Comments Make Community!

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I’ve had blogging on the mind as I prepare to facilitate “Dive Into Blogging” workshops for the Long Island Writing Project and teachers in my school district this winter. As someone who seemingly came late to the blogging party and only started my blog last February, I am passionate and full of conviction that blogging is a worthy endeavor, for educators and students alike.  Some of the most moving pieces of text I’ve read have been blogs.  How incredible to influence and be influenced by educators and students who share their stories with an online community of readers.

It’s the comments that are at the heart of blogging, in my opinion. Dana wrote about this so eloquently when she described how students were commenting on each other’s writing after participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge (Classroom). When you write something and then….crickets….it feels rather lonely.  When you write something, and people say it has meant something to them, or they appreciate something you wrote, or they ask you questions or make connections, it feels like being part of a meaningful conversation. The comments I’ve received on my personal blogs, Courage Does Not Roar, and Mrs. Sokolowski’s Book Bonanza and the comments on my TWT posts have encouraged me so much in my teaching, writing, and personal life. The comments have made me feel part of a caring community and I try to leave thoughtful comments on the blogs I read as well.

“COOOOOOOOLLLL!” is a typical comment my students leave on each other’s posts, if they bother to comment at all.  I knew I needed to teach into commenting more explicitly as I started seeing more and more one word comments.  I’ve been reading the amazing book, Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom, by Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke.  In Chapter 3, Muhtaris and Ziemke discuss teaching students how to leave thoughtful comments on blogs, including two great charts you could make with your class.  Then, last week on Twitter, I saw a chart on how to leave comments on blogs, posted by Laurie Pitcher and created by Bailey Higgins.  I adapted it for my class, pictured below.

blogging chart

As I introduced this chart to my third graders, we spoke about blogging comments making the writer feel understood and helping the writer and the reader learn more about each other. One of my students had written a post about hot peppers and the different types of hot peppers that people eat.  He said he likes them on his hamburgers.  I modeled for the class that I was going to write at least 3 sentences, offering a compliment, asking a question, and making a connection.  My comment was: “Wow, J., you sure do know a lot about hot peppers! How did you come to learn so much about peppers? I don’t like spicy food so I never eat hot peppers on my hamburger!” I explained to the students that, by writing this comment, I continued the conversation and shared something about myself that the student blogger might not have known.  Now, from this blog post, both the blogger and the reader know more about each other. Knowing more about each other leads to feeling more positive about each other and helps strengthen our community of learners.

I gave students a sheet with everyone’s names on it and asked them to check off the names as they comment on those blogs.  I’m hoping this helps students branch out and read more classmates’ blogs. There was a quiet hum in the room today as students read, typed, and learned more about each other through reading and thoughtfully commenting on each other’s blogs.

How do you help your students to be more thoughtful when they comment on each other’s blogs? Please share your ideas and help us continue the conversation!