Mastering the email game: Three hacks for getting students to ACTUALLY read & reply to your emails

Digital illustration of a letter in an envelope marked with a green checkmark against a pink backdrop.
Discover the art of successful email communication with students. By following these three proven email hacks, you’ll stop sending emails that result in crickets and instead create authentic, engaging digital communications that foster rapport between you and your students.

There are many challenges present in using technology to connect with students.

Indeed, one particularly daunting hurdle lies in establishing authentic, engaging digital communications.

Connecting with students can be difficult if all communication occurs solely through email. How do you know if your students are opening your emails, reading them, or even receiving them if they aren’t replying back?

Below I’ll share three hacks we’ve found incredibly effective for getting students to read and reply to emails! 

Hack #1: Use a personalized subject line

The first step is getting your students to open your emails. In the English classroom, teachers often suggest that students start a paper with a hook to grab the reader’s attention. 

Email follows the same principle. Create an interesting subject line to get students to open and read your message. 

One idea to intrigue students to open your email is to use the student’s name in the subject line. This shows students that it is not an automated or generic email. 

Especially if your students are enrolled in online classes, their inboxes quickly fill up with emails such as progress checks, weekly check-ins, or class updates. Most of those are generic messages. 

When the message is personalized for a specific student, they are more likely to open them. 

Another suggestion is to start with something positive. The message’s subject line should entice students to open it. Try using exclamation points or emojis such as “Finish Strong 💪🏻.” 

Hack #2: Offer a simple way for students to respond

Now that students are opening their messages, how can we ensure they are actually reading them

The truth is students who are consistently engaged in their courses and doing well may NOT reply to your emails. We all know how busy students can get, so they may not send you a response unless they need something.

An effective strategy for encouraging engagement in emails to students is asking students to copy and paste a reply using pre-made sentences

This strategy simplifies the response, making the process quick and easy for students. Having the premade replies ready for students to use also makes it clear to students that you want a reply. 

Hack #3: Add some sparkle to your communication style

While it can be challenging to connect with students through technology, it is far from impossible. The goal is to connect with students, so it’s important to remember that not all communication has to be academic

Especially if your students are fully virtual, they may not have as many opportunities to communicate with friends or peers. Change up your communication style and build good rapport with your students to enhance the classroom community and teacher-student relationships. 

To vary up your communication style, try a joke or interesting fact of the week. 

Consider the style of your text as well. Use CAPS, bold, italicized, and underlined words to add emphasis. 

You can also try adding some memes, color, or bitmojis into your messages. 

The Bottom Line

Though email communication with students certainly can be challenging, it’s not impossible. 

Make your subject line pop to grab your student’s attention and don’t forget to let your personality shine through

You’ve got this! By following these three hacks, you’re sure to up your email game. 

Try these strategies out for yourself and watch on in wonder as your emails stop resulting in crickets and instead begin fostering genuine rapport between you and your students. 

Picture of Jonelle Barker

Jonelle Barker

Jonelle Barker is a Student Success Coach for Michigan Virtual. She enjoys working and supporting students. Prior to working at Michigan Virtual, Jonelle worked at an elementary school as an at-risk teacher. She lives in Howell with her husband, two children, and their dog. Outside of work, she enjoys spending quality time with her family.

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