You've Got Mail: How to Teach Email Writing to Students

This post is part of a series of blogs by READ 180 classroom teachers about their experience both with the program and with students.

Do your students know how to compose and send an email? Do they know how to check for new messages and reply to them? Sure, they may be familiar with texting, Instagram, and snapping photos, but are they aware that email is an effective way to communicate with their teachers, parents, friends, and future "job" personnel? Hmm . . .

At a team meeting a few weeks ago, a parent mentioned that her child didn't understand what an email was. Well, that came as a surprise to me, as all students in our district have a school email address. The question posed by this parent prompted the Occupational Therapist Registered/Licensed (OTR/L), Karen Foster, and I to finally implement a lesson we had talked about a year earlier.

Karen is an outstanding OTR/L who works directly with some of the System 44 students in my classroom. She addresses their needs during my whole-group and independent working rotations. After a few impromptu colleague discussions—that of course, occurred in between bells ringing and the four-minute passing time between classes—Karen mentioned that she would be willing to dive into how to teach email writing to students.

We decided that the lesson would be implemented before the Thanksgiving break so the students could send Thanksgiving greetings to one or more of their teachers by the end of the class. Now that's real-life literacy action!

The students were ecstatic when they received "mail" in their inboxes even as they continued to draft more emails to other teachers and school administrators. This experience brought back memories of the movie You've Got Mail, which was released in December 1998. While email has been around decades, my System 44 students only discovered its real potential in November. Well, better late than never! Not to mention, it was a great lesson for us in the sense that students being so proficient with texts does not mean emailing is a natural form of communication for them. 

Email Etiquette for Students

Implement this lesson so your students can send greetings and information and ask questions to their teachers, other school personnel, and even their parents. Go ahead, and use and modify this PowerPoint in your lessons.

Since implementing this lesson, I have received comments in my inbox from my students such as, "I didn't understand question number seven in last night's homework," and "Why did I get an 86 on this assignment?" Of course, I was thrilled to see them using their emails plus being driven to ask questions to get guidance or inquire as to why.

Up until a week ago, I assumed that my students knew how to use their email addresses and that they were choosing not to communicate using this method. I was wrong. The truth is that they didn't know how to go into their inbox, click "Compose," type in an address, put a topic in the subject header, and then write and send a message. Oh my!

The step-by-step PowerPoint lesson that Karen created will significantly help you in your "How do we compose and send an email?" lesson with your students.

Please feel free to use the template of this lesson plan and then enjoy that moment when your students realize that they have gotten an email and now know how to communicate with the people who are important to them.

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Learn more about how System 44, a leading blended literacy intervention program, helps students in Grades 3-12 who are significantly behind or have learning challenges.

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Educators for our blended intervention programs—READ 180MATH 180, and System 44are invited to nominate students and colleagues to win a 180 Award for outstanding dedication and achievements inside and outside the classroom. Learn more about the 180 Awards and prizes, with nominations open through February 21, 2020.