Family Resources on Stop Before You Send
Project and Purpose
Students will review and discuss the importance of proof-reading email and social media posts before sending or posting.
Why is it important to slow down the pace of online e-mail communication?
If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students learned about potential serious mistakes people have made with email. In class students learned about real situations where someone made a mistake on email that created a problem and discussed how to avoid email blunders. The scenarios discussed were a political document accidentally sent to a reporter, a teacher mistakenly sent a personal email to parents of students and a mis-translated road sign.
Getting Ready for the Conversation
Electronic media is everywhere and it is important to be aware of how we interact with media-especially electronic media which can have hidden pitfalls. Learning how to use email correctly and safely is an important skill.
Conversation Starters and Practice at Home
The first item is for follow-up after participating in class activities.
Tell about the scenarios that were discussed in class. Which one did you think was the biggest mistake? Why?
What are some important rules for email use? Why?
What should you do if someone sends you an email that you should not have been sent? Why?
Plan an activity that is “unplugged” or “untethered” and assess together positive things that happen during this activity.
School to Home Resources on Stop Before You Send
- Bring and place cheerful, calming items around your classroom that are not normally there — a poster, a vase of flowers, a stuffed animal or two. Play music of your preference (calm or upbeat) when the students enter the classroom.
- Poster/sign/some form of notification: Enter Slowly. Take Note.
- True Email Mistakes Story Scenarios
- 10 Email Tips to Avoid Being an E-diot Handout
- Access to the Internet and teacher’s school email address
- In a remote environment, meeting software will need to have “breakout room” or similar function enabled to allow pairs of students to have discussions. Also, handouts may need to be emailed to students ahead of time or shared in meeting software chat function
1. Before class begins, post a sign in the entry way of the classroom that says Enter Slowly. Take Note.
2. Begin the class session by simply standing quietly before the class and ask them to quietly think for a moment about the comment: Take Note. Ask students how that phrase is different than a common beginning of class instruction: Take notes. Ask students what the instruction, “take note” means to them. What action is required to “take note” (Answer: be observant, thoughtful, quiet, deliberate). Continue the discussion by asking your students what they observe in your classroom today. What is different? What is the same? Did they notice at first, or did your cue to stop and take notice cause them to become better observers?
3. Next, explain to your students that today’s session is simply to think about how often we really don’t take time to think. In a rush to complete a task, or simply to get it done and check it off the list, our fast-paced communications often are filled with mistakes. Share the “true story” scenarios below that highlight e-mails sent with spelling errors, wrong recipients, bad language, etc.
True Story No. 1
In 2016, before he was elected, a top staffer for Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump accidentally copied a reporter on an email meant for a Republican researcher, unwittingly revealing the campaign’s plans to go hard after Hillary Clinton on decades-old scandals. Michael Caputo, a campaign adviser, emailed a researcher at the Republican National Committee requesting a full “work up information on HRC/Whitewater as soon as possible.” The message became public knowledge when Hope Hicks, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman who was copied on the email, replied not to Michael Caputo, but to Marc Caputo, a reporter at Politico.
True Story No. 2
As written by a middle school teacher:
“I use email on a daily basis during the school year to communicate with parents. I’m very careful to use straightforward wording to avoid any misunderstandings or hurt feelings. One day a few years ago, I was cruising my personal email late one night and received a joke from a friend. You know the one, ‘Deep inside there is a skinny me screaming to get out, but I can usually control the [undesirable word] with chocolate.’
“As I set in motion the ‘Famous Forward’ I apparently hit the wrong contact. Seconds after hitting ‘Send,’ I realized that I had clicked on the group that sends emails to ALL of my students’ parents. I almost died, but there was no way to take it back. I immediately sent an apology email to those same parents and headed to bed to try to forget about my pending doom.
“The next morning I confessed my mistake to my principal just in case she received any complaints, then I braced myself as I opened my email for the first time since ‘The Incident.’ To my surprise, I had several emails from parents thanking me for the good laugh, and absolutely NO complaints! I was shocked, but not as shocked as when a student walked into my classroom that morning with a gift bag full of chocolate and a cute note from her mom. What a relief it was to see that people really do still have a sense of humor, although I suspect some were laughing AT me instead of WITH me!”
True Story No. 3
All official road signs in Wales are bilingual, so the local authority e-mailed its in-house translation service for the Welsh version of: “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only.” When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed. Unfortunately, the e-mail response said in Welsh: “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.”
So that was what went up under the English version of the sign placed near a local supermarket. The notice went up and all seemed well – until Welsh speakers began pointing out the embarrassing error. “When they’re proofing signs, they should really use someone who speaks Welsh,” said journalist Dylan Iorwerth.
4. Ask students which of the scenarios seemed to be the most serious blunder. Why? What could have been done to avoid any of the above mistakes? Why do you think the parents of the middle school teacher’s students reacted in such a calm way? Perhaps because we all make e-mail mistakes—and the cause is usually from rushing to send or not taking a moment to check ourselves.
5. Continue the discussion by pointing out that email errors, let’s call them “e-diot” moments, are made by everyone: kids, adults, teachers, people in the business world, and journalists. However, even these small details can make a big difference.
6. Share the following 10 common e-mail mistakes to avoid. Questions are bulleted below each example (this is provided as a handout at the end of the lesson).
7. Provide the following opportunities to craft a short e-mail directed to your school email address:
- Apply for a job opportunity
- Contact a teacher regarding an upcoming assignment
- Reach out to a coach with questions about the upcoming season
- Recommend a fellow student to serve on a special school committee
- Request an appointment with a counselor
- Excuse yourself from attending a meeting
- Write to a club about a recent good experience
- Thank a teacher for a personal favor
- Give courteous feedback to a teacher about a recent class experience
Remind students to think about the subject line, spelling, tone, and the 10 Tips provided in the Don’t be an E-diot handout.
8. Ask students to print out their emails/share screens with a peer. Have the pairs check the email against the 10 points made in the list. How would they feel if they received this email? Why?
Review the theme of the lesson with the students. Have them discuss:
- Why is email etiquette important?
- Why might it be important to slow down the pace of online e-mail communication?