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Teaching Email Courtesies

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This blog was originally posted on March 31st, 2015.

I receive a lot of email from students. Sometimes it’s messages that I have requested, like links to their work. Other times, students are asking questions about assignments or telling me why they will miss class.

More often than not, these messages are not students’ best writing. I don’t care that the messages are informal. That’s fine with me. At times, however, they wander into telling me far more than I need or want to know. Worse yet, the messages can leave out the crucial details or attachments that would have made the message successful.

What’s a teacher to do? Well, to begin, I have My English Teacher’s Email Survival Kit that I can use to talk about effective email messages. I also like Molly Scanlon’s assignment on Multimodal Mondays: Introducing the Academic Environment with Email and Diantha Smith’s activity on rhetorical analysis of email messages.

My favorite resource though is a short, humorous overview I have created, which I call “Sassy Email Responses.” The slides in the presentation include a slightly revised version of a message that a real live student has sent and the sassy reply that I wish I could send back in my reply. Here’s an example:

For extra fun, after working through the slideshow, I ask students to write a horrible excuse for missing class, and then we read the most original messages together in class. This activity always results in laughter—and much better email messages from students for the rest of the term.

How do you talk with students about effective email messages? What strategies and resources work for you? I would love to hear your ideas. Just leave me a comment below, or drop by my page on Facebook orGoogle+.

About the Author
Traci Gardner, known as "tengrrl" on most networks, writes lesson plans, classroom resources, and professional development materials for English language arts and college composition teachers. She is the author of Designing Writing Assignments, a contributing editor to the NCTE INBOX Blog, and the editor of Engaging Media-Savvy Students Topical Resource Kit.