After co-presenting on blogging at EdcampNYC and then blogging about the significance of student work being made public, I have heard lots of conversation and questions regarding how to teach students to comment on each other’s blog posts.
In this area, one of the resources that has guided me is the work of Silvia Tolisano.
Nonetheless…The last thing we want to do is simply tell students, “Here’s what’s included in a quality comment.” We must model inquiry by having them “uncover” what is involved. Then, students will (1) have a deeper understanding of why these components are significant, and (2) be more likely to apply them.
Here’s what this process could look like:
- In small groups, students explore authentic blog post comments, which should probably be vetted by the teacher ahead of time. During exploration, students separate comments into two piles, (1) good, and (2) bad. (You can get more specific by having piles for poor, good, very good, and excellent.)
- Still in small groups, students dive into the “good” pile. For each one of these comments, students record the features that make it good and attach it to the comment itself through something like a sticky note.
- Students come together as a class and discuss their group notes along with the comments (evidence) on which they are based. While this conversation is taking place, a definitive class list of quality commenting features is created. After, the teacher ensures all students understand what has been recorded, and the list is distributed/posted so students can access it wherever/whenever.
I followed a similar process with my fourth grade students, and here are the components upon which we decided: proofread before publishing (spelling and grammar), take your time, proper length, be supportive, be honest, creativity, sandwich, prewriting (outline or rough draft), be specific (let the writer know that you carefully read and considered his or her blog post), constructive criticism, try to start a conversation with either the blogger or other commenters (asking a question can help).
In reality, quality commenting falls under the same category as teachers and students providing feedback on each other’s work. So, one option is to research what effective feedback looks like, and then turnkey the information to your students. In doing so, you and your students will be better equipped to apply these practices across all assignments, not just blogging.
Two feedback related resources I can recommend are How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students by Susan Brookhart and "Seven Keys to Effective Feedback" by Grant Wiggins. Also, for a look at the strong influence feedback has on student progress, see “Feedback in Schools” by John Hattie.
What is the role of blogging in your classroom? How do you teach quality commenting? In what ways do you and/or your students use feedback as part of the learning process?