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Preparing and drafting formal emails of complaint through a process-genre approach
by Esther Ratcliff
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Stage 1 warmer Visual stimulation
Aims: To set the context.
To Introduce stds to the topic of the lesson.
To activate language that is used in spoken discourse for complaints.

stds-stds, stds-T (5m)  

  • Show stds a picture of someone complaining in a restaurant and in a hotel.
  • In pairs stds discuss what they could be complaining about and what the people in the pictures might actually say to each other.
  • Whole class feedback
  • Show stds a picture of someone complaining in a restaurant and in a hotel.
  • In pairs stds discuss what they could be complaining about and what the people in the pictures might actually say to each other.
  • Whole class feedback.

Stage 2 lead in
Aims: To give stds a chance to activate schemata of formal complaints.
To give stds a chance to personalise their answers on the topic.
To hear opinions of other stds in similar situations.

stds-stds, stds-tch(5m)  

  • Stds discuss in pairs: (i) Have you ever had a very bad experience in a restaurant or a hotel? (ii) What happened? (iii) Did you make a complaint either in person or in writing? (iiii) What response did you get?
  • Whole class feedback.

Stage 3 Model text
Aims: To activate schemata of a specific topic through an image.
To give exposure to the formal genre of complaints.
To give practice in ordering paragraphs and practice at noticing how linkers work in written discourse.
To give reading training of formal genres.

Stds-stds, Ind std (10m)

  • Stds look at the picture on the PPT (p.112 NEF Adv) and think of possible complaints related to the picture, and holidays in general.
  • Tell stds that in pairs they are going to try and order the letter of complaint connected to the picture. Tell them it is cut into sections and they must look at how the parts of the letter link up in order to make the text coherent.
  • Give stds the complete letter on another handout so they can check their answers. Clarify ‘misleading’ (adj) if necessary.
  • Stds read the model complaint again on separate hand out and answer, ‘What exactly is the complaint about?’
  • Whole class feedback.

Stage 4 Language Analysis  
Aims: To give practice at looking specifically for examples of formal and language typical to letters of complaint. (analysing genre)

stds-stds, stds-T (5m)

  • Stds look at the model letter. Ask stds to discuss in pairs what makes the text formal.
  • Elicit some examples in whole class feedback, and project answers onto the whiteboard.

Stage 5 Introduce and develop sub-skill
Aims: To encourage stds to paraphrase the linkers to check that they are confident with the meaning of each linker.
To make sure stds know the function of each linker through explaining the explicit meaning of the linker.
To provide students with a narrow range of linkers for use in this context.

std-std, std-T(10m)

Establish that there are a range of formal cohesive devices in the text.

  • Draw stds attention to the linkers that are used in the text. Ask stds to paraphrase the sentence. Do an example with ‘Despite having high expectations of the holiday’ and ‘However, not only was he not funny at all with the whole class.
  • Whole class feedback of answers, reveal some possibilities on the PPT.

 Stage 6 Preparation of writing Task
Aims: To provide another source of input material to generate more ideas related to the genre.
To generate a context for the stds to write a response.
To give stds time to prepare their ideas.
To check that the stds understand the communicative event and purpose of the task.

Ind std, stds-stds(10m)

  • Check/pre-teach ‘make a fuss’ and ‘rip-off’. Stds read the input material to the task and answer the questions: (i) What exactly is the ‘Board First service? (ii) What problem did she have?
  • Whole class feedback of ideas.
  • Tell stds they can either write a letter of complaint to one of the situations that they discussed at the beginning, or a complaint about the board first service.
  • Stds write some notes in preparation for their complaint on the handout.
  • Explain to stds they have a table to help them plan. On the back of the handout stds complete the content table individually.

 Stage 7 Writing a draft
Aims: Help remind stds of the features and characteristics of formal writing.
To give stds time in class to develop their ideas in a recursive way.
To guide stds through the writing process helping them to express their ideas.

T-stds, IndInd-T (10m)

  • Explain that there are 3 stages to writing: draft, edit and check. Tell stds that they will do the first stage in class today.
  • Elicit some advice for writing formal emails/letters. Project the ‘tips’ onto the whiteboard and Stds think about the Qs on the PPT in relation to their letter.
  • Stds begin writing the draft email individually using the notes they made.
  • Monitor and help stds by giving them any vocabulary necessary for the task.

Stage 8 Rounding up  
Aims: To help stds see the importance of the draft stage and how it is essential for the internal coherence of writing.
To help stds see that self-reflection on a piece of writing is also a crucial stage.


  • Explain the importance of taking time to express ideas well at the draft stage of writing.
  • Explain that stds must carry out the edit and check stages at home.
  • Give stds the checklist designed to help them check their work when they finish.

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