Activity 4: Writing comments – What you need to know

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Welcome to our free professional development series on class and student blogging!

This series consists of a range of activities that take you through the process of class and student blogging. While many of the class blog examples we’ve included are from primary grades, the same principles apply for class blogs regardless of student age (including adult learners).


The activities can be completed at your own pace and in any order!

The aim on this activity is to explain how comments are used on class blogs and to provide tips for teaching students quality commenting skills.

Click on a link below to go to the section you want to work on:

  1. Why comments are important on class blogs
  2. How comments work
  3. Examples of comments on class blogs
  4. How to add a comment
  5. Teaching quality commenting
    1. Reasons why you should teach quality commenting
    2. How to teach quality commenting
    3. Activities for developing student commenting skills
  6. Commonly asked questions about comments
    1. How do you disable comments on pages
    2. Why won’t comments display on my pages?
    3. How do I make comments display on my homepage?
  7. What now?


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Why comments are important on class blogs

Comments are an important part of your class blog.  Comments allow students, and other readers, to engage in discussions, share their thoughts and connect with your class blog.  Transforming your blog from a static space to an interactive community.

Important parts of the blogging process include encouraging students to:

1. Read other students’ posts.
2. Comment on other students’ posts.
3. Write posts in response to other students’ posts.

It’s amazing how even just a few comments can make student realise they are writing for a global audience — for many it is incredibly motivating.

Discussions in comments are important for reflective learning .  Comments that challenge or suggest alternative options encourage you to reflect, revise, evaluate and review your thoughts.

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How comments work

By default, comments are enabled on all newly created blogs, and a comment form will appear at the bottom of posts and pages where readers can respond to what you’ve written.

Here’s what a comment form looks like:

Approved comments are displayed under the individual post or page. You just click on the post title or the comment link to read the comments.

Threaded comments allow readers to reply to other comments inline/nested which encourages better discussion and responses.



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Examples of comments on class blogs

Here’s examples of comments on class blogs to check out how educators use comments:

  1. Welcome to Grade 5 & 6 Guest post – AFL by Visha
  2. 4KM and 4KJ @ Leopold Primary School CAFE Strategy: Making Predictions
  3. 4KM and 4KJ @ Leopold Primary School Maldon Camp
  4. Room 5 Superstars Using technology to become reading superheros
  5. Room 24, 2012 Guest Post by Ashleigh – Friday Enrichment Programmes
  6. ELFADA Course Blog Using Images to make instructions more helpful

Here’s examples of comments on student blogs:

  1. BB’s Awesome blog Blue Light bike ed camp
  2. Skye’s Super Blog What is your favourite sport in the Olympics?


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How to add a comment

1. Click on the heading of the post you wish to comment on or the “comment” link at the top or at the bottom of the post.
2. Scroll down until you can see the “Leave a Comment” section
3. You will be asked for your name (you can use a nickname) and email address (this is not published)
4. You will also need to write the “spam word”
5. Click “submit comment”



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Teaching quality commenting skills

This following section on teaching quality commenting skills is adapted, with permission, from Kathleen Morris’s post.  

Kathleen teaches at Leopold Primary School in Australia. This is her fifth year blogging with students. Kathleen writes a blog for educators about technology integration, educational blogging and global collaboration ( @kathleen_morris ).   She was inspired to refine her teaching of commenting by the wonderful Linda Yollis and her third grade students.

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Reasons why you should teach quality commenting

If commenting skills are not taught and constantly reinforced, students will limit their comments to things like “I like your blog!” or “2KM is cool!”. While enthusiasm is high with these sorts of comments, students are not developing their literacy skills or having meaningful interactions with other members of the blogging community. Conversations in the comment section of a blog are such rich and meaningful learning experiences for students. Conversations begin with high quality comments.

Blogging is an authentic avenue for developing student literacy skills.   When you invest the time in teaching, modelling, revising and promoting high quality writing of comments, students can make great gains in their overall literacy development.

Check out improvements in student literacy skills through commenting here.

Set your standards high from the start and reap the rewards!

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How to teach quality commenting

Kathleen teaches commenting skills through:

  1. Modelling and composing comments together with students on the interactive whiteboard.
  2. Teaching students about the “letter” format and editing process during writing lessons.
  3. Giving examples of a poor/high quality comments and having students vote whether the comment should be accepted or rejected. Example of a Sorting blog comments activity devised for our students here.
  4. Having students read and comment on a post on our blog as part of a literacy rotation on the computer each week.
  5. Taking students to the ICT room once a week to work on composing a quality comment with a partner.
  6. Emailing parents and encouraging them to write comments on the blog with their child.

