Clear communication is always important in teaching, but it is essential for teachers to clearly and effectively communicate with students and families during hybrid and remote learning. Even with the best communication plan in place, it can be challenging for both teachers and students to manage all the various emails and notifications.
The following four strategies can be used to teach your students how to best manage their emails and notifications. The strategies are written with the older student as the intended audience, so you may share them directly with your students.
If you have younger students, you can reference these strategies and resources to design age-appropriate lessons and materials. In fact, these strategies and tools are also great for all of us as educators to manage our many emails and notifications. To help teach and reinforce these concepts, here are two posters that you can share with your students. Feel free to make a copy to customize as needed for your learners.
4 Strategies to Effectively Manage Emails and Notifications
Rather than checking emails and notifications every time one arrives, it is better to schedule specific times during the day to read and respond to your messages.
Consider scheduling blocks of time throughout the day to address emails and notifications. To avoid issues related to perfectionism that keep you from moving onto other tasks, set reasonable time limits to dedicate to this task. You can use a digital timer on your phone or a tool like Classroomscreen (Tips) to help monitor your time.
For example, you could block out 10–15 minutes before school, during lunch, after school, and in the evening to process and respond to incoming communication. To be most effective with managing your time, incorporate these blocks of time as part of your daily study routine.
Just as it is important to keep your digital files and class materials organized, it is also important to maintain an organized and uncluttered inbox. By doing so, you will feel less overwhelmed and less likely to miss important information. When you open your emails and notifications, follow the steps below.
Respond to it.
- If it will only take a few minutes, respond to the communication immediately. For example, reply to the email, submit the missing assignment, post to the discussion, etc.
- If a message requires a response, but it will take longer than 24 hours to do so, acknowledge it, so the messenger knows you’ve seen it. If possible, let them know when you will provide what is being requested.
- For those items that will take longer to respond to or complete, such as an assignment notification, transfer them to your “to do” or task list.
- You can use digital tools, like Google Keep, Taskade, or Sticky Notes, to create and manage your task lists.
- You can also use your email’s snooze or flag feature to remind yourself.
- Google Gmail: You can snooze your emails, so they come back to the top of your inbox at a later time or date.
- Microsoft Outlook: You can flag messages for follow up.
- If your email has a Drafts feature, you can start your response and let it sit in the Drafts folder until you are ready to complete and send it. This Draft section of your mailbox can then serve as your “to do” list for emails.
Label, file, and/or archive it.
- If the item does not require a response, or after you provide the response, immediately file the email with a proper label or move it into a folder and out of your inbox. If it is a unique communication that doesn’t require a label/folder, then archive it if your email provides that feature.
- Google Gmail: You can create labels.
- Microsoft Outlook: You can organize email by using folders.
- Respond to and organize only relevant emails. If you are certain that you won’t need the email, delete it or mark it as Spam or Junk email.
- Many email systems use artificial intelligence to automatically recognize Spam or Junk mail. Sometimes, it incorrectly marks items as Spam or Junk that are important, so it is a good practice to regularly visit your Spam or Junk folders for relevant messages. After checking, empty your Spam or Junk folder to keep them uncluttered.
Many email systems provide features that help you to automate this process. In some email programs, like Gmail, you can configure it to automatically categorize your emails into a priority inbox. In both Google Gmail and Microsoft Outlook, you can set up filters or rules to have emails automatically skip the inbox. For example, you might create a filter for all school newsletters to go to a Newsletter label or folder. If you set this up, be sure to schedule times to visit these labels/folders so that you don’t miss important information. Once you file a message, you can use the search tools to quickly locate them. See the links below for directions.
With remote and hybrid learning, everyone is receiving a lot more emails. Consider how you can keep from overloading your teachers’ and classmates’ inboxes, and hopefully, they will do the same.
- Reply only to emails when necessary.
- Avoid using “Reply All,” unless everyone needs to read it.
- Send only essential emails, especially to email groups.
- When composing your email, be very clear and concise.
- Subject Line:
Indicate the topic or intent of the email. Since your teachers have many students and classes, indicate which class you are referencing. Use brackets to specify the nature of the email (such as Action Needed, FYI, Question, etc.).
Example: Geometry, 1st hour: Lesson 2.5 Assignment [Question]
Practice the skills learned in your English Language Arts class. Use proper capitalization, grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Be considerate of your reader by keeping the message clear and concise and also by using good manners.
Dear Ms. Williams,
For Lesson 2.5, may I submit a picture of the graphs I create on paper instead of drawing them digitally? I’m struggling to draw them with my Chromebook trackpad.
- Bonus Tip: To save time, you can create and use email templates to quickly compose messages. See Gmail: Create email templates or Outlook: Create an email message template.
- Subject Line:
Extend Your Learning
- Gmail Help Center (Google)
- Outlook Training Center (Microsoft)
- Students Email Their Parents About Missing Work (Catlin Tucker)