Commenting is an important aspect of a classroom blog and is included in our Language Arts time 2-3 mornings a week.


Commenting is what keeps the blog alive.


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Teaching and encouraging good commenting skills makes your blog more interesting for everyone.





None of my students had ever participated in a blog before, so I taught lessons about how to add quality comments to a post. Here are a few steps I took with my third graders:



1. With our blog projected up on the wall, we explored our first published post, Our Halloween Stories. After reading through the Halloween Stories as a class, we navigated to the comment area. I informed my students that we would be following the letter writing form that is a third grade writing standard. (Greeting / Body/ Closing/ Signature) Together, we composed a comment as a class. We directed our first comment to Taylor S. because her Halloween story was the first one listed. Here is the comment we added:





Dear Taylor S.,

The class loved your details, especially when you said CoCo was rude.

We liked how the problem of the lost cat got solved with the spell.

From,

Mrs. Yollis' class




This first comment demonstrated the letter form that I would like my students to use. It also showed the kind of content that should be included. I taught my students that a good comment should compliment the writer in a specific way, ask a question, and/or add new information to the post.

I taught them to never use personal information like a last name on a comment.



2. By the following day, we had received a few comments. With the blog projected on the wall, I made a big deal about the fact that our blog had readers! I called on people to read each comment. If it was a person from our class, I let them read their contribution.

Every day that week we opened our day by reading our new comments. I verbally rewarded every student who commented, and the excitement started to grow. Having an authentic audience was surprising and thrilling for my students.



3. Parents and other adults (the principal, other teachers, extended family, my mother...) are an important part of the comment section. Every time I publish a new post, I send an email out alerting our readers.

I have all the parents' email addresses so I can quickly draft an announcement letter. In the email, I add an idea or two about a possible comment. Below is a sample letter.


Dear Families:

Below is a link to our newest post, Dazzling Dioramas.

http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/dazzling-dioramas.html

Which dioramas did you like the best? How did you like our voice quality? We tried to speak at a good rate and have a variety of voice inflections. How did we do?

We'd love to hear from you in our comment section!

Thanks for all your support!

Mrs. Yollis

P.S. Please use the RSS feed for our posts AND for our comments. It is a great way to stay informed! Look in our sidebar to join both.

Here is a link to learn more about an RSS Feed.







I promote the RSS Feed at the bottom of every parent letter in an effort to try and encourage parents to use that feature. I also include an RSS tutorial from Common Craft to help explain what an RSS can do.


Some parents/visitors are new to the process of blogging. Adding a "How to Comment" video to the blog helps readers quickly understand the process. Here is the video I made:





4. During our Language Arts time, I let students compose comments with a partner. They can comment to someone from our class or to one of our Blogging Buddies. When they are ready to publish their comment, they raise their hands, and I help them proofread the comment for content quality and errors in language mechanics. Once it is proofread, the students can publish their comment.



5. I started to notice that the same families were doing all of the commenting. To bring awareness to that fact, and to encourage others to participate, I created a job called the Comment Counters.

Comment Counters tally who is commenting on our blog. Each child gets a sticker next to their name for a comment they have posted. A child also gets a sticker if their family members comment. (A dot is placed over the sticker to denote it was a family member's comment.)

Having Comment Counters helps the class monitor the comment section. For some students, they are motivated by stickers and they comment more often. For others, they don't realize they are not contributing until they see the data. We talk about the importance of contributing to this online community and that has improved the number of comments received.





6. Teaching directed lessons about writing quality comments benefits all students. Because I wanted to limit the number of "This is cool!!!!!!!!!!!!" type comments, I created a worksheet filled with fake comments. (Download the pdf below.)

As a class, we examined each fake comment and decided whether the comment deserved to be PUBLISHED or REJECTED. Students assessed whether each fake comment should be published or rejected based on several criteria:

  • A) If the comment came from a student in our classroom, errors in letter form, spelling, and/or grammar were not tolerated and the comment was rejected.

  • B) If the comment came from someone other than a classmate, errors in letter form were tolerated. Errors in spelling, capitalization, and/or punctuation were accepted, with three errors being the limit. More than three errors and the students felt the comment should not be published, unless there were extenuating circumstances. (e.g. Perhaps we had no way of getting in touch with the commenter, but the content of the comment was worth publishing.)



Although my students set very high standards for comments, I explained to them that people are human and we all make mistakes, even if we proofread. If you are too critical, and you reject too often, people will stop commenting.

Now we look for progress with commenters. They agreed to publish classmates' comments with errors and focus on the progress each student is making. However, my students didn't think it was okay for the same person to keep making the same mistake over and over. There must be some learning! :-)

(Below is a Learning to Comment Worksheet pdf )





After I taught many lessons about commenting skills I started assigning commenting once a week. Rather than sending home a grammar worksheet, I required each student to post a comment on at least one post. Students who did not have access to a computer wrote the comment on a piece of paper, and I let them post their comment at school the next day.

I got a great idea about commenting from Sue Waters of The Edublogger. She recommended letting students earn extra points for writing a high-quality comment, and it definitely works!

First, we brainstormed all the qualities of a 2-point comment.


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Now students had a clear definition about what makes for a quality comment. Many regularly earn

2-pointers!

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7. The standards I have set and taught my students are evident in our comment section. I am very pleased with the Language Arts skills my third graders are practicing and mastering.

When I notice that a child is trying to comment, but is being rejected due to errors in spelling, capitalization, and/or language mechanics, I contact the parent by phone or email. I let them know that their child has been trying to participate, but needs monitoring from home. I recommend that they sit with their child and compose a comment together. Trying to submit one comment per night, two or three times a week is a good goal. That has worked for most children.



8. One of the best lessons I learned about commenting came after a year of blogging. When I started with my new class in September, I couldn't decide whether to continue with the same blog or start a new one with the new class. The stories in the archive were fantastic, and I knew my old class would want to keep them posted, but I didn't know how I felt about combining two years of classes. I decided to keep the blog and continue to add new stories. That was the best Idea ever!

What I soon realized was that my new students were very interested in the archived stories. They enjoyed reading the posts and the comments.

The unexpected bonanza about using the old blog was the access to quality comments. I was able to demonstrate how to write a quality, 2-point comment using actual comments from the blog. The level of beginning commenting skills is so much higher than last year due to this teaching opportunity!


9. I'm always looking for ways to encourage commenting. This year, I proclaimed that April is Family Blogging Month! Each student made a list of his/her family and extended family. Then the class went through the archive and students selected specific posts that might suit a family member. Here is a link to that post:

April is Family Blogging Month!


This event has proven to be quite popular. We have comments from parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, and grandparents. I set up a chart for students to place a sticker for each family member who commented.


My student created this video to help bloggers learn how to leave quality comments. Anyone is free to use this video. I only ask that you link back to this site. :-)