Teaching Email Etiquette To My 6th Graders
So many people young and old write really poor emails. We all know what it looks like when one of those emails arrives in our inbox. Poorly written emails don't get attention right away unless we have a connection or vested interest in it. What better time to teach my 6th graders the power of a well written email.
We start with learning the basic Gmail tools since we are a Google Apps For Education school. I like to start with a quick tour in settings or as I refer to it "Gmail under the hood". Gmail settings can be a confusing and overwhelming initial journey. Pick the settings tools you most often use to make your email experience effective.
The two settings tools I like to teach students about are the labels and signature. We create at least two labels, one for school announcements and another for academics. I compare setting up their labels to creating a plan of organization in Google Drive, which most learners have prior knowledge. Many students go beyond that, creating and personalizing their labels to be more specific to subjects, assessment, etc.
We alway have "Sincerely" or "Respectfully" yours to start their signature and then add their name. This is a good time to teach email security and when its safe to use their full name in emails. As well as NEVER have their home address or phone in the signature. Finally, don't forget to "Save Changes" at the bottom of the settings page.
It's time to add contacts to our address book. Contacts are no longer within Gmail, but a stand-alone location. We go to the Google Apps tiles in the upper right portion of the Gmail tab, then scroll down to "Contacts". I model how I add people who are in our GAFE school directory and then create groups. Students must add all of their teachers and add them to the group day they have them. We are on an A Day and B Day alternating schedule.
We are now prepared to learn the simple email tools for creating a professional academic email. Of course, it all starts with a clear, but brief subject line. Everybody can improve on making sure the subject contains what the recipient needs to create a click to open. 6th graders struggle with a subject line that is too simple or too much.
The email ALWAYS begins with "Dear Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms. Teacher", and which title goes with the surname. The body must have an extra line space between the salutation and the message. Since letter writing is not common practice, crafting the correct email format is challenging for students. Practice makes progress!
Now students create the body of the email by adding more depth and clarity to their subject line. The goal is to make the body clear and not too wordy. I tell students to "Get In" and "Get Out" with their message. Be clear, to the point, respectful and appreciative, since many student emails are asking for something.
Always proofread before sending. Looking for spelling and grammar errors as well as attempt reading it through the recipients perspective. Finally showing students they have 10 seconds to click the "Undo" after sending, to get the email back for modifications.
Our email assignment is to send a practice professional email to a current teacher. I send an email to teachers that we will be doing this assignment and most teachers reply with thanks or constructive support. This communication between students and teachers is very powerful.
Within the message, students state that this email is an assignment and a practice professional email. In addition, I tell students the great positive power they have with the email. The power is telling the teacher why they selected him/her for this assignment. There must be something the student likes about the teacher, class or both. Write that cool thing in the email.
Since this is an assignment, students must Cc me. I reply with feedback as needed. The power part of the message is so pure and beautiful from a 6th-grade perspective. The practice professional email assignment is truly a positive buzz for students and teachers. There are many meaningful ways to teach communication tools in our classrooms and this is but one.