Quality Blogging and Commenting Meme

If you are interested in educational blogging, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano has written an outstanding series of posts on her Langwitches Blog.

It is called Learning About Blogs FOR Your Students and covers seven areas:

Part I: Reading
Part II A: Writing
Part II B: Student Writing
Part III: Commenting
Part IV: Connecting
Part V: Reciprocating
Part VI: Consistency
Part VII: Quality

This guide is ideal for both beginners and those more advanced with blogging. Silvia really articulates my beliefs about blogging so well. I wish I had have read this series four or five years ago instead of finding out the long way that this is the best way to blog! Click here to find links to the whole guide.

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TEACHING AND ASSESSING QUALITY

In Silvia’s latest post, she is requesting more samples of blog posts and comments for teachers to practice recognizing, evaluating and assessing various levels of quality work. She invited me to take part in a meme. If you haven’t heard of a meme before, you can read more about it here on Wikipedia. It is basically just an idea that spreads from blog to blog.

Last year, I wrote a guest post for the Edublogs Teacher Challenge about how I teach quality commenting. Teacher and blogger, Linda Yollis gets full credit for mentoring and inspiring me to instil a culture of quality commenting in my class.

I tend to use a process for classroom blogging as outlined in the diagram below. I start the year by doing a lot of working on explicitly teaching quality commenting skills. From there, students become more involved in writing blogs posts until they earn the right to have their own blog. This post explains my system for earning student blogs – another idea from Linda Yollis!

Blogging progression K Morris

During 2011, I focussed more on step one and four, than two and three, however, it still demonstrates a model that I have found to be effective.

In terms of what constitutes quality, Silvia published some useful blogging rubrics on her blog. As I have been teaching seven and eight year olds, I have found the poster below more useful as a simple guideline. Next year I am teaching grade four students so I might look into adopting a rubric for these older children, some of who have blogged before.

Commenting Poster 2011

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MY EVALUATIONS

One of the biggest points I’d like to make about quality is that higher quality comments and posts do not automatically come with age. Time and I time again, I have seen my grade two students write at a more advanced level, in terms of writing conventions, than students and adults who are much older.

Quality Writing K Morris

Every day in my class we look at some blog comments and talk about things that have been done well, as well as having “on the spot” mini lessons on a range of writing conventions. This depends on what comes up in comments.

In the images below, I have have annotated some comments from students who range in age, with some mini lesson ideas and some modelling points. Generally, when evaluating student comments, I like to give both positive feedback to reinforce and constructive feedback to help students improve.

Tip: click on images if you want to make them larger.

Grade Five

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Grade Three

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Grade One

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Grade Two

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Grade Four

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Obviously, there is tact involved in creating mini lessons based on student errors. We don’t focus on the same student all the time and we don’t focus on every mistake that a certain student has made. The discussion is started in a positive way and if the comment needs a lot of work, feedback would be provided privately, rather than in a whole class lesson.

You can also find some examples of how some of my individual students have progressed with their writing over ten months, here.

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YOUR TURN

I’d like to tag three teachers/bloggers to complete their own audit:

Sue Wyatt (aka Miss W, aka @tasteach). Read Sue’s post here.

Tracy Watanabe (@tracywatanabe). Read Tracy’s post here.

Stef Galvin (@stefgalvin). Read Stef’s post here.

Anyone else is very welcome to write their own post evaluating blog posts or comments. Check out the post on the Langwitches Blog here for more information.

Bec Spink (@MissB6_2) has written her audit here and Kathryn Trask (@KathrynTrask) has completed an audit here.

Leave a comment if you have some thoughts about teaching and assessing quality writing on blogs.

Attracting Blog Comments

There is no denying that students get a lot more out of blogging when they receive comments. Comments provide feedback, encouragement, advice, positive reinforcement, learning, conversation and new ways of thinking among other things.

Kathleen Morris

2012 is the fifth year I have been blogging with my class and I have learnt that there are some tips for attracting comments to your blog.

For the first year or two of blogging we received very few comments. When I look back, I can hardly believe that I was motivated to keep going when so many posts were not commented on. Now every post on our class blog receives anywhere between 30 and 80 comments. I am glad I kept going!

