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11 December 2022

Code{ish} Digital skills – A thank you email

Adrienne Tough profile image
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Adrienne Tough

There is quite often debate how what a computing curriculum should entail – how difficult it is to achieve a balance of digital literacy, ICT and computer science knowledge and skills!

Something which never fails to surprise me when I visit a new school is the lack of email etiquette. Students sending emails at 2 am, demanding in tone, or a pet peeve of mine is having everything crammed into the subject heading.

So whenever I have the opportunity – e.g. at the start of the year, a drop down day or a buffer (a week between assessment and feedback for instance) I deliver the same email lesson which so far has always helped to spread cheer- particularly important this time of year. So if you think your students could benefit from an email etiquette lesson consider the following task.

After following the school policies – a do now retrieval starter and homework review we discuss the key features of an email, along with general expectations of etiquette. Students are fascinated to find out about BCC and this really grips them. Particularly, when giving a scenario of sending an email to them and BCC’ing their parent/guardian in.

They tend have a chance to apply this theory and put it into practice where they are told to email a staff member of their choice and to thank them for something, CC’ing myself in (that way I can check the expectations are being met).

This is not only a great opportunity in developing digital skills but also reinforcing relationships. Students often get so excited when they get a reply during the lesson and staff [secretly] love receiving them too. Just give them a heads up so no one gets accused of sending emails during lesson time without permission!

Or if you’re doing this task at the start of the year with year sevens invite them to email you/their computing teacher, something they are looking forward and how they feel about joining a new school. This again allows you to build relationships, gaining some insight into your students life and may even alert to some safeguarding issue you should be aware of.

Either way teaching the invaluable skill of emails will be something they we can all be thankful for both now and in the future!


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Adrienne Tough
03/02/2023 13:53

Aw yay! I’m glad it’s been a success :slight_smile:

Pete Dring
02/02/2023 18:56

Just wanted to say thanks for sharing this idea Adrienne: I set it as a homework task this week and keep getting blind carbon copied into lovely emails from students thanking teachers and explaining how much they’re enjoying learning. It helps me know what students enjoy, it helps the students know how to send a properly formatted professional email and I hope it’s cheering up staff in a pretty dismal week of criticism and division with the strikes. Thank you!

Adrienne Tough
14/12/2022 09:26

That’s so lovely! Sharing gratitude goes such a long way.

Richard Pawson
14/12/2022 09:07

I’d like to share a true story. (Adrienne - this is different to the thing I want to send you).

In May 2016 I returned to my old school (RGS Guildford, which was still a state school, when I was there), which I had left in 1976, for a reunion. I didn’t enjoy school much except for two teachers, one of whom was my Maths teacher, Alan Thorn. When I mentioned this to the event organiser, she said, ‘He was hoping to be here today, but couldn’t make it.’ ‘Oh,’ I said, slightly surprised, ‘Does he still live in the area, then?’ She looked at me oddly, and said, ‘Well, yes - he still teaches here.’ (And he’d joined the school in 1972)

I got his email address, and wrote, saying, 'You won’t remember me, but you taught me A-level Applied Maths in '74-‘76. And you taught me to program in Fortran, I am sure I showed no appreciation whatever at the time, but I want you to know that you were a great teacher, and I really appreciate it now. Can I come back to Guildford and take you out to lunch somewhere nice?’

When we met, a couple of weeks later, he proceeded to list, from memory, the name of every member of my Maths set (10 of us) from 1974-6, recalling whether they sung in the choir, or played cricket, or chess, and where they went on to university and what they read. Many of them had gone on to achieve significant things in Computer Science. At least half of us have PhDs in a STEM subject.

I was deeply moved by this - still am. (Reminded me of the wonderful last line from Goodbye Mr. Chips - I’m sure you know it).

Nineteen days later, as a consequence of this lunch, I had decided to become a teacher, and secured a position to teach Computer Science at Stowe. I really enjoyed it for 3 years, leaving partly because the 52 mile commute was too far, and partly because I now wanted to leverage my time better by writing free educational resources.

Within days of starting at Stowe, though, I discovered that two other teachers there, one maybe 15 years younger than me, one maybe 30 years younger, had both been taught Maths by ‘Mr. Thorn’ and both had similarly fond memories.

Pete Dring
13/12/2022 19:03

Wow - that’s quite a story!
I’m not sure I could remember the names of all the students I taught yesterday let alone 10 years ago! What a wonderful impact Mr Thorne made and what a legacy he’s inspired through you and your classmates.

Simon Peyton Jones
13/12/2022 09:34

Adrienne, what a great idea.

It’s not just children! Many adults are extraordinarily thoughtless about email. (I often say “email has the immediacy of the spoken word, but the permanence of a written letter”.) Giving young people practice in healthy email behaviour is doing a huge service to their future selves.

Happy Christmas