Formal vs. Informal Language

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Hate it when your students hand in work with slang and text speak?  Here' s a handy helper to fix that problem.

The Problem

If you've spent any time teaching in middle school, you realize it has its own special set of problems.  On3 thing I'm $ur3 uv $een i$ thi$.  No I haven't started writing in heiroglyphs.  I've actually had kids hand in similar work to me, their ELA teacher! Or how about this gem: Hi! I'm Ashley and I'm going to explain why the main character was super sad and then a bunch of stuff happened and now she is super happy! Yes, this has also been handed in to me. Their ELA teacher. On a test. 





The Solution

Ok, so you don't want to decipher teenage slang writing anymore, but how do you make it stop?  Many, many years ago, to keep myself from having a stroke while reading assignments, I came up with a relatively painless way to help my kids understand the difference between language that is appropriate for schoolwork and language that is appropriate to use with friends.  Part of the reason I like this lesson is I start it off with a clip from the old TV show, Martin.



Come on, that's just funny. After we watch the part with Martin and Cole in the classroom, I have the kids list all of the inappropriate elements in the show.  There are a lot and they love writing them down.  We share them as a whole class and then we move onto my Formal vs. Informal Language Worksheet.  (Bonus-it's a freebie in my store!)



In the worksheet, there are a set of scenarios with an intended audience for each. The students have to decide if the language is formal or informal and then if it matches the intended audience. They have to rewrite the scenarios to fit the intended audience for homework.  A lot of my kids come from low income homes or homes where English is not spoken.  I want my kids to know that it's okay to use informal language in certain situations, but they have to know when and where formal language is necessary.  They seem to appreciate that I take their home life into consideration; that I just don't say that informal language is always wrong.  

The Results

Believe it or not, this works.  I never get essays with the: Hi, my name is...." intro after this lesson.  It also seriously cuts down on the other issues as well. Now if I could only get them to stop putting apostrophes in plural nouns, I might be able to read their work without cringing!

by XClass to the Rescue

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2 comments


  1. You discuss about Formal vs Informal language. Thank you for sharing this highly useful information here. Once I was need of this and hired a person to do fix the things.Please give another post topics for informal essays/ Now you just made it easy for me and I can do it myself too. Thanks I’m very glad.

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