Jakob Nielson wrote an interesting article about participation in online communities. While the article is now five years old, I think the key message holds truth today. To summarise, “In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.”

While I have found this to be true, I would suggest that the education community (students, parents and teachers) can be influenced a little more than the general online community. We have a vested interest in supporting children!

12 tips for attracting more comments on your class or student blogs

  • Be part of the blogging community: To put it simply, you can’t expect people to comment on your blog if you don’t ever comment on theirs. There is an active community in the educational blogosphere and you will reap the rewards if you get involved in it.
  • Finish your post with questions: Take some of the guesswork out of commenting and give readers some suggestions on what they could comment on. This is something that I have found works very well with my class blog. Make sure you include open-ended questions that appeal to a wide audience.
  • Don’t write all the answers: I may be a little guilty of this with this post but if you write an open-ended/incomplete post then people feel like they have something to contribute and will be more likely to comment. I find that if everything has already been said in a post and I feel like I don’t really have much to add, I would be less likely to comment.
  • Educate readers on how to comment: Don’t assume that all teachers/parents/students know how to leave a comment. I provide parent handouts and a video on how to comment. You might choose to have a “how to comment” page on your class blog like I have.
  • Reply to comments: I believe that it is basic blogging etiquette to reply to all/most comments. Acknowledge your readers’ comments, interact with them and they will be encouraged to comment again.
  • Be original and diverse: I encourage my students to post about not only what appeals to them but what they think might appeal to their audience. I think this is important in the development of their writing skills and of course is a good way to attract comments. Including a diverse range of posts allows you to offer something to suit everyone.
  • Publish in a timely manner: People won’t be very interested in commenting on an event that happened three weeks ago. We try to publish a post as soon as possible after a class event on the 4KM and 4KJ blog. Students and families are more likely to comment when their enthusiasm about an event is high.
  • Publicly read and praise comments: We start each school day with 20 minutes of whole-class blogging. This provides a chance for students to read out the comments they have left at home and school in the past 24 hours. We have found that there was a big increase in comments when we started doing this. Students respond well to praise and are eager to get their five minutes of fame.
  • Hold a commenting event: We have held a few special class events to stir up some new enthusiasm for commenting with great success. Some of these events included the Family Blogging Afternoon and Family Blogging Month competition.
  • Invite people to comment: Every fortnight I send out an e-newsletter to parents. I often ask them to comment on a particular post. When people are directly asked, they are sometimes more likely to commit to doing something.
  • Inform people of new posts: You need to make it easy for people to know when you have a new post. If they don’t know about your posts, they’re not going to comment. Set up an email subscription and RSS feed, and consider using Twitter to publicise posts.
  • Have a pattern to publishing: Readers get to know whether you have a blog that is updated a few times a week, a few times a month or less regularly. Personally, I’m more likely to comment on blogs with a regular pattern of posting – even if it is only updated semi-frequently. Blogs that are updated very rarely or sporadically are easy to forget about.

Remember, it takes work and ongoing effort to attract comments on your blog, however once you build up the momentum the effort decreases and the rewards increase!

What has been your experience with blog comments?

What other tips do you have for attracting blog comments?

15 Blogging Tips for Students and Teachers

This post was originally published last year as 10 Blogging Tips for Students and Teachers.

As I regularly help students and other teachers set up their blogs, I find myself giving lots of little tips that I have picked up on my own blogging journey.

My list of tips keeps expanding and I thought it was timely to republish an updated version of this post.

Many of these ideas have originally come from some of my blogging “mentors” such as Linda Yollis and Sue Waters.

Here are 10 15 Blogging Tips for Students and Teachers

1. Post frequency: Find a balance. Don’t post too often (ie. daily) otherwise you will not be able to generate much conversation through commenting and readers won’t be able to keep up. Post too infrequently (ie. monthly) and your readers might start to forget about you.

I advise my students to post no more than once or twice a week, while three times a week works well for my class blog. Decide what works for you.

