Show Respect Online (K-2)

How can I make sure my emails are clear and respectful?

Students explore the similarities and differences between in-person and online communications, and then learn how to write clear and respectful emails.

Students begin by discussing how to be clear and respectful when they talk with people, either face to face or on the telephone. They explore the concept of tone, then compare and contrast what it is like to communicate face to face versus online. Students learn some rules that can help them express themselves clearly and respectfully when they write email messages. They then apply what they have learned by editing an email message.

Students will be able to ...

  • understand how to show respect in social situations.
  • recognize the importance of tone in both face-to-face and online communications.
  • learn rules for writing clear and respectful emails by editing an email message.


Materials and Preparation

  • Preview the video, “Mindful Messaging,” and prepare to show it to students.
  • Copy the Email Edit Student Handout, one for each student.

Teaching Plans


Warm-up (10 minutes)

DEFINE the Key Vocabulary term respectful.

ASK: What are some examples of how to be clear and respectful to others when you are talking in school?
Sample responses:

  • Try to talk clearly, and explain what you mean if someone doesn’t understand.
  • Listen to what other people have to say.
  • Take turns talking.
  • Speak instead of shouting.
  • Don’t make fun of people.
  • Say “please” and “thank you.”
  • Say nice things to people.

Record student responses, so that you may return to them later in the lesson.

INVITE students to discuss what might happen if people did not try talk clearly and respectfully at school.

ASK: What would happen if it was okay to say mean things to other people?
Students should understand that people’s feeling would get hurt and everyone would be upset and angry.

ASK: What would happen if we didn’t take turns talking, or if we were allowed to shout in class?
Students should conclude that without such rules everyone might be talking or shouting at once, and no one could learn anything.

teach 1

Mindful Messaging (15 minutes)

DEFINE the Key Vocabulary term tone.

SHOW students the “Mindful Messaging” video.

INVITE students to recount what they saw in the video. (A girl sent three of her friends the same text message. She was trying to be friendly, but they read the tone of her text message the wrong way.)

WRITE the following word on the board or on chart paper in three different ways:

                 Whatever :(                  Whatever!!!                  WHATEVER

POINT OUT that in the video, Alexa, David, and Evan sent text messages of the same word. However, they wrote the message in different ways in order to convey different tones.

INVITE students to identify differences among the three messages. (Alexa’s message has a frowny face after it. David used a lot of exclamation points. Evan wrote his message in all uppercase letters.)

HAVE students say the three different text messages aloud. Students should say Alexa’s message (which includes the sad face emoticon) in a soft and disappointed tone. Students should say David’s message (which includes exclamation marks) in an excited and enthusiastic tone. Students should shout Evan’s message (which is written in all caps) in an angry tone.

ENCOURAGE students to think about the difference between hearing a sentence said aloud and seeing it typed. Students should understand that when a sentence is typed, the tone isn’t always obvious. People miss out on communication cues, like seeing facial expressions and body language, or hearing the way a voice sounds.


teach 2

Email Edit (20 minutes)

EXPLAIN to students that people are increasingly connecting virtually, through texts, IMs, and emails rather than in person. That’s why tone is so important when it comes to sending typed messages.

TELL students there are some rules they can follow to make sure they are being clear and polite when they send messages electronically, especially through email.

DISTRIBUTE the Email Edit Student Handout, one for each student.

REVIEW the “Check Before You Send” questions at the top of the handout as a class, and invite students to share any additional rules they can think of.

DEFINE the Key Vocabulary term edit.

EXPLAIN to students that they will edit an email message to make sure it is clear and polite.

INVITE students to complete the editing exercise, using the “Check Before You Send” questions. Encourage students to read the message aloud before they edit it, as well as after. Reading the message aloud will help them catch mistakes and show them the tone of the message. Students should make the following changes:

  • Edit the first two sentences for proper use of uppercase letters.
  • Correct the spelling of “u” and “rite.”
  • Rewrite the last sentence to make it more polite.
  • Add another sentence to conclude the email.
  • Change the ending “Guess Who” to “Max.”



Wrap-up (5 minutes)

You can use these questions to assess your students’ understanding of the lesson objectives.

ASK: What are some differences between saying something aloud to someone and writing it in an email?
When you write something, people may not always understand your tone.

ASK: What are some ways to be respectful when sending an email, text, or IM?
Students should be able to name and explain most of the rules they learned in Teach 2.

ASK: What should you do before you send an email, text, or IM?
Students should understand that it is important to read and edit their message before sending it.

Extension Activity

Have students compose an email message to you from a classroom computer. First, have them compose a message that is riddled with errors and does not follow the rules they learned in Teach 2. Then have them edit their message and resend the corrected version. If time permits, you could reply with your comments on the differences between the two emails.

At-Home Activity

Have students share with a parent or other adult family member the rules for writing clear and respectful emails. Students can then compose an email to a relative, edit it, and send it with the adult’s help. If students do not have a computer at home, invite them to bring their emails to school and send them from a computer in the classroom or school library.


Alignment with Standards

Common Core & NETS•S
Common Core State Standards Initiative ©2012 & National Educational Technology Standards for Students ©2007, International Society for Technology in Education

Common Core: 

  • grade K: RL.1, RL.4, RL.10, RI.1, RI.4, RI.10, RF.4, W.2, W.5, W.7, W.8, W.10, SL.1a, SL.1b, SL.2, SL.3, SL.6, L.6
  • grade 1: RL.1, RL.4, RI.1, RI.4, RI.10, RF.4a, W.5, W.7, W.8, L.6
  • grade 2: RL.1, RI.4, RI.10, W.2, W.5, W.7, W.8, SL.1a, SL.1b, SL.1c, SL.3, SL.6, L.6

NETS•S: 5a, 5d