Kathleen and her team teacher partner, Kelly Jordan,  invests a lot of time focusing on teaching her students how to write ‘quality comments’ and helping students to understand what quality comments means.

Teaching quality commenting, with constant reinforcement, and setting high standards increases your students literacy skills which provide a good foundation for when you move them onto writing posts on the class blog or their own student blogs.

The strong emphasis on developing quality commenting skills is an important reason why teachers like Kathleen MorrisKelly Jordan and Linda Yollis achieve great results blogging with their students.

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Activities for developing student commenting skills

Here’s a list of ideas you can use to develop your student commenting skils:

  1. Create a commenting guideline poster (see poster example below) – develop your own or facilitate a collaborative discussion with students to create together (you could include this video as part of the process).
  2. Develop a quality comment evaluation guide.  Refer to Linda Yollis’s Learning how to comment.
  3. Write a blog post about commenting and what you define as a quality comment. Have your students practise leaving a “quality” comment on the post.
  4. Create a commenting guideline for your blog.  Here’s an example.

Here’s the quality comment guidelines Kathleen’s team teacher partner, Kelly Jordan, published as a poster that is displayed in their room.

You’ll find all their comment information for students and parents here!

  • Please remember if you use their poster or adapt someone else’s poster to use with permission and acknowledgement. 


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Common questions we’re asked about comments

Here’s answers to commonly asked questions we receive into Edublogs Support:

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1.  How do you disable comments on pages?

Most Edublogs themes support comments on pages and by default comments are enabled on pages.

You can disable comments on pages using Quick Edit as follows:

1. Go to to Pages > All Pages

2. Locate the post or page you want to disable comments on

3. Hover over it’s title to bring up it’s action menu.

4. Click on Quick Edit, deselect ‘Allow Comments’ and then click on Update.



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2.  Why won’t comments display on pages?

Most Edublogs themes now support comments on pages however there are a few themes that don’t.

If the theme you are using doesn’t support comments on pages, and you would like this feature, then you will need to use an alternative theme.

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3.  How do I make comments display on my homepage?

Traditionally comments are designed to be displayed under a post and you view the comments by clicking on the post title or the comments link. It is done this way because posts can have 100′s of comments and displaying them directly under a post on the post page can make it hard to read the content.

However, there are a few themes like P2 and ReTweet that display comments directly under posts on the blog post page. These types of themes work well where the posts are short; they work well for Discussion type blogs.

The alternative is to add the Recent Comments widget to the sidebar.


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What now?

How did you go?  We hope this has helped get your commenting started and the information has helped!

Leave a comment below with a link to your blog and let us all take a look!

Also feel free to leave any questions you are having (or tips/advice) as well.

Or go to Activity 5: Working with Widgets – What you need to know!

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22 thoughts on “Activity 4: Writing comments – What you need to know

  1. Thank you for this resource. What are ways and strategies to motivate students to comment on others’ posts? Because they’re “hidden,” many of my students don’t especially like commenting.

    Then, if I start commenting too much, that detracts from my students’ interest to comment. Do you have ideas? Thank you!

    • Hi Mark, thanks for highlighting the reluctance to comment. Can’t believe I didn’t include that in my post :( Several years ago I did a 30 day challenge entirely based on commenting with educators and one of the most interesting things that came out of that was the reluctance of the educators themselves to leave comments. In their case time wasn’t the issue. Fear was. All of them were bloggers and had no issues writing posts but were reluctant commenters. When you make a mistake writing a post you can edit or remove; whereas you can’t in most situations with a comment. I’m sure that you’ll find that their reluctance is more to do with that fear than the comments being hidden.

      The key is to look at strategies that will encourage them to engage in commenting. Some educators use comment point systems. I’ll ask my network to see if they can share their tips on what has worked for their class.

  2. Hi Sue

    This really is a quality, comprehensive resource. Also, Mark’s question about reluctant commenters is such a valid one as, like any other learning area, we’ll all have students with commenting skills at both ends of the ability spectrum and in between.

    I use blogging and commenting as a key part of our class literacy programme and I view all comments before they’re posted. It not only gives me good information about students’ writing skills but how they’ve responded to a post can give me a good picture of their reading comprehension skills as well.

    This year is my first year with an active class blog that’s integrated into our learning programme. I began the year with the catch-phrase “if we want to get an audience we need to be an audience”. From the beginning I placed emphasis on how to set out a comment, proof reading and answering the questions asked at the end of the post. Initially, I assumed this was enough – and it was for some who flew straight away (although now we are working on extending their skills). For some students though, and these are the ones that appear to be reluctant and time-wasters, a lot more scaffolding is needed.

