Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

To Whom It May Concern

Writing a Professional Email

Jane Baber, Lindsey Link | Published: November 17th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 8th
  • Subject Subject
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 50
  • Duration More 1


A necessary skill for most 21st-Century digital citizens is professional email communication. A cordial, professional email is not only a sign of respectful communication, but also clearly relays an intention or request that honors the recipient’s time and encourages a desired action, response, or feeling. In this lesson, students compose a cordial, professional email to a teacher.

Essential Question(s)

Why does professional communication matter?



In pairs, students engage in a Card Sort where they classify different styles and pieces of an email message.


Students discuss the differences in professional and unprofessional email communication and look at the elements of a professional email to begin drafting their own.


Students draft an email message to a teacher.


Students read their email draft through the eyes of the intended recipient, making edits as necessary. They will compose a reflection of their review.


Students send their email with reflection attached to their teacher.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Card Sort cards (attached; one per student pair)

  • Email Format handout (attached; one per student)

  • Email Self-Review handout (attached; one per student)

  • Access to email at school

  • Access to word processing at school


The objective for this lesson is to write an organized, focused email that adheres to a professional tone and structure and abides by the writing process.

Using the attached lesson slides, begin on slide 3. Ask students to do a Card Sort to engage in thinking about the components of an email message. Ask students to select a partner. Give them five minutes to work with the cards and make categories based on how they would classify the text on each.

Once five minutes have passed, tell students to sort the cards based on the following categories:

  • Introductory salutation

  • Body

  • Closing

After they have made those categories, ask them to share out how they knew to put certain cards in those categories.

Next, display slide 4 to work with the “gray areas.” Ask students to sort the cards again into these categories:

  • Professional Communication

  • Unprofessional Communication

After students have sorted the cards again into these new categories, ask for feedback about why they made the new classifications. Ask the following questions one at a time:

  • Which cards went into which piles?

  • Why?

  • What is your definition of “professional communication.”

Display slide 5. Ask students to describe a professional email.

Move to slide 6. Ask students to describe an unprofessional email.

Use slides 7-8 to introduce the lesson’s essential question and learning objectives to students.

Revisit students’ responses to the questions “How would you describe a professional email?” “What about an unprofessional email?”

Pass out the attached Email Format handout. Read the introduction together. Assign students to write a cordial, professional email to a teacher to accomplish a certain task. 


Ask students, “What are some reasons you would write an email to a teacher?” Provide your students some time to respond, then display slide 9. Some students will consult the “Tasks to Consider” suggestions on the handout:

  • Question about homework

  • Idea to share that was not shared in class

  • Thanks for help given

  • Notification about absence or a problem

  • Scheduling time to meet after class

From these examples, ask students to provide specific examples they have experienced where a professional email to a teacher was useful.

Next, ask students, “When is the best time to send an email?” Invite them to discuss when they think emails should be sent.

Ask them how long an email to a teacher should be. Instruct them to keep an email short at around four sentences. If it seems like the message needs to be much longer, suggest they have a conversation with the recipient instead.

Display slide 10. Direct students’ attention to the “Format” section of the handout. Look at the elements of an email together. 

  • Subject line

  • Formal greeting

  • Personal context about yourself

  • Context about request/sentiment/action

  • State request/sentiment/action

  • Statement of gratitude

  • Formal closing

Display slide 11. Together, read the example email from “Chris Mears” to their teacher about a quiz grade.


Using the Email Format handout as a guide, give students time to draft an email to a teacher. 

Tell students that when writing an email, it can be very easy to press “Send” on accident before the email draft is ready to go. To avoid this, many people draft their emails in a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs and then paste it into the body of their email. This way, the email can be drafted, proofread, and edited before sending.

Display slide 12. Have students open a new document to draft their emails. After determining whom they will write to and about what, they should use the format on the handout as a template.

As students are drafting their emails, display slide 13, which includes the elements of an email for them to reference.


Display slide 14. Ask students to read their email draft with the recipient’s perspective in mind. Remind students that just because this email draft is short, it is exactly that—a draft—and as such should go through the writing process.

Up until now, students have done their brainstorming and composed a rough draft. Now, ask them to re-read their email draft through the eyes of the recipient.

Pass out the attached Email Self Review handout. Instruct students to review their own email messages by looking for the following:

  • Tone

  • Proofread

  • Clarity

  • Word choice

  • Length

  • Time

  • Recipient’s name

As students read through their drafts, ask them to make notes on the handout of what does not need work and where edits are needed. After reviewing their email drafts, ask students to compose a reflection about the review process. Were any changes necessary? Why or why not? Explain. 

After writing out their reflections, students should type the reflection underneath their email drafts (after their closing salutation and name).


To have students “turn in” their professional emails, consider posting your school email address for students to send their message to. 

Remind students to submit their final emails to you, making sure not to forget:

  • Subject line

  • Reflection after closing salutation and name