Minilesson

Audience, Purpose, and Language Use in Electronic Messages

Grades
6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Minilesson
Estimated Time
50 minutes
Publisher
NCTE
  • Preview
  • |
  • Standards
  • |
  • Resources & Preparation
  • |
  • Instructional Plan
  • |
  • Related Resources
  • |
  • Comments

Overview

With the increasing popularity of e-mail and online instant messaging among today's teens, a recognizable change has occurred in the language that students use in their writing. This lesson explores the language of electronic messages and how it affects other writing. Furthermore, it explores the freedom and creativity for using Internet abbreviations for specific purposes and examines the importance of a more formal style of writing based on audience.

From Theory to Practice

As NCTE Past President Leila Christenbury explains it, students like to communicate by instant messaging and e-mail-and since they've embraced it, why not use this writing opportunity as a teachable moment? "Kids have always played with words and used slang," states Christenbury in the Greenville News, "They know the language they use with each other at the mall is not the same language they use with their mother or grandmother in the kitchen." Addressing the times when students do use Internet abbreviations in an inappropriate writing situation is simply a task of discussing how audience and purpose affect language use.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computer with projection screen, or overhead projector

  • Computer lab for students’ use (optional)

Printouts

Websites

Preparation

  • Make copies of the Internet Abbreviations and Shortcuts, or the Expanded version. You may also want to consult this online glossary for additional abbreviations. Be sure to check this list for any abbreviations that are inappropriate for your classroom community.

  • Make copies of the sample e-mail message, or create your own document that requires a formal tone but instead relies primarily on Internet abbreviations.

  • Make copies of the Electronic Messages Rubric.

  • If e-mailing is allowed in the school, prepare an e-mail address where students can send their documents.

Student Objectives

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.

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.

Extensions

Student Assessment / Reflections

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.

Scott
Literacy Coach
Nice little exercise, I made it even worse with semicolons, apostrophes, capitalization and spelling errors to pick up on some of the things we've been doing lately.
Charlotte
Literacy Coach
Has anyone used this in the classroom? I would love to hear feedback on any adaptations or tweaks made. I'm wondering if 1 50 minute class is long enough to into, discuss, and complete a task...
Thank you for any feedback!
Fabulous lesson idea!
Andrea
K-12 Teacher
Charlotte- I haven't used it yet but I plan to. I already plan on breaking it up into a two or three day mini-unit. I feel each objective listed could make for a rich 50-minute class.
Charlotte
Literacy Coach
Has anyone used this in the classroom? I would love to hear feedback on any adaptations or tweaks made. I'm wondering if 1 50 minute class is long enough to into, discuss, and complete a task...
Thank you for any feedback!
Fabulous lesson idea!
Andrea
K-12 Teacher
Charlotte- I haven't used it yet but I plan to. I already plan on breaking it up into a two or three day mini-unit. I feel each objective listed could make for a rich 50-minute class.
Scott
Literacy Coach
Nice little exercise, I made it even worse with semicolons, apostrophes, capitalization and spelling errors to pick up on some of the things we've been doing lately.
Scott
Literacy Coach
Nice little exercise, I made it even worse with semicolons, apostrophes, capitalization and spelling errors to pick up on some of the things we've been doing lately.
Charlotte
Literacy Coach
Has anyone used this in the classroom? I would love to hear feedback on any adaptations or tweaks made. I'm wondering if 1 50 minute class is long enough to into, discuss, and complete a task...
Thank you for any feedback!
Fabulous lesson idea!
Andrea
K-12 Teacher
Charlotte- I haven't used it yet but I plan to. I already plan on breaking it up into a two or three day mini-unit. I feel each objective listed could make for a rich 50-minute class.

Add new comment