Functional writing is the practice of expressing specific information meant to mirror real-life scenarios such as how to make or do something, giving advice, inviting someone to something or telling what happened in a specific situation. Functional writing often turns a complex subject into something that is more understandable to the reader. Teachers can help students master this type of writing by assigning various functional writing activities.

How To

"How To" is a familiar form of functional writing. Students should be offered a long list of scenarios in which they must explain, in detail, how tasks are completed. Using the example "How to make toast," students should paint a clear picture with words as to how toast is made, from taking the bread out of the bag to buttering the toasted top, ensuring that someone who has never made toast before could complete the task. "How to wash a car," "How to build a snowman," "How to be a good friend" and "How to draw an elephant" are other examples.

Book Review

Students should be asked to write a review of a book that was recently read. The book review should contain a synopsis that gives the reader a general idea of what was covered in the book. Also within the book review, the student should offer her personal thoughts and state whether she would recommend the book to a friend.


Both formal and informal letters can be used to practice functional writing. Formal letters are typically used for official business, like applying for a job, leaving a job, asking for permission or contacting companies or school institutions. Informal letters are used when communicating with a friend or relative for the purpose of apologizing, inviting, explaining, thanking or expressing feelings. Teach the class the characteristics of each letter format and ask them to write examples of both.


A notice is used to announce something specific, such as an upcoming event, a warning or advice, and is typically placed in a location that is not only relevant to the information but will also be seen by the intended parties. Have the students create notices that can be hung around the classroom or school. Notices can be short phrases such as "Do not disturb," Keep the light on," No food or drink" or "Testing in progress." In some cases, notices may start with a short phrase but then include additional information that explains the warning or advice in more detail. Events announced with notices should answer the who, what, when, where and why questions.