Sunrise at Pulley Tower

Writing Activities and Ideas

Below are various writing-to-learn activities that could be incorporated as in-class activities or homework in preparation for a class lecture or discussion. Many of these activities also work well for large lecture classes because the amount of writing is brief, the instructor does not necessarily need to respond to the writing, or the writing can be shared with classmates for discussion and feedback. These types of writing activities enhance students' own thinking and learning of course material.

  • Microthemes – brief essays limited to 250 words
  • One-minute papers – reflective, probative writing to initiate a class session or mid-class to reinforce a discussion that lacks energy, is confused, or heated
  • Think-pair-share – instructor poses a question to students that they must write about for a few minutes alone and then discuss with a neighbor. The two students then revise into a final response.
  • Learning logs or academic journals
  • Fact sheet
  • Class minutes
  • Outline
  • Lecture notes
  • Soapbox statement or elevator pitch
  • Blog posts/discussion boards
  • Freewriting on question, textual passage, problem, or dilemma
  • Discussion questions
  • Memo to instructor or classmates on the course, an assignment, or their own progress as a scholar or writer
  • Double-entry notebooks – Instructors asks students to take notes on a reading by drawing a vertical line down a page. On one side, they should record key points, and on the other side, they should pose questions or offer interpretations of the reading.

Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) experts have generated numerous suggestions for how writing can be incorporated in diverse disciplines and fields. Below are some suggestions for a sample of different cognate areas:


  • artist's journal
  • grant proposal
  • game design
  • performance or exhibition review
  • historical notes on a musical performance
  • stage directions
  • analytic essay of a creative/artistic product


  • memos
  • briefs
  • business and feasibility plans
  • case study
  • peer reviews


  • guided reflections
  • lesson plans
  • assessment reports
  • action research papers
  • informative videos


  • analytic essays
  • blog posts
  • public writing in various genres (including news reporting, op-ed pieces)
  • book, play, or movie review
  • academic journal
  • reading journal


  • essay operating primarily in one disciplinary framework and borrowing concepts, methods from another
  • research project (print or web-delivered) using methods, concepts, or theories from two or more disciplines to respond to a problem or question
  • synthesis paper which holistically explores a topic
  • position paper that compares/contrasts disciplinary perspectives on a topic
  • analytic paper that addresses a topic using the lens of a synthetic theory
  • creative product that uses multiple or hybrid genres and theories


  • written proofs
  • explanations of a formula or how a solution was reached
  • summaries of how a mathematical concept functions in real-world situation
  • poster explaining a mathematical concept

Sciences and Engineering

  • lab reports
  • scientific essays and reports
  • posters
  • annotated bibliography
  • computer program
  • literature reviews
  • slide decks or presentation visuals

Social Sciences

  • review essay
  • event analysis
  • case study
  • research report
  • ethnographic video or essay