Friday, September 13, 2013

Student Commenting: A Letter to Students


I applaud the fact that you are creating and publishing your work online for the world to see. You are creative, intelligent, and fascinating people. The things you publish inspire and delight many people. I want to encourage you to continue to share, share more, and share for the rest of your lives.

I have been blogging with students for many years and I have been encouraging people to leave comments on student blog posts. I co-created the Twitter hash tag #comments4kids and started the blog. I am uniquely qualified when it comes to getting people to comment on student posts.

Young ladies and gentlemen, the world doesn't owe you a comment. Comments are hard won in the education blogoshpere. They should be coveted like a really soft blanket or a dog that is potty trained. When a person cares enough to write a good comment, you have received a very special gift. A gift of that person's time, thinking, and attempt to communicate. Do not take this lightly.

In fact, you should really consider how hard it is to write a good comment. Have you ever tried? I am not talking about a 'drive by comment' where someone writes "Good job!" or "I enjoyed your post." I am talking about a well thought comment that accepts your invitation to a conversation. (Did you know that publishing your work online is an invitation to a conversation?) No one owes you a comment, but when you receive one you do owe it to them to reply.

I encourage (beseech may be a better word here) you to go to other students' blogs and accept their invitation to the conversation. Surely you can find another student that writes about something you are interested in or knowledgeable about. Do you remember receiving your first comment? You have the unique opportunity to help another student feel that way. How powerful is that?!!!

If you are reading this letter and have never had a comment from outside of your local community, parent/teacher/classmates, then this is your opportunity to be your own advocate. When you leave a comment add your blog's url under your name. Make it easy for the others to find you and reciprocate in kind. Encourage them to continue the conversation and maybe, just maybe you might find a new friend.

Keep up the great work. I look forward to reading your posts soon!

Mr. C


  1. Yeah, you are right, it's a hard job to write a good comment, especially on a teacher's blog.
    I recollect the times when there were no comments on my blog. We (my co-author and I) were so happy to see the first ones.
    I can't say that there are many comments now. We get them from time to time. Now I use a special Thank-you-counter-button to get at least thanks for what I do))
    And students... They are so sensitive, they need appreciation of their work, no matter how good it is. They tried and it matters.

    Sorry for possible mistakes. They are also proof that I am trying.

    Thank you for the article. Inspiring.

    1. Inspiration, thanks for your comment. I am always surprised when I get comments and what others decide to comment on. I think that the most commented posts tend to be either highly controversial or very amusing.

      On my class blog I usually get comments where connections are wanting to be made. I really enjoy those and I have met and become online friends with so many others that way. The truth is I want students to create the kind of connections I have been fortunate enough to have.

  2. Hi William,

    This letter to your students in inspiring. I have not started them on their blogging adventure yet for this school year, but when I do I be be sharing this post with them.

    I have used the #comments4kids hashtag in the past and will do so again this year once we get started. Thank you for all that you do to help encourage our students to be the best bloggers they can be.

    Your Louisiana Buddy,


    1. Thanks for all you do to promote student blogging, Paula.

  3. Your letter doesn't need to be restricted to the domain of students alone. I sometimes wish for more comments and feedback on my personal blog. You are right, no one owes me a comment. That fact doesn't keep me from wanting a conversation.

    I committed to having my physics students learn reflective writing this year. My plan is to progress from only me reading their reflections to class participation then open participation online.

    As I read 80 reflections last weekend and tried to respond thoughtfully to each one I learned two things:

    First, reading and responding to others isn't quick and easy. As you said it is a gift of time and thinking.

    Second, I learned more about my students from reading their reflections than I ever thought I would. I hope they are learning about themselves.

    I think student blogging and commenting is a worthwhile effort. I plan to continue to do it in may class. Hopefully, we will learn how to do it well together.

    1. 80 reflections with comments. That is a real commitment! I agree, I find that I learn a lot about my students through their writing as well. That is a real bonus because I know that as they write they learn a lot about themselves as well.

      Thanks for the great comment.

  4. Hello,
    My name is Raven Williams and I am a current student at the University of North Alabama. I found your post very interesting because we are learning about commenting in my EDM 310 class. As a new blogger I completely understand how important comments are. I am still learning how to better my commenting skills. I really enjoyed reading your post!

    1. If you want to learn how to comment better, I suggest you look at my site. There are a lot of great resources there for you to learn from. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Great letter, I'm planning on sharing it with my students as we begin discussing how to write proper comments on others blog pages and posts. The aspect of blogging that you chose to address in this post is very relevant in today's online environment. Some call it the "like" phenomenon- its easier to like a post or photo than to write a meaningful comment that adds value to the idea or thread. Hopefully it is teachers like yourself who challenge students to think deeply about what they read and delve into the conversation that ensures. I really liked how you mentioned that blogging is an invitation into conversation! That is what sets blogging apart from traditional writing assignments and the connection and flow of ideas must be nurtured for students to fully experience this wonderful activity.

    1. I agree, the like or the retweet are almost a Kilroy was Here tag. No thought, no responsibility, just proof that we passed through. Honestly, I would prefer that nobody reads one of my posts than just leave a token they passed by.

    2. I think retweets are qualitatively different than likes. Retweets expose the link to a larger audience. I want my ideas entered into the conversation. More people reading those ideas helps towards that. Comments are another form of success.

    3. Likes also expose the links to a larger audience, of course they get ignored because there are so many of them (not unlike most rt's). Comments extend the conversation. It is the difference between eavesdropping and butting in. :)

    4. I get a warm fuzzy feeling everytime I get a comment on my blog. This despite the fact that the comments are all coming from either my brother or a colleague.

      I think fundamentally I don't consider a blog comment the reason to have a blog. It's certainly not in most students cases the reason they're writing a blog (that reason is because their teacher is making them).

      Clearly my blog isn't sparking conversation like you are. But that also doesn't mean I feel my blog is a failure. I write (something, incidentally, which I have to do a lot but feel don't enjoy), to spread my ideas. If a like (which is rightly increasingly being recognized as a constitutionally protected form of free speech) spreads my idea, great. A retweet? That spreads my idea even better I think.

      I'm grateful for each person that is choosing to further my idea. I'm particularly grateful for any who choose to engage me in it, but I'm still pretty darn grateful for those who spread it or even for those who just consider it by reading what I've written.

    5. I'm not saying the reason to write is to have a conversation, I just think that what makes the blog different than other mediums is that opportunity. I advocate writing as a way to clarify thoughts and to reflect. There is no reason why a blog can't be that, it just, in my opinion, isn't living up to the full potential of the medium if no conversations come from it.

  6. Hello Mr. C!

    I am currently a student at the University of South Alabama. I would have to completely agree with you that writing a good comment can be difficult. I'm sure most of us has had those that pass through and just leave the typical "Great Job!" comment. From what I've seen, many people put a lot of thought and effort into their blogs and mostly everyone wants the same effort put into the comment that is left.

    I can tell you put a lot of thought and effort into your blog. You brought up a great and realistic point for bloggers all around. I look forward to reading your future posts and I would love to look into pointers from you when I finally become a teacher myself! :)

    -Stephanie Aldridge