As previously discussed in one of my blogs, many ELL students find it challenging to compose an appropriate (i.e., well organized and developed, coherent, polite) email. Below are some simple activities that you can implement in your writing classes to help students develop the skill of email writing.
- Students are given several emails. They analyze the ways of closing emails depending on the email addressees.
- Students analyze how requests are made in emails of various levels of formality.
- Students compare and contrast two emails with the same communicative purpose (e.g., accepting or refusing an invitation) written in a formal and an informal style.
- Prepare a list of phrases and a list of communicative purposes of these phrases. Students match the phrases with their purposes (e.g., in two columns).
- In a given email, students will find phrases that express the following communicative purposes:
- To begin the email
- To state the purpose of the email
- To ask for information
- To apologize for a late reply
- To ask for a reply
- To invite the addressee to an event
- To finish the email
- Similar to the previous activity, students will identify communicative purposes of the particular phrases from a given email.
- In a chart, students classify given phrases into the following categories:
- Apologizing for a late response
- Rejecting an invitation
- Making a request
- Asking for information
When the chart is completed, students compare the phrases in each category and discuss when each of these phrases can be used (the style of the email, the relationship of the sender and the addressee, etc.)
- Prepare a list of stylistic characteristics of a formal or informal email. Give students an email example and ask them to identify these characteristics and provide specific examples from the email. Some of these characteristics might be (in an informal email):
- Overall friendly tone
- Use of contractions (e.g., can’t, I’m)
- Use of colloquial expressions
- Use of fragmented sentences
- Use of phrasal verbs
- Students divide an email into paragraphs.
- Students identify possible addressees for given greetings.
- Students identify communicative purpose of given emails.
- Students are given a formal email with stylistic violations. They will identify these violations.
- Students compose an email that contains stylistic violations, and then they work in pairs to correct these violations in the email written by their classmate.
- Students choose the most appropriate way(s) of addressing the following people:
- A close friend:
A) Dear Mark! B) Hey Mark! C) Mr. Mark Thompson! D) Hi there!
- A university professor they know:
A) Dear Sir, B) Mr. John, C) Dear Professor Smith, D) Dear John,
- An English female instructor (unmarried):
A) Dear teacher, B) Dear Ms. Simons, C) Hello Miss! D) Dear Ella,
- A potential business partner (name, gender unknown):
A) Dear Sir, B) Dear Mister, C) Hello! D) Dear Sir or Madam,
- Students identify the most appropriate concluding phrases for each of the addressees from the previous activity. Some of the concluding phrases might be:
- Best wishes,
- Hugs and kisses,
- Take care,
- Students describe the content of the email from the author’s perspective.
- Students describe the content of the email from the addressee’s perspective.
- Given a list of conditions and communicative purposes, students compose an email. For example, students may write a formal email to a university professor, apologizing for missing a class and asking to arrange a meeting to discuss the missed assignment.
- Students compose two emails (formal and informal) to different addresses with the same communicative purpose and content.
- Students are given an outline and a list of phrases for an email. They compose the email, choosing an appropriate addressee and content.
Please feel free to share your ideas for helping students write appropriate emails in English.