Below are potential assignments for a variety of purposes in the developmental writing classroom.

Informal Writing

Writing Simile: A great first assignment, this prompt asks students to envision the writing process through a simile.


Exploring Audiences: An in-class discussion exercise that could be adapted to a writing assignment, this prompt asks students to look at the three websites owned by The Washington Post to explore how audience expectation changes the way we deliver messages.

Does Grammar Matter?: Students read three cover letters (with varying degrees of grammatical errors) and choose an applicant for a job interview. It opens a discussion about how much grammar matters in professional settings.

Gaining Perspective: Students are asked to take pictures from multiple perspectives and bring them back to class to discuss what they've learned.

MLA Menu Exercise: A quick in-class contest helps demonstrate the importance of meeting an audience's formatting expectations.

Group Grammar Worksheet: This longer in-class activity asks students to work as a group to use a set of grammar rules.  The more answers they get right as a class, the higher their bonus point opportunities.

Rethinking Failure: Students (especially developmental students) often hold up mantras like "Failure is not an option" to keep themselves motivated. The truth, though, is that failure is not only an option, but an inevitability in a life lived well. How can we re-frame the discussion on failure to make sure that students learn to succeed?

Formal Papers

Object Description: A formal writing assignment, this essay asks students to choose a single object that can be described through sensory details and--after exploring the topic through writing--link it to some larger meaning in their lives.

Responding to Others' Ideas: This formal writing assignment asks students to watch a TED Talk, summarize it, and then enter the conversation by sharing their own perspective.

Public Apology: Essay asks students to write and deliver a public apology to any chosen primary audience, with the class as their secondary audience.

The Late Email: Short assignment that asks students to compose a purposeful and persuasive email within a difficult rhetorical situation.

Readiness Assessment: Formal essay that asks students to complete a readiness assessment, and reflect on their score, their view of their own readiness for college, and their goals for a successful semester.

Scholarship Essay: Formal, shorter essay that asks students to apply for a real college scholarship by completing a required essay component.

Education Narrative (2-part assignment):  Formal essay that asks students to engage with an excerpt from Frederick Douglass' autobiography, then write their own education narrative.

Movie Review: A paper focused on analytical and persuasive skills that requires students to choose a movie and evaluate it based on their chosen criteria supported with details.

Identity Narrative: This paper asks students to choose two labels that identify them and explore the tensions and interactions between them. It can be connected to scope, organization, ethos, and audience consideration.

Constructing Emails: This short paper gives students fictional scenarios to address with a professional email, focusing on sentence-level style issues, rhetorical audience consideration, and proper email format.

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