Using Spam Emails in Your Literacy Lessons

What a brilliant way to teach critical thinking and persuasive language!

I gave a class of 12-year-olds a selection of genuine spam emails and asked them to write down what their replies to these would be.

It mostly purported to be from a distressed Nigerian monarch living in exile looking for a friendly Briton to share a fortune with. Some of the kids quickly twigged and wrote sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek responses.

But a few of them seemed genuinely intrigued and happy to enter into correspondence; others tried to negotiate the terms to make more money.

It was this naivety and innocence that I wanted to address in students. They had to become aware of the dastardly tricks people may try to make them fall for.

As an English teacher, it was important to zoom in on the persuasive language techniques used in spam emails. By the end of the unit pupils could tell you that spam emails use terms of endearment to hook in the recipient, include hyperlinks to news articles to make their stories more plausible, describe accidents or impending threats to generate sympathy, and specify tight deadlines to make the deal seem juicier.

Click here to read my post, ‘The 15 Most Commonly Misspelled Words in the English Language’.


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