Syllabus of my Virtual Class   -  Part 1

Below, I have detailed a syllabus of the program I have been using for the past 2 years.  It is targeted for grades 8 to 12 in the context of learning English as a foreign language in Israel. However, I have no doubt that it is adaptable and relevant for any class anywhere in the world.   This is part 1 which primarily deals with the use of email as a tool to improve English. It helps the students to read, write and understand more English. However,  it is essential to master part 1 in order to continue to part 2, and utilize all the potential of the web and build a real virtual class!  Part 2, (coming soon)  combines email with other aspects of the internet and is relevant for any class anywhere.
(this is an update from Jan 15,1999)

I was very happy to use for two years. I was one of the
earliest users who appreciated the simplicity and ease of its use.  I used
it to open mailboxes for all my students and used it for teachers who
participated in classes that I gave. This site does not carry any
advertisements, has very simple and clear instructions and the kids found
it easy to follow and enjoyed using it.

To my dismay, it stopped adding new users a few months ago. The site was
sold to, and all new users have to use Yahoo mail instead of
Rocketmail. Unfortunately, Yahoo lacks most of the great features of Rocketmail.
My students who tried to use it became very frustrated. They could not send
mail, their assignments were lost, they could not open their mailboxes,
etc., etc.   Now I am using another site, It is not as good as
Rocketmail used to be, but it is much more reliable than Yahoo.

First lesson: getting accounts

A. Explain to the students what is the difference     between "snail mail" (regular mail) and e-mail.

B. Introduce them to the official form they have to fill out in ordertoget an account. You may use rocketmail, hotmail or any freee-mail site (many search engines offer them now for free).

C. Have the students use the same standards when using a"username", i.e. make it as easy as possible for them and youto remember what name they picked. Do the same for their password.

D. Once a student is accepted, and given an account, have him  (her) send you  a first message (very short). This is for you in order to add him/her to your address book.

E. Save the addresses and group them according to classes

F. If any of your student's letters was "bounced", you have a goodopportunity to demonstrate the importance of exact spelling. Email is bounced because of incorrect spelling of addresses only.

Second lesson: sending letters, bcc, draft folder

By now you must have registered your classes at one of the key-palsites, mightymedia or classroom xchange. There are other sites, butI have found these to be reliable when screening schools from all over the world.

If no teacher has written to you, go to the site and check out whichschools and countries are suitable for your students and write to them.

Have the contacted teacher send you introductory short letters of his students, categorize them according to gender, and age and match them with your students. I found out that boys tend to want to correspond with younger girls and the other way around, with girls... *S*

A. Distribute the introductory letters. It is always good to havemore than one address per student. Encourage your students toemail more than one person.

B. Have your students write their own introductory letters in classand check them, before going to the computers. This is veryimportant especially for dyslectic pupils with many spellingmistakes.

C. During this lesson the pupils will go to "new message" and learnto write their letters (beginning and end), and send them.

D. If time allows, you can ask them to send you a bcc (blind copy)to your address.  In this way you can follow their performance.

E. Ask weaker students, who cannot complete the assignment intime, to save their work in a "draft" folder.

Third lesson : save copy, spell check, check mail (inbox)

You should remember that this syllabus is a very general one. I have tried it and found out that it is gradual enough for average heterogeneous classes. Remember, when I say "lesson" it does not mean "one session". A lesson here might take two or more sessions
in the lab. It all depends on the class and the individual student.

A. My classes use email once a week. It is harder if you use it lessoften, since they tend to forget what they have learnt before. SoI recommend that you go to the lab with them at least once every week.

B. By now most of your students should have gotten answers fromtheir pen-pals. Those who have not, should be encouraged tosend (the same introductory letter) to another address. Nowteach them how to check their mail (inbox) and read the letters.They will probably learn quite a few new words from their pals.

C. Ask your students to check the box of "save copy" when sendingtheir letters. In this way they can check what and to whom theyhave sent letters. They will find these letters in their "draft"folder.

D. When writing another letter ask your students to use the "spell check" function BEFORE sending it. To make sure they did thathave each of them send a "blind copy" to your address. Usingthe "spell check" function helps them improve their spelling alot!  This should become a standard procedure when emailing.

Fourth lesson : sending cards, virtualflorist

A. If you have saved the addresses of your pupils and groupedthem, you can send them identical assignments to their mailboxes.A fun assignment which they will enjoy is sending a greeting  card to you or to a friend (or penpal). This is especially important if the time of the year coincides with a holiday. A simple to use site is virtualflorist.

B. Send your students individual cards from this site. Have themcheck the cards.

C. Have your students send you, as well as their penpal a card(preferably with identical wishes or greetings). This allows you to follow the pupil's progress.

Fifth lesson : opening address book

Now it is time to save addresses in the address book.

A. Show the pupils how to click on "add to address book" shown oneach letter that they get.

B. Have them practise how to extract the address from the "book"when writing a "new message"

Sixth lesson : opening folders

The students "inbox" must have by now a few letters . It is time to sort them and send them to folders.

A. Tell the students to click "folders", and go to "add new folder".They should open folders for the different people they havebeen emailing with.

B. The mail in their mailboxes should be sorted and forwarded todifferent folders :penpal (name), teacher (name), friend...etc.

C. Have  them check the folders and make sure that the mail isin the right folders.

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