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.
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I believe whole heartedly in the power of commenting, particularly with our young writers. As a teacher myself I am trying to do the best for my students by modelling good comments. Thank you for writing this post. It is a strong reassurance to me that I am doing the right thing. Commenting not just on children’s blogs, but on other educators blogs is a very powerful way to connect with one another. While we have never met in person, I know that I am a better teacher because of what I’ve learned from you. Karen
And I am better because of you, Karen! As for meeting…you never know.
I agree that modelling good comments is important. We do it together many times before I ask the students to do it on their own.
Comments on a student blog are such a reassurance of an audience. They are also a reassurance for adults. Thanks for your comment to me. 🙂
It’s amazing what kids can and will do when we give them an ‘authentic’ audience. Thanks so much for sharing!
Thank you for this post! When many seem to be operating out of fear regarding students developing a digital footprint by practicing with full-fledged Web 2.0 tools in a “dangerous” world, you remind us that connecting provides far more positive opportunities.
I have had students blogging for almost seven years now. In that time, we have had one negative comment (that one never made it to my student’s eyes), but we have had many, many positive ones. It’s unfortunate that the negative focus of many media outlets has created fear for many people.
Recently Kathy wrote about helping her Grade 1 students make comments of their own as they experience the Web. “With pre-readers and writers, this is a lengthy process!” she says. Learn how she does it in this post at her professional blog: