A while back I posted about comment starters…….

This made me think about…….

I wonder why…….

Your writing made me form an opinion about…….

This post is relevant because…….

Your writing made me think that we should…….

I wish I understood why…….

This is important because…….

Another thing to consider is…….

Then I posted “More Comment Starters.

I can relate to this…….

This makes me think of…….

I discovered…….

I don’t understand…….

I was reminded that…….

I found myself wondering…….

Asking good questions is so important in our classrooms. We use them to guide our discussions and push our students to a higher level of thinking. So the questioning and the discussion part is crucial when blogging. Then, the comment feature on blogs has the potential to really push those learning connections. I discussed these comment starters with my students and encouraged them to use them in the beginning of their comments. It was not required. I just encouraged them to try it out and perhaps add to the list themselves. It seemed to help the students get to deeper type thinking. I think the important thing for us to remember is that we’re fostering cooperative work and guiding the process. We teachers have to be knee-deep in this process. We can≠t just say, “Get in groups and critique each others posts or comments.” We can’t just expect our students to know just what to do. We have to model it, teach it, guide it, discuss it and most of all have fun with it. Show them the joy of language. I often share parts of my blog with my students and walk them through how I have replied to someone. I read a post and then share my thinking as I prepare to respond. I show them great examples from other blogs.

I focus on the need to be sensitive to others’ feelings and the need to place the emphasis on the writing and not each other. I give suggestions on how to word responses. We talk about it. We share good thoughts. We support each other.

I want to come up with a list here. I’m looking for another word other than guidelines because we want it more open-ended. We need give and take. I don’t want rules. Suggestions is too weak. Possiblilities, I overuse. Any thoughts?

I also encourage them to write thought-provoking questions at the end of their posts. Hopefully this will be an enticement for those reading their posts and may spur them on to commenting. Those thought-provoking questions are an art. I work at steering them away from empty phrases like “This is good.”, “I like this.” We work at being specific.

I think I’m a better writing teacher now than when I previously taught it in my classroom. I was bound within 4 walls and had been taught to work at getting a good final product. I was not a writer myself. That’s the most important part I was missing. Blogging myself shows my students that I value writing and I realize the hard work it requires. I also have learned how the larger community can be a powerful motivator. I want my students to know that feeling. The other missing piece in my writing classroom was a truly authentic audience for my students. I have found that blogs help us move away from thinking of writing as a 5 paragraph essay or a set of steps to move students through. Blogs give us an avenue to teach writing (blogging) as a cluster of complex thinking and writing behaviors that provide ownership to the student and the possibility of getting a multitude of responses from others. We have to orchestrate that. Yes, it takes time but we can truly model this process through our own blogs and provide the type of environment to support young writers and give them the challenges necessary to foster writing development. What a joy!