You’ve Got E-Mail! Now that school has moved online for the foreseeable future, it is important to teach students how to craft appropriate and effective e-mails. Unlike ‘snail mail’ letters, student e-mails arrive immediately. Plus, not having the benefit of being in class to see expressions, strategies used and emotions, it may be difficult to gauge a student’s specific need. They may also meander into unintended ideas, tones and lengths before ever getting to the point. So, it is vital to introduce our 21st century tech-native students to some e-mail ‘netiquette’. (Don’t forget to grab the free PDF to send to students!)
Here are some tips that may streamline student e-mail communication:
Stick to Business
The main purpose of a ‘student-to-teacher’ e-mail is to take care of school ‘business’. Therefore, the words and tone should be more formal than what students use with their friends or family. So, encourage students to avoid using acronyms like LOL, BTW and UR as well as emojis/emoticons. In addition, unless part of a ‘get to know you’ activity, students should limit e-mails to school business only and avoid sending/forwarding chain letters or entertainment video links.
Think and Shrink
Students need to think of the subject line as the ‘topic’ or ‘main idea’. However, the words should be specific and ‘to the point’. By asking one or two questions of themselves, they can arrive at their purpose for writing.
– Am I writing to ask about a particular assignment?
Ex. Math Workbook Page 34
Ex. English Essay About My Favorite Food
– What am I having trouble doing in this lesson?
Ex. Math Rounding to the Hundred’s Place
Ex. Science Hypothesis Question 3
If students begin with the topic/subject and then follow with a page number or skill, it will be much easier to identify the student’s need and find the e-mail later if necessary. Subject lines such as “Hi” or “Help” are too general and do not communicate why the student is writing.
Greet and Repeat
Just like a handwritten letter, students should begin e-mails with a polite greeting directly addressing the recipient.
Ex. Dear Mrs. Smith,
Ex. Mrs. Smith,
Next, students need to ‘repeat’ or remind who is writing the e-mail. This way, even if a student has an e-mail address that does not include his/her name (i.e. muggle2@…), teachers will be able to identify who is sending the e-mail.
Ex. This is John Ferris.
Ex. It’s Mary Engle.
State Your Case
In class, teachers can easily read facial expressions and emotions; not so with e-mail. Nor can a teacher see which strategies a student has already tried. It is important that students provide as much detail as possible to describe their situation. However, sometimes, they don’t know where or how to start. Teaching these starters can help eliminate miscommunication when a student tries to ask for help.
I’m having trouble with…
I already tried…
Wrap it Up/Practice the Pause
Again, just as in a ‘business’ letter, students should end by thanking the teacher and including a polite closing such as the ones shown below:
Before sending, students should ‘practice the pause’ and double-check to make sure words are spelled correctly, sentences are complete, grammar is correct and a polite tone is used. Caution students that spell-check can still miss ‘too’ for ‘two’ or omitted words that they thought they included. Students can also read the e-mail aloud to a parent or sibling to make sure it makes sense and captures their specific need.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Be polite and respectful.
- Include the topic/page/assignment in the subject line.
- Greet your teacher and repeat who you are.
- State what you need.
- Value the teacher’s time. (Late e-mails may not be answered until the next day.)
- Proofread your email for spelling, complete sentences, correct grammar and tone.
- Send a thank you after receiving a response back.
- Forward chain letters or celebrity videos. (Stick to school business.)
- Demand help. (Ask instead.)
- Use ALL CAPS. (It’s like shouting.)
- Use acronyms like LOL, UR, BTW, B4 or emojis like or .
- E-mail late at night and expect a response right away.
I hope this helps in your distance learning adventure!
Keep rockin’ it!