    I’ve discovered that it’s not that they don’t want to write, respond or engage in a conversation with someone elsewhere in the world. It’s that they simply don’t know what to say. I had spent a reasonable amount of time working with my lower literacy students and doing ‘shared writing’ of comments; this has been helpful to some. I’m now working with groups of four at a time and this seems to be a lot more effective.

    In working with smaller groups, I can ask questions and receive answers from all members of the group. We seem to have more time to talk and share. I can commiserate if it’s a difficult post to respond to and perhaps spend more time modelling, thinking out aloud, and drawing on my/our personal experiences that we might use in writing the comment. I also use the time to show students how and when to look for more information online.

    Since implementing this approach in the last four weeks, I have seen four students commenting skills drastically improve. I am now also attempting to cultivate the habit of being a regular commenter myself.

    This has been valuable for two reasons. Firstly, I can identify with my students as a commenter; we are in this together. Secondly, and possibly most importantly, my students see me as a writer and they are actively having writing modelled to them in an authentic context. I was reviewing one students comment for a student blog post earlier this week and I had to ask him if he’d read the comment I’d written above. He replied, “yes, I wasn’t sure what to write so I read what you had written and got my ideas from that.” I was thrilled, of course, that he’d used his initiative and modelled his writing of an example that was in front of him.

    I alleviate the fear of mistakes being published by students saving their comments into their own word document first. I find this has several beneficial aspects to it. It’s a good way to document/keep a record of writing growth, students are accountable for the work they do or don’t do (and if they don’t, how can I help them), I can check content before posting, and I use it as a place to give feedback and feedforward on their writing. It does take regular commitment to do this in a timely way, but it is really just like marking book work.

    Finally, following the sage advice of Kathleen Morris, I often begin our day looking at a great comment that’s been added to our blog, something neat on another blog, celebrating our flag counter, or highlighting an instance where another class has linked to our blog. That all helps to keep everyone enthused about blogging.

    I’m looking forward to reading tips and tools others use to aid their writers!

    Kind regards

    Valerie McLeod

    • Thank you, Sue and Valerie, for excellent responses. I think my approach — to focus commenting on our class blog — was too narrow.

      On the one hand, students felt more comfortable writing comments to their peers. On the other, the exercise felt forced. After all, my students felt like they were just writing comments to complete an assignment.

      A better approach, I think, is encouraging students to write comments on websites of their choice. This would increase their motivation and their ideas of what to write. I’d first have to make sure that my students are writing quality comments, of course.

      What are your thoughts?

      (After writing this, I think I prefer sticking with the class blog. After all, one of the most important outcomes of commenting is building class community.)

      • Hi Mark

        You raise an interesting point regarding building a class community. I’ve found that the more active we are with our blog, the stronger my students’ sense of class identity is. Our blog and the global ‘activity’ we have through it is a unique experience for them; it adds a special element to our class.

        Both my class and I have remarked that the extra learning we get through insights into other class’ learning around the world is something we enjoy. I referred to me personally commenting on other blogs in my comment above; this takes time but the rewards for my students (and myself) far outweigh the effort.

        My students are very receptive to other teachers’ comments on our blog, also learn from students’ comments from outside of our class and are learning communication skills beyond what I’ve seen in previous classes. Motivation to write, I think, comes from both the excitement of global interaction and getting to share their own thoughts and views to a real audience.

        Student choice and student voice is important in our blogging. We discuss potential posts, evaluate and decide on which blogs we have on our blog roll and students suggest what should be added to our blog. One recent undertaking is the rewriting of our blog’s blurb; analysing how to increase blog traffic through people searching on Google.

        Some time ago, one student couldn’t find a blog post to comment on (on other blogs) so in her own steam wrote a post for our blog about some learning we’d just been doing. That’s another great thing about our class blog; 11-12 year old students wanting to share their learning.

        Personally, I feel that an external audience has a more authentic feel. I do think, though, that it’s important to decide on the outcomes you’re wanting to see, involve your students in the decision-making process, and go for gold.

        All the best, Mark.

        Valerie

        • Hi Valerie

          Thanks for sharing what has worked with your students! Having that external audience gives both a more authentic feel and can be so motivating for many students. I also love the advice on involving your students in the decision making process. Very important for personal ownership.

