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Lesson Plan

Audience, Purpose, and Language Use in Electronic Messages

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Audience, Purpose, and Language Use in Electronic Messages

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time 50 minutes
Lesson Author

National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Instruction & Activities

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • explore the relationship between purpose, audience, and appropriate language use.

  • work collaboratively to define and discuss the appropriate use of Internet abbreviations and shortcuts.

  • write original e-mail messages or letters demonstrating the effect of purpose and audience on language use and word choice.

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Instruction & Activities

  1. Distribute the Internet Abbreviations and Shortcuts handout to each student, or show the chart on an overhead projector. Allow students time to expand each abbreviation.

  2. As you discuss the abbreviations and their meaning, allow the class to add to the list. Remind students to share only abbreviations that are appropriate for your classroom community.

  3. Share the sample e-mail with the class using handouts or an overhead projector. As a class, edit the document by expanding the Internet abbreviations and shortcuts. Then discuss how the audience and the purpose of the letter would affect the choice of words.

  4. Present other scenarios to the class and help the students to identify both the audience and the purpose for writing. The students should then be able to choose the proper language use for each scenario. As you talk about the possibilities, remind students that a good message is balanced. Too many abbreviations, even if the reader understands them, can be inappropriate or confusing. The point is to match the message to the reader and make sure that meaning is clear.

    Some of these scenarios might include the following:

    • e-mailing a college or university to inquire about admissions

    • e-mailing a classmate to ask about a definition you forgot to write down in class

    • e-mailing a friend to catch up on his or her life

    • e-mailing a thank you note to a grandparent for a gift

    • e-mailing an acceptance letter for a scholarship
  5. As a final step, ask students to write e-mail messages or letters for one of the following situations. In the process of writing their messages, students will need to think about audience, purpose, and language use—and the issue of whether Internet abbreviations are appropriate, and if so, which abbreviations. If e-mailing is allowed within your school, have students e-mail both letters to the teacher-accessible address. Otherwise, have students print and turn in their messages.

    • Your best friend and your grandmother (or another adult family member) want to know what you thought of the movie (or television show) that you saw last weekend. Both are considering going to see the show (or watching a rerun of it) tonight, and they want to know if you recommend it for them and why.

    • You missed class yesterday because of a field trip or sporting event at another school. Now you need to find out what you missed. Write to a friend from the class and to your teacher to find out what happened and what you need to do to catch up.

    • You're looking for a reference book to help you with a paper or a project that you're working on. A friend had a great book that might help, but you're not sure if it covers the topic you're studying. You need to find out two things: whether the friend's book will help, and if there are any other resources that you might look at as you work on your paper. Write a message to your friend and the school librarian asking for suggestions. Be sure to explain what you're researching so that your readers will know what books to suggest.

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Generally review each e-mail to see if each student understands how audience and purpose affect the writer’s word choice before grading or assessing. Return work to students and discuss the issues further if you notice any issues that need to be revised. Alternately, students can exchange drafts and work with partners or in peer groups to sharpen the connections between audience, purpose, and language use. After students have had a chance to revise, use the Electronic Messages Rubric to evaluate the finished drafts.

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