2. Reply to comments: I am often disappointed by student and adult bloggers who do not reply to their comments on their own blog. I feel that it is basic blogging etiquette to reply. Acknowledge your readers’ comments, interact with them and they will be encouraged to comment again.

3. Have an “About” page: The first thing I do when I visit a new blog is look at the About page. I am always disappointed when there isn’t one! Don’t keep your readers in the dark about who you are and what you’re blogging about.

4. Theme changes: Students love playing around with different themes when they first start blogging. I encourage them to explore for a week or so but then advice them to find a good theme and stick with it. Readers may be able to identify less with your blog if it looks different every time they visit it.

5. Fun widgets: Young bloggers love widgets! In my opinion, it is advisable to limit “fun” or “novelty” widgets. Too many widgets take away from the actual content of the blog posts and can slow down loading time! I suggest my students have no more than three “fun widgets” such as virtual pets, Christmas countdowns, jokes, tips, music clips etc.

6. Add a search box: Early on in the year, I teach my students how to use the search box on blogs to find content. I find it frustrating when blogs don’t have the search box. This simple tool allows readers to find what they’re looking for and means when your posts are no longer on the front page, they won’t be lost.

7. Subscribe via email: While I also use Google Reader and Twitter to keep track of blogs I like, I love having the ability to subscribe via email to my favourite blogs. Adding this feature could bring more regular visitors to your blog.

8. Add links to blog posts and comments: Links help your visitors gain a deeper understanding of what they’re reading. Links in blog posts can also be used to acknowledge or compliment others’ work. Links in blog comments can add extra information to a conversation. If you don’t know how to add a link to a blog comment, check out Linda Yollis’ excellent blog post and quick video.

9. Visit other blogs: You can’t expect many people to read and comment on your blog if you don’t read and comment on others’ blogs. You have to be part of the blogging community to get the most out of blogging.

10. End with a question: On my class blog and this blog I like to end with a question to stimulate and direct conversation in the comment section. My Grade Two bloggers are learning how to ask “broader” questions that will appeal to more readers (eg. if a child writes a post about a holiday to Noosa, instead of simply asking “have you ever been to Noosa?” they could ask readers to leave a comment and describe a holiday they have been on etc).

11. Don’t lose your comment: All my students now know how to select all (Control A) and copy (Control C) their comment before they hit “submit”. This allows them to paste (Control V) the comment if something goes wrong when they hit the “submit” button. This happens fairly frequently with young students due to the wrong spam word being entered etc. Read My grade two student Millie’s post about this tip here.

12. Left align your writing: I used to be guilty of centering all of my text until I realised this is not easy on the eye and not what professional writers do (always good to look to the professionals for guidance when in doubt). Style guides usually suggest that centered text is best for invitations, posters, headings etc.

13. Use paragraphs and sub-headings: As a writer, you need to do as much as you can to make your post easy to read. I am likely to stop reading something that doesn’t have any paragraph breaks. The more your writing is spaced out the better. Having key words or sub heading in bold/colour can also make your post easier on the eye.

14. Don’t copy and paste from MS Word: If you’ve been blogging for a while you may have experienced the dreaded consequence of copying and pasting text from Microsoft Word into a blog post. It is a big no no! Doing this can give you bad code which can ruin the layout of your blog.

If you do want to copy and paste from Word you either need to paste the text into the HTML section of your editor or paste the text into Notepad (or the Mac equivalent) and then copy and paste that text into your post editor. If you want to read more about this, check out Sue Waters’ post here.

15. Stick with it: One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make is to give up too easily. Stick with it and reap the rewards!

Are any of these tips new ideas for you?

What other blogging tips can you think of? There must be lots more!

Getting Parents Involved in Blogging

Note: since writing this post, I have created a more detailed guide to helping parents connect with your class blog. Find it here on the Teacher Blogging Challenge site.

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One of the many benefits of having a class blog is the strengthening of home-school relationships.

A class blog can provide a virtual window into the classroom.

After having a class blog for three years, I have got the message loud and clear that parents and families love being able to keep up with the classroom events and student learning.

Something that I have pondered a lot is

How do we get parents more actively involved in the class blog?

