My class often does some group reading by reading aloud together. In the past, I have used poems that I carefully copied onto chart paper, or we have all read something from a common anthology. I still occasionally do both of those things, but these days our group reading experience is most likely to be the comments we find on our blogs.
I have a classroom blog and each of my six year old students has their own blog as well. Every few days, I log into my comment approval tool, project it on the Smartboard, and the students and I, together, read and talk about the comments we receive. This text is significant and personalized in a way that other group reading could never be. Talk about meaningful writing.
“Did I get a comment?” is a familiar question as one by one we use the sight words we know and the reading strategies we are learning to decipher what has been shared with us.
The fact that parents, other relatives and former students often comment means that the students frequently know the person who sent the comment. If the commenter is someone we have never met or even heard of, so much the better. Those comments lead to questions, perhaps to Google Earth and to a deeper understanding of the global world we live in.
All of my first graders’ eyes are glued to the Smartboard in our classroom whenever we take the time to read our blog comments. Their eyes shine as they read or hear a comment that has been written just for them. The fact that someone they care about or someone we will never meet took the time to type a message to their class or to their personal blog has a big impact on them.
I remember Nick trying to improve his writing. He had a blogging buddy who was a pre-service teacher at our local university. The blogging buddy’s connection with my class was that the buddy would comment on student work and encourage better writing. Nick’s face would alternately light up or his brow furrow as he heard the praises and suggestions read aloud. He worked hard to gain that buddy’s approval.
Comments from afar
I remember the grins of Austin and Alec as they read comments from grandparents and older siblings who lived far from us. The comments were a way of connecting from the classroom with someone they loved.
I remember comments that have encouraged my students to write and to write better. One teacher, whom I have never met, took the time to comment on the beginning blog of every child in my classroom. They all went home with shiny faces that day.
Several years ago, I received a comment on my blog from a six year old Australian student named Jarvis. He asked me to comment on his blog. I did. A few days later, he asked me to comment again. I did. When he asked the third time, I commented again, but sent a return email asking him to have his teacher contact me as perhaps we could connect our classrooms. His father emailed back to say that it was presently their summer break, and that his son was doing this on his holidays, but that he would mention my email to his son’s teacher (she was moving up with the class) when school began again.
Amanda did contact me and that led to collaboration and a friendship that has deepened over time. (We’ve even met face to face at conferences in the USA.) All because of a comment (or the desire for one) from a six year old.
Never underestimate the power of your comment. There is no such thing as “just” a comment.