Overcoming Common Struggles with the Comments Section

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About 5 years into my teaching career, I was fed up with lugging student reader’s response notebooks home every day, fighting to try and stay on top of responding to each letter. The whole thing seemed archaic to me. I just knew there had to be a better way.

Turns out there was—blogging. It made perfect sense. I could respond quickly from pretty much anywhere. And not only that, students could comment on their peers’ blogs too. It was the perfect solution.

Except that whole “students commenting on other students’ blogs” thing. In theory, it was great, but the comments section quickly turned into a nightmare. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. It just turned out that I had to spend more time working on the commenting process than I initially thought. If only someone had alerted me beforehand.

Here are the three main problems I ran into with the comment section, and how I was able to overcome them to create better commenters.

1. Student comments weren’t meaningful.

In the beginning, you couldn’t usually tell if the commenter actually read the post. I’m sure most of the “Great Job!” comments were well-meaning, but the fact is that they did nothing whatsoever to add to the discussion.

In order to combat this, I set the expectation that any comment left had to abide by one or more of the following standards:

 It must specifically mention a part of the post. If they want to say great job, then they need to be specific about what exactly they like and why.

 It must ask the blogger a question. What’s the best way to get a conversation going? Ask questions. It works in real life and in the blogosphere.

 It must make a connection with something from the post. This goes back to my training as a reading teacher. Making meaningful connections requires critical thinking.

Here’s a useful post for more information on meaningful comments.

2. The comments were unreadable.

While I gave my students detailed outlines to follow when blogging, and their blog dashboards had spell check, the comments were a bit more of the Wild West. There was no spell check, and no 3 tiered outline.

The result? Students treated the comments like they were texting. LOLs and OMGs were overly peppered between misspelled words and an overall lack of punctuation. It was a hard one to break, and was never quite perfect, but I definitely was able to make some progress in this area. How?

Model, model, model—but sometimes modeling without pointing things out wouldn’t work. So I would have mini-lessons where I’d post comments with specific problems, discuss, and model the correct way to do things.

3. My high achievers wanted to play teacher.

Of course, for all the misspelling and incorrect punctuation going on, I had the group of high achievers and gifted students who felt it their call in life to rid the blogging world of such atrocities (and some of my gifted students already had trouble with their peer relationships). The result? Rude comments that made things fun for no one.

What kid will want to blog if they know someone is going to pick apart what they’re saying and point out all the mistakes. Luckily, this was an easy one to fix. First, I set the expectation with the whole class that comments were to be positive.

Then I pulled a small group of the students who were my “blog police” and discussed the issue. Most of them go it pretty quick. But we also discussed more positive ways they could comment, and how to overlook the small issues they were noticing.

Everything Your Students Need to Know to Get Started Blogging

While the comment section issues were the most surprising, that’s not to say the entire implementation of blogging didn’t test my nerves. Luckily, I learned a lot along the way, and it grew easier each year. To help, I put together a complete blogging guide for kids. I even embedded some video tutorials in the guide to show on the Smart Board. Feel free to use and share to make the process as smooth as possible.

Have a questions about blog comments? Ask below in the…yep, you guessed it…comment section!

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