When teaching writing, one of my core values is that not all writing should be the classic 5-paragraph essay. I rarely write in that format, and I have a blog! While it’s a useful structure for organizing ideas, I like to expand my students’ knowledge of what’s possible (even probable) when it comes to writing. Commenting on a blog post is one such way we accomplish that goal in my 4th grade class.
Commenting on a Blog Post
A few weeks ago, right before our long Thanksgiving break, I published a post about being thankful on our Class Blog. It seemed appropriate, and given that we only had two days of classes that week, I was confident we could get it done before the holiday. I like to keep my blog posts short so students spend the majority of their time on writing.
Conversations Before Comments
While it’s tempting to rush straight to the computers and start typing a comment, success is more likely to result from a thoughtful, deliberate, even conversational approach. I don’t hesitate to invest a lot of time up front in detail-rich discussions before we ever pick up a pencil. These conversations are important, but especially so for students with language or learning impairments. Everyone benefits from taking time to activate their schema, share vocabulary and ideas.
Criteria for Success
Sharing with students what the expectations are for a comment is the next step. How will their writing be evaluated? What is the criteria for success? Whenever possible, show them both good and weak examples. Ask them to compare and contrast what they see in both sets of writing. You can either make your own samples to share, or use student work from previous years. Just be sure to cover any names so the work remains anonymous.
Students write a draft in their Writing Notebooks, followed by a quick conference with me. Since their comments are only a few sentences in length, it’s not too time consuming to do. I like to challenge students to improve their revising and editing skills at this point. So, instead of specifically pointing out an error, “Thanksgiving is a proper noun and should be capitalized,” I often just say, “You have a capitalization error.” It’s then up to the student to find the specific mistake and correct it. No one is allowed to log in and begin typing their comment until their draft is approved. (Have you seen how many errors are in the Facebook comments? Ugh! As a teacher, doesn’t that just drive you crazy?!)
The real thrill from this lesson comes after I have approved all the comments and they are available for viewing by the students in our class. (Please don’t even think about publishing comments without first approving each and every one of them!) For those students whose families have Internet access, it’s also a great way for parents and caregivers to get a sneak peek into life in Room 411.
Using Technology to Inspire Writers
This type of writing project is quick, fun and easy to do. It provides students an authentic reason for writing, while learning to use social media in a responsible manner. Writing tasks come in a wide range of formats and lengths. Use technology to inspire young writers to communicate their ideas beyond the traditional essay. Who knows? They might even click “Like” when they are done!