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Lesson Plan

What's the Difference? Beginning Writers Compare E-mail with Letter Writing

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What's the Difference? Beginning Writers Compare E-mail with Letter Writing

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 40-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Julie Wollman, Ph.D.

Julie Wollman, Ph.D.

Worcester, Massachusetts


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



E-mail style and conventions differ from traditional writing. E-mail messages are a particular form of writing that invites innovation and can be contrasted with more traditional letters to help children begin to appreciate the choices writers make and the genre constraints under which they operate. In this lesson, students use a Venn diagram to compare an e-mail with a traditional letter. They then work in small groups to identify the style and intended audience for sample letters and e-mails about forgotten homework. Finally, each student writes both an e-mail and a letter about the same topic.

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Venn Diagram: Students can use this online tool to compare any two items, including e-mails and letters.

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E-mail is a motivating tool for teaching writing because children enjoy communicating in this medium. E-mail has become a pervasive form of communication that children must learn in order to be fully literate. Technology, then, is a powerful tool for learning to write; however, screen writing may have unintended effects on children's literacy learning if differences between screen and paper genres are not explored. As a genre, e-mail messages follow "rules" for style and conventions that differ from the norms for handwritten letters. Children can learn about these differences by comparing and experimenting with writing e-mail messages and letters. Children's awareness of genre differences may help them understand and master the various written forms they will encounter in their lives.

Further Reading

Wollman-Bonilla, J. E. "E-mail as Genre: A Beginning Writer Learns the Conventions." Language Arts 81.2 (November 2003): 126-134.

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