Collaborate!  The email response

Collaborate! The email response

June 01, 2020

The email response is a feature of EvErY unit we teach:  it's aligned to AP, it's natural, and it sets our students up for life skills in how to formally communicate (have you ever gotten those not-so-appropriately-written emails?!).

To complete the email response on the AP exam, students are given 15 minutes - TOTAL - to read and respond to the task.  

In second year and up, one of our favorite ways to set our students up for success is to begin the year with a PERSONAL email, asking for their information in the Target Language (TL).  At the lower levels, they can list and provide basic familiar information.  At upper levels, paragraph length responses are likely, especially when the questions are of interest to them!

But this post is about collaboration...which is a fantastic way to have students supporting students in creating an email response that happens quickly, feels accessible to students, and gives them the power to work together to develop ideas. Here's how to set it up, no matter the level:

Group students in teams of 4.  The easiest way to complete the task is via shared documents in Google Drive (see below for pencil and paper option). Ask students to create ONE document, and to share it with the group.  Assign tasks to each student:

Student A - Greeting and Closing

Student B - Introducer / commenter

Student C - Question Responder

Student D - Question creator

Before beginning, ensure that all students know their role. Explain that they will contribute THEIR PART to the email, while all are working together. 
Set up an online timer and provide a fixed amount of time.  At the AP level, 8 minutes is just over half, so, with four people is generous! Scale that timing for other levels (10 minutes for pre-AP, 12 minutes in second year, etc), however you will find that first year students have so little to say that 10 minutes is not out of the question!
Distribute the email to which your students will respond to each group, and start the clock...then wait for the collaborative buzz.
They should complete their task as quickly as possible, then go on to their partners' work and revise errors, create more advanced statements, infuse descriptive vocabulary, etc. 
When the clock runs out, have students hand the email in, via your Learning Management System or sharing the document with you.  

Now the big bonus:  You've grouped your students to write ONE response, so you've cut your feedback time in a major way, and becomes a great opportunity to work with self-assessment, to give essential feedback, and to focus on writing as the processes by going back and making edits. Work that in to your next day's schedule and you'll be amazed how their work reflects their performance later!


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