This is a lesson I have been doing with my advanced and proficiency classes for a couple of years, but I have only just got round to writing up for the blog.
It works on both receptive and productive writing skills, helping learners to analyse the meaning of the text, and to identify communicative purpose – it also uses the text deconstruction technique I talk about in Reason to Read. In terms of productive skills, it focuses on correcting the structural deficiencies in the original email (and linguistic errors), thereby reviewing these elements with the learners, and also focuses learners on communicative purpose – and what they are really trying to achieve. This is something I think it is often hard to communicate to learners who sometimes seem to take more of a product approach to their thinking, and which in many coursebook writing tasks is left by the wayside.
I usually do most of the lesson in about 75 minutes, but on occasion the final write up needs to be finished up at home.
Here it is – enjoy!
teflgeek – A lesson on Spam Emails (receptive & productive)
If you do use it, please let me know in the comments how it went – and if there’s anything you’d do differently!
Addendum: It occurred to me just after posting this that if you wanted to drop the final re-writing stage from the lesson and hand that whole stage off as a homework task, or if you needed something extra to fill the time – then it might be worth getting students to look up the address given in the original email on Google Maps / Google Earth (or equivalent) and ask them to think about the following questions:
Why was that address chosen? Do you think the writer has some connection to that address? If the writer lives around there, what do you think their life is like? Does it change your thoughts on why they sent the email or who they are?
Image Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spammed-mail-folder.png
Tuesday 30 April 2019 at 04:57
Ha–good fun! I wrote and published a whole textbook around this idea! “English for Scammers.” The examples of what not to do all come, unaltered, from my spam folder, although the book actually does function as a real text for writing business emails.
My book grew out of an intro lesson I used to do when teaching business writing: Students in groups get different prize examples from my spam folder, and have to answer two questions. Is this a real business letter? To which everyone says “No,” almost immediately; and then “How do you know?” So they have to list the features that indicate the letter is spam. Among the groups, they come up with pretty much everything–format is wrong, font is wrong, salutation is wrong, opening is wrong, message is wrong, length is wrong, punctuation is wrong, etc. And thus they have, once they turn it around, everything you need to take into consideration when writing a business email–format, font, salutation, opening, message, call to action, closing, signature, punctuation, grammar, etc.
Tuesday 30 April 2019 at 10:14
Ironically, I had to rescue this from the spam comments folder! I guess the automatic filters picked up on a couple of keywords there!
That sounds like a great lesson – I’m a big fan of the “bad model” in writing and the fixit approach.