make writing challenging. Filling an entire notecard with words of congratulations beyond saying, “Great job!” is sometimes hard to do.

For this particular creative writing project, the writer will want to think of different ways to say the recipient did well. This might include describing the recipient’s job and why it was a good job.

13. Send a Text Message

Text messaging is the way today’s students communicate with one another. Yet even with texting, there are proper writing techniques that will best convey the intended meaning. In addition, text messaging writing prompts can be fun to do some back-and-forth writing.

Create a worksheet with some initial texts to do this writing prompt and ask the writer to write a response. The writer has the freedom to use text-friendly spelling and abbreviations but needs to convey the appropriate emotion in the text.

14. Write in a Personal Journal

Functional writing questions: Write in a Personal Journal
Photo Credit: Limeryk via Compfight cc

Journaling can be a healthy way to process emotions and events, yet many students are unsure how to write in one. English teachers can show their students how to write good journal entries using writing prompts. This skill can help them as adults as they work to process through writing.

Journal entries can be simple, like “Write about something you did this weekend,” or in-depth, such as “Talk about when you were very frightened and how you processed that emotion.”

15. Filling out an Application

Applying for a job requires a decent amount of writing skills. Teachers can help their students by creating writing worksheets that help them through this process. They can learn how to write their name and address in the appropriate format, how to list skills, and even how to create references.

Sometimes this will require some made-up information. Learning to fill in an application, even if the information is mock, will help them in later job searches.

16. Creating a To-Do List

The teacher creates an imaginary scenario for this writing prompt, such as planning for a graduation party. The writer then creates a to-do list to help the reader get ready for that event.

To-do lists work best when they are linear. The writer needs to express the steps in the order they occur. For example, when planning a party, you must pick the theme before sending out the invitations, and you must choose entertainment before hiring performers.

17. Write a Speech

When you think of speech class, you probably think of the oral skills necessary to present a speech, but there is more to speech than simply speaking. Many speechwriters will create written texts of what they intend to say to their audience. This text can be part of your practical writing lessons.

Teach students how to outline and then present oral reports and speeches. Then, please allow them to present these speeches to the class.

18. Creating a Curriculum Vitae

A curriculum vitae or resume outlines someone’s work and education experience when applying for a job. The ability to write a good resume is critical for adults, and thus it is worth spending some time on in English class.

A resume should include the individual’s name and contact information. Then it should include a list of relevant education. Any relevant work experience should also be part of the resume. Students can make this up when doing a writing prompt, or they can add relevant education experience if they don’t have work experience to list.

If you are interested in more writing topics, check out these creative writing topics!

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