  3. My students are usually eager to comment back on others posts in the hope that the authors of the post they are comment on will return the visit to their blogs. If I say it is part of their assessment, that will often keep them going. However, if there are no return comments, they can lose interest in the activity and find it easier to just read a post and move on. As I only have my classes once or twice a week (and they are mainly secondary), my class time does not always allow time for students to comment on other blogs. Only the most motivated of students will voluntarily comment back in their own time. Therefore the clustrmaps, flagcounters etc are important to indicate visiting activity on blogs. I like to read many blogs and posts, but due to the time commitment rarely comment now.
    As an aside and relating to teacher blogs, it was noted by some webinar participants, last night, that there is an increasing lack of comments appearing on many teacher and educationalist blogs, The blogosphere is getting bigger. Many felt that the conversations are continuing on twitter regarding blogs and posts, or as updates on facebook, rather than comments on posts. What do you think?

    • Hi Anne, if we look at teacher and educationalist blogs than getting people to comment has always been hard. It’s perhaps now harder now that it has ever been because the conversations so happen via Twitter, Facebook etc. How people are reading your posts has changed considerably in the past few years. Nowadays posts shared on social networks is considerably more important than RSS. Probably all of this has contributed to changing in commenting. But there is also a skill to writing posts that encourage people to want to post comments. Some bloggers are really good at this. My posts for encouraging comments tend to be totally different from my other posts. Whereas my longer. more informative posts, are less likely to be commented on but more likely to be shared.

      • Hi Sue and Anne

        You’ve both timely points for me about lack of commenting, conversations on Twitter, and readers viewing more and so have less time to comment. I can relate to this.

        Sue, I’m interested to hear more about the skill of writing posts that encourage people to want to post comments; my query is with a class blog in mind. The other day, one of our posts featured on The Head’s Office blog dipping blog and we had 277 visitors . Only one of those visitors left a comment.

        Having just read Activity Three. do you have any tips beyond that on writing posts that encourage comments?

        Thanks

        Valerie

        • Hi Valerie, 4KM and 4KJ @ Leopold Primary School ( http://4kmand4kj.global2.vic.edu.au/ ) is a good example how you write posts on a class blog to encourage comments. If you look closely at the posts you’ll see they structure each post to end with questions that are targeted at asking readers to leave comments. They also spend a lot of time commenting on other class blogs so they’ve built up a relationship of classes that want to interact with them.

          • Hi Anne

            Thanks for your reply. See my comment 3rd from top for what we already do. From what you’ve just mentioned, it’s good to know we’re on the right track. I was anticipating there might be something further I hadn’t yet discovered.

      • Thinking this through, it is important to teach students the value of commenting, try and give them 10-15 mins each day to do so and how to make those comments count. It was global comments on our first blog posts that got us started in the use of web2.0 tools in our classroom. It was motivating, exciting and some valuable conversations ensued. The younger students do not have access to twitter and other social networking sites, but they can interact through blogging conversations. I like the student blogging challenge where there are teachers dedicated to being mentors. Their trail of comments is extremely valuable. It is the older students where the task to encourage them to comment is so much harder as they prefer to text, update facebook etc If students are taught at a young age will it carry through into senior years, where dedicated time for exploring blogs and commenting is negligible or almost so? That is one of my goals, but I am not successful yet.

        • Hi Anne, I agree! Make commenting part of your class routine. Everyone who is successful does include it as part of the day. Those with limited computer access set up a list next to the class computer where students can go to the computer when they have finished their work, add their comment and then they tick off the name. The other thing is while doing all this look as blogging as part of what you do and not an add on. Integrate your curriculum and what you need to cover into the activities you need to do with the students.

  4. I think that making productive, relevant comments should definitely be taught and modeled throughout the school year. It is important that students learn to be polite and really edit their comment. One thing that I would teach them is that the reader cannot hear voice inflections or see body language, so the words have to be explicit.

  5. This is an excellent discussion. The point about making time in class to teach and practice excellent commenting is very important. After all, we must devote time in class to whatever we value.

    This conversation is getting me thinking that there are probably at least three key purposes to teaching commenting: (1) to build classroom community and to show appreciation of peers, (2) to encourage students to follow their intellectual interests on the Internet and to interact with people who share their passions, (3) to teach students the importance of professionalism when publishing their thoughts.

    (There are probably many more, of course.)

    Thinking about those goals, I’m wondering if the approach to Goal #1 vs. Goal #2 might be different. If my main goal is to build classroom community, then how an what I teach is different than if my main goal is to have students interact with fellow bloggers.

    And this conversation is also getting me to think how the teaching of commenting has changed now that the conversation has moved to other places. What’s an excellent comment on a blog is different than a good tweet.

    It’s all confusing to me but very interesting at the same time! Thank you again.

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