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Lesson Plan

Write Right Back: Recognizing Readers' Needs and Expectations for E-mail Replies

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Write Right Back: Recognizing Readers' Needs and Expectations for E-mail Replies

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



Beginning writers find electronic communication highly engaging, and educators recognize the power of e-mail as a tool for literacy learning. E-mail is well-suited to teaching audience awarenessórecognizing what readers need to know to understand a reply message and using the reply function as a way to contextualize a reply and help readers make sense of it. In this lesson, the teacher models replying to an e-mail message, pointing out the information that is automatically contained in such a reply, and students compose their own replies to an e-mail from the teacher. They explore when replying to all is a useful option, how leaving the original message can help to clarify a reply, and the importance of a specific subject in an e-mail. By comparing, sending and receiving e-mail replies, students explore issues of reply format and content with audience needs and expectations in mind.

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E-Mail Abbreviation: This student interactive gives examples of and explains some common abbreviations used in e-mail and texting.

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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 affects 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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