Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Meaningful Blog Comments

Having spent the last several weeks teaching my 7th grade classes how to write a blog post and upload a legal, relevant image, I decided that this past week was the time when we'd embark on commenting. Given that these students are intimately familiar with MySpace, it was a bit surprising how much they did NOT know about online commenting (on blogs or otherwise).

Since I only see my students for 45 minutes, 9 times a quarter, I was not able to use projects or discovery type learning to teach a fantastic lesson on this topic, as I know many others are able to do. (Here are sources one & two I used to form the basis of what I taught, and another I just noticed today.) Instead, I ended up just telling them the most salient points.

These were the sections all students were to include on every comment they left:
  • First, write something positive or a compliment. Just as teachers can always find at least something positive to say about a student's writing, we should all be able to find something positive to say about a blog post.
  • Second, give a suggestion or ask a question about what they wrote. This tells the author that you are interested in what they have to say on a given topic.
  • Third, add information to what they said. This might be a related experience or information that they might not know about their topic. This way, the author's knowledge is deepened by your comment.
  • Sample comment: That's cool that you like bracelets. They're colorful and very creative. Do you make them yourself? Colors of bracelets have meanings too!
I also explained these qualifications about commenting, hoping to eliminate hostile, inappropriate exchanges:
  • Comments are NOT private communication between you and the post author. Anyone in the world can read them, LITERALLY, including parents, friends, principals, teachers, people in China, etc. (I emphasized this a lot to 13 year olds!)
  • People form opinions of you based on what you write. You want to make sure that people know you are an intelligent human being by using proper grammar, spelling, and that you double-check for silly mistakes before you submit comments. This also means no text language! You don't want someone thinking that you think the word "you" has 1 letter! Also, 17 exclamation points are unnecessary. One or two get the point across just as well.
  • You are free to disagree with blog posts, but you must do it respectfully. This means not saying "Your crazy, that idea sucks!" but intelligently stating your opinion WITH REASONS, without being rude, insulting, or hurtful. Stating an opinion without reasons makes people dismiss your comments immediately.
Throughout the week, I moderated the comments to delete the one-sentence comments (as I had told them I'd do), inappropriate things, and to generally keep tabs on the conversations. Had I discovered this comment earlier in the week, it would have been my perfect example of how NOT to comment: (I would link to it, but I deleted it!)

This post, however, has some much higher-quality comments on it. While there is still a lack of punctuation or improper grammar in some of the comments, I think it turned into a decent little group of thoughts. I would spend more time ensuring proper conventions in writing, but with 26 different classes a week, I just don't have time. If I catch them before they've posted it, I'll have them fix it. Otherwise, as long as its an intelligent comment that adds to the conversation, I'm willing to let some of those things go, momentarily. But it will be addressed every time we blog, as a reminder.

I think these guidelines should make for a good baseline for all online commenting in my classrooms throughout the year.


Mrs Coffa said...

I like your list of ideas for comments. I believe that the value of blogging is limited without good comments and it needs to be taught.


Dierdre said...

Thanks! I'm glad you like it! I hope it is useful for you-

Paijo chipit said...