Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Formal or Informal?

Tresha Layne
Leon County Schools


With this entertaining activity students practice formal and informal English by using teacher-created scenarios. Peers evaluate each other based on a questionnaire and discussion.


The student demonstrates an awareness of the difference between the use of English in formal and informal settings.

The student knows when to use formal and informal English based on audience and purpose.


-Index cards
-Card Sample Sheet


1. Use card samples sheet to create other cards and glue onto 3x5 index cards (see associated file).
2. Print out questionnaire and copy enough for every student to have three (see associated file).
3. Prepare for class discussions on grammar review and formal versus informal English with any supplementary classroom materials.


Note: This lesson requires prerequisite knowledge in basic grammatical skills.

1. Begin talking to the class using slang. “Yo dawgs, wuz up?” “It’s time we did some chattin’ about whether junk like this is ‘OK’ or ‘No Way’ to use in every situation.”

2. Explain formal and informal language as follows. Formal language is using standard English (not slang) and appropriate grammar when speaking or writing. Informal language is the language we use when we feel very comfortable and casual around people. For example, talking with or writing to our peers, close friends, and family may be appropriate times to use informal speech. You may choose to use slang or some inappropriate grammar. Informal language does not require standard English. Provide examples. Be sure to emphasize that it is always appropriate to use standard English if desired. Have students offer examples in class discussion.

3. Briefly review grammar skills since this knowledge must be demonstrated as a element of speaking formally.

4. Discuss specific situations where formal language is necessary in speech or writing. Mention the specific situations in which informal language is acceptable.

5. Show students the peer assessment questionnaire and go over how to fill it out. Remind students of importance of working cooperatively together and how to respond to each other on the checklist with courtesy and respect.

6. Divide students into groups of four. To every group, hand out a stack of four cards and the questionnaires. Each student needs three copies of the handout – one to use for every group member except himself or herself. Each group should choose one leader to start the activity, one to be in charge of the cards, one to be in charge of time, and one to collect the questionnaires.

7. Every group member should select a card from the deck. The group leader will read his/her card’s purpose and the two audiences listed. Then, demonstrate knowledge of what type of language is acceptable by pretending to be speaking in those scenarios to those people. This is a mock speech. Direct students to distinguish clearly by their word choice and grammar whether the language should be formal or informal. The rest of the group will fill out the questionnaire as the presenter is speaking. After each participant, the group will discuss their responses and come to consensus about whether or not the presenter adequately understands when to use formal and informal English. Group members can offer suggestions for improvement if there seems to be any confusion. Students will proceed in a clockwise direction until every member has presented and received feedback. Circulate the classroom to insure that groups are completing the assignment sheet effectively.

8. The group member in charge of questionnaires should collect them and turn them in for further evaluation and feedback suggestions.


In this formative assessment, students work in groups and use questionnaires. Review individually completed evaluation sheets to determine whether or not students have demonstrated knowledge of the concepts. Students demonstrate mastery by correctly identifying formal and informal speech settings according to the audience and purpose on their questionnaires three out of four times. Students complete the assignment within the group setting to show an ability to cooperatively complete an assignment. Additional direct instruction will be required for those not receiving an acceptable evaluation.

Attached Files

Card Sample Sheet     File Extension: pdf

Formal or Informal Questionnaire     File Extension: pdf

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