E-mail Projects for Your Class

If you have the instructions in Units 1 and 2 down pat, you now have enough e-mail skills to venture into cyberspace with your class. Besides instructing your students to send e-mail to one another, what else can you do? Read on, fearless leader!

Keypals and Collaborative Projects

E-mail is a wonderful way for your class to connect with students in another part of the country, or perhaps another part of the world. In addition to practicing their English writing skills, your students can learn, first-hand, the geography, culture, and language of their keypals.

You can take this keypal relationship one step further by working on a collaborative project. Is the cost of living in Beaumont, Texas higher or lower than Calgary, Alberta? Do potatoes grow faster in Idaho or Newfoundland? Teach your students how to find and present data for your area, then share it with your partnered class. As a grand finale, compare and contrast the results in a Web site for all the world to see.

There are several Web sites that serve as registries for classrooms interested in exchanging e-mail correspondence. ePals is one such site with nearly 6,000 registered classrooms worldwide. For collaborative projects, try Global SchoolNet Foundation's project registry.

Expert Advice

As part of your class project on volcanoes, your students are going to interview a leading scientist who is currently observing the volcanic eruptions on Martinique. No, this is not a joke. Opportunities like this abound via e-mail because there is little cost involved in communicating with such specialists.

Mentor programs often include lists of mathematicians, scientists, historians and other professionals who have generously volunteered to assist with class projects. As a consideration to people who are donating their valuable time, compile an interesting list of questions and send it in one e-mail. This will save the mentor from sorting through 20 or 30 individual e-mail messages from your students.

For more information on mentor programs and how to search for a topic specialist, check out the Mentoring Center created by the National School Network.

Homework Assignments and Questions

If all your students have regular access to individual e-mail accounts (lucky them!), you might want to distribute homework assignments or bonus questions using e-mail. Perhaps your students can hand in their assignments the same way.

Some teachers even make their e-mail addresses available for homework questions. This, of course, takes a lot of extra time and energy on your part, so an initial trial run may be necessary to determine the volume of mail you will likely receive.

If you plan to use e-mail to distribute assignments and questions, here are some tips that will make things run more smoothly:

  1. Make sure your students are e-mail savvy. Before you send your first e-mail assignment, spend a few classroom lessons on e-mail basics.

  2. Let your students know the time and day that you will be sending the assignment so they know to check their mail.

  3. Be specific with your message subject title. For example:Science Question for Oct. 30th.

  4. Instruct your students to use the Reply to Sender button in Outlook Express so you can sort your mail using the subject title that you have specified.