Email Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about writing letters and email.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Email. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Email is a powerful communication tool that can bring people together all over the world. This movie will identify the components of an email address, explain the “To” and “Subject” fields of an email program, and show how to “Reply,” “Reply All,” and “Forward” messages. It will also review how to attach files, such as photos, pictures, documents and videos, as well as explain proper netiquette and several Internet safety tips. We highly recommend reviewing the Internet Safety movie to review best practices and protocols with children.

Review with children that an email is an electronic message that is sent over the Internet. Just like a piece of regular mail, an email needs an address. An email address has three main parts: the username, the “at” sign, and a domain name. Review different email addresses and compare and contrast them. Some may have special symbols, such as underscores and dashes. Remind children to never share the password to their email accounts.

Practice sending an email together, identifying each field in the header. Review with children that the person’s email address goes to the “To” field. You can send email to more than one person by adding their addresses to the field. Remind them to type the address carefully. If the address is misspelled, it might go to the wrong person or not get there at all. The “subject” field should reflect the subject of the email, which is what the message will be mostly about. The message will be written in the body of the email.

Encourage children to think of an email as a letter: it has a greeting, body, and a closing. Emails can also include abbreviations, or shortened words or phrases. You may want to brainstorm a few common abbreviations used in emails, including LOL, TTYL, JK. Emoticons are symbols that share how the writer feels, such as :), :(, or ;). Come up with your own emoticons together. Remind children that using emoticons and abbreviations is acceptable when writing emails to friends and family members,. However, using them in formal letters or writing for school is inappropriate. Emphasize that children should try to communicate their ideas clearly and use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Many email programs have spell checkers that can help. Children should also sign their names at the end of their messages, just like letters. After they finish writing the message, they should check it over and proofread, and then click “Send”. Some email accounts might save sent messages in a separate folder, which can be useful later.

Review with children that when they reply, they write something back to someone. They can reply to a message by clicking on “Reply”. A copy of the message they are replying to will be in the new message. Children can click on “Reply All” if they want to write back to everyone the original message was sent to. Clarify that this means everyone listed in the “to” field will get the message.

People can share more than messages via email. They can send photos, pictures, videos, and other files. To send a file, they should click on “attach” and select the file from the computer they want to send. Children should talk to adults before they share something over email. Remind them that they should never share photos, documents, or other personal information with someone they do not know.

Some children may receive funny attachments from friends or family that they would like to share with others. They can pass the email along to others by clicking on “Forward”. This means the entire message, plus the attachment, will get passed on. Again, children should never forward anything that is private.

Netiquette is a set of manners and rules you should follow when you are on the Internet. They are unsaid rules and best practices to stay safe on the Internet and be courteous to others. For example, on the Internet, writing messages in all capital letters means you are shouting. This can change how a person interprets an email. Remind children that the recipient cannot see them while they’re sending an email and cannot read their facial expressions or hear the tone of their voices. Communicating can be tricky without these cues. Have children think about how the recipient might feel when reading the message. What might be a harmless joke to the writer may be taken the wrong way by the recipient. Remind children to communicate their thoughts clearly and never write anything that they would never say directly to someone’s face. In addition, if they are angry or upset, they should not send an email. They should wait and calm down before composing a message to avoid writing something they regret later. Once you send an email, you can’t take it back!

If children receive rude emails or inappropriate attachments, they should tell an adult immediately. In addition, they should not open a message or attachment from a stranger. If they are being harassed or bullied via email, they should tell a trusted adult. Bullying—even on the Internet—is wrong and it can be stopped. You may want to share the Bullying movie, which has a section on cyberbullying.

Email is a powerful communication tool that can bring people closer together. It is also a great way to practice reading and writing skills. Encourage children to write messages to friends and family members. They can write essays or stories and share them with the people they love. Arm children with the skills they need to communicate safely over the Internet.