Most of my parents have email subscriptions to the class blog and read most posts but actual comments from parents haven’t been overly frequent.

This seems to be common in the world of blogging and social networking. Apparently 90% of readers never contribute, 9% contribute a little and 1% contribute a lot (click here to read more about that research). I would say this statistic is true in regards to my class blog.

The first step to get parents commenting is education. At the start of the year I send home a detailed tutorial on how to leave a comment which you can read more about in this post. I have also made a page with video and written instructions on the class blog here. Next year, I will also demonstrate how to leave a comment at our parent information evening.

Here are two initiatives I have trialled which successfully encouraged parents and families to leave more comments on our blog.

Family Blogging Month

This idea came from Linda Yollis who provides a wealth of information on educational blogging on her wiki here. I adapted Linda’s model for my classroom and I have now repeated the concept a few times.

This idea involves declaring a certain month “Family Blogging Month” and encouraging students to get as many of their friends and family to comment on the class blog as possible. I kept a star chart to keep track of comments.

star chart

At the end of the month the child/family with the most comments receives a prize. For our May is Family Blogging Month challenge which you can read about here, almost all families joined in and we received 275 comments. We asked the local pizza restaurant to donate a voucher as a prize and the winner also got to write a guest post on our class blog.

Next time, I think I will keep a star chart for the number of different people the students invite to comment on the blog rather than the number of comments in total.

Question for Parents

Last week, I trialled another idea, inspired by Henrietta Miller. I wrote a post specifically for parents (and anyone else) to comment on. The topic was “What was school like for you?” I sent an email to all parents asking them to comment. The response has been amazing! We have had more comments on this post than we have ever had on any post. The students have been fascinated by the information in the comments and some thoughtful conversations have been developing.

question for parents

Next year, I plan to do regular “Question for Parents” posts to involve families in the blog more.

I am always on the look out for new ideas to encourage families to comment on our class blog.

What ideas do you have?

Editing Students’ Blog Comments

Recently, a teacher asked my opinion about editing students’ writing on blogs

She said

“We are having a debate in our primary school at the moment – to what extent should we correct spelling/grammar in posts or comments by students? Our principal sees the posts as a finished product which reflect on our school, while the teachers prefer to see them as a work in progress, encouraging children to write. What do you think?”


This is a question I have pondered myself a lot in regards to blog comments. I can’t help having high standards for my grade two students and I want them to always strive to produce their best work. I also want their writing to be legible. Therefore, I have put a system in place to help students achieve a high quality comment.

The students need to realise that when you’re writing for a world-wide audience, you need to make your writing as good as it can be so that what you’re communicating is clear and effective. Often the fact that the students are writing for a global audience provides the incentive they need to achieve their best work.

While I don’t insist that my students’ comments are flawless, I do insist on an editing process.

This is a run down of the system I have put in place in my classroom:

  1. The students write their blog comment using Firefox as their internet browser. Unlike Internet Explorer, Firefox automatically puts a red line under misspelt words which makes the editing process easier for young students (and older students/adults!). Explicit instruction on what to do when you see the red line is something we cover incidentally on the IWB.
  2. The students read over their writing, checking for spacing, spelling, grammar and all the other things mentioned on our commenting checklist which is displayed in the computer area. Click here to view our poster
  3. The student has a friend read over their comment and point out anything that needs to be edited.
  4. They press Control C (copy) before hitting the submit button. This means if anything goes wrong (eg. wrong anti-spam word has been entered or internet connection is lost), they won’t have lost their comment.
  5. I moderate all comments. If a child has written a comment with some small mistakes, I leave it. If a comment has so many errors that it may be considered illegible (this doesn’t happen too often due to the above editing processes), I call the child over to my computer at an appropriate time and together we edit the comment to make it legible. Teaching at the point of need is quite powerful and I usually leave the child with one goal to work on in future blog posts (eg. it might be “don’t forget to press the space bar after each word”).

These are just my opinions and I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer but I do find, when you set the bar high, you can be amazed at what your students can achieve!

Take this quick poll to share your opinion.


What are your opinions on editing students’ blog comments?