Teaching and Assessing Quality Comments

Some of you may be aware of the great series of posts on educational blogging written by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano of Langwitches. As a follow up to her series, she’s proposed a blog post or comment audit meme for educators who use blogging in their classrooms. Having been tagged by the lovely Kathleen Morris, this is my response.


Earlier this year I was involved in a project by the Innovation and Next Practise division of the DEECD on Contemporary Literacies in the Early Years. I’ve blogged a bit about it over the last few months, including some information about the activities involved.

The biggest activity that I ran throughout the project, however, was our class blog, which ran from the start of Term 3 until the end of the year.

I was teaching a prep class, which heavily impacted on how our class blog was run, and how students were involved in the process. When I started the blog – the first official classroom blog in my school – I wasn’t sure about the involvement and participation that I would get from the school, from the students or from the parents.

Suffice to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the whole process. I had a couple of families that took it on board and enjoyed having a blog that let them know what was happening each week, and encouraged their children (or was it the children encouraging the parents?) to also share the experience and to write messages jointly or independently.

I’ll admit that my initial goals were more around participation rather than extended comments on the blog – and when I consider that I was working with 5 and 6 year olds that was already setting the bar high. My expectations for students quickly increased, and the bar of higher quality comments was raised as a result as well.

That said, my students are beginning writers in their first year of primary school. And that’s important to keep in mind.


While I was the primary author of the blog posts – which primarily included information about the school week learning outcomes and upcoming events – we also jointly constructed posts as a class about significant lessons or activities that were important to my students, which was great for modelling different text types and writing for an audience.

The biggest part of the blog that students were involved in were jointly constructing comments left on our blog. I was often the ‘typer’ and as a class we would brainstorm the different things we wanted to say in response to a comment left on our blog (usually from another student in the class, or a parent).

For this we had a list of things to keep in mind when replying. This was in the form of a poster that we kept up in the classroom and included the following points:

– Address the author of the comment (eg. ‘Dear X’ or ‘To X’ or ‘@ X’).

– Thank them for leaving a comment/write a compliment.

– Answer any questions they asked.

– Ask questions for more information.

– Write who the comment is from (eg. ‘From Prep G-5’).

– Check with an adult or teacher before posting.

Letter-writing is one of the text types that we teach in Prep and forms the basis of how I demonstrated to my students to write and respond to comments – comments, after all, are really an informal (or formal, depending on your purpose) letter to another person.

We also referred to our Prep 5 Star Writing rubric (which was a very clear link for the preps between physical writing with a pencil and typing on a computer):

– Capital letters

– Full stops

– Sound out words

– Spaces between words

– Write in a straight line


1. Millicent’s comment

Screen shot 2011-12-27 at 5.33.05 PM

Modelling points:

– Used an appropriate greeting

– Began with a question specifically related to the person they’re writing to

– Attempted to use full stops and some capital letters

– Ended with a question

Mini lesson ideas:

– Revision of capital letters for names and titles, and the beginning of a new sentence

– Remembering spaces between words and the end of sentences

– Use of clear paragraphs

– Proofreading with an adult

– Overuse of :):):):):)

2. Tae’s comment

Screen shot 2011-12-27 at 5.33.44 PM

Modelling points:

– Used an appropriate greeting

– Complimented recipient

– Remembered full stops

– Signed comment

Mini lesson ideas:

– Capital letters for names and ‘I’ and at the beginning of a new sentence.

– Lots of ‘compliments’ – expand on ideas or ask questions.

– Overuse of random letters (eg. ooooooo)


In her response to the Quality Blogging and Commenting Meme, Kathleen Morris said that higher quality comments and posts do not automatically come with age.” I agree, whole-heartedly. I don’t think anyone at my school (except me) expected that students would be able to comment on a blog, or even talk about what a blog is, let alone ask to leave comments (independently) during writing times.

For the students who’ve been interested – and interest in blogging and writing comments is essential for students to be successful.

My students’ motivation for blogging increased dramatically when they started to see their friends and parents leaving comments on blog entries. Whenever I posted a new entry we’d discuss it as a class, likewise whenever there was a new comment left on our blog we’d read it as a class (or sometimes the students who left the comments would read their own comments – very exciting for 5-6 year olds). Then we’d construct responses together, which allowed for a great opportunities for whole class mini-lessons on capital letters/full stops/sounding out words/etc. We’d also discuss how to sequence ideas and/or questions.

For individual students leaving comments, feedback was mostly conducted one-on-one with a discussion about why the errors would need to be fixed, where students might go to find words they weren’t sure how to spell, etc. If their comments were written in the classroom we’d conference and fix errors on the spot.

They also learnt a lot from each other. More confident students would help their peers construct their responses. It was also two of my girls who informed the others how to make a smiley face 🙂 appear in posts.


I’m still new to blogging with students, and I may have bitten off more than I could chew by starting to blog with Prep students. That said, I feel it’s been very successful and has had enormous benefits for my students.

You are welcome to visit my 2011 classroom blog to see more examples of my students work over the last 6 months.


Anyone is welcome to write their own evaluation on blog posts of comments, and I highly recommend you visit the Langwitches Blog for more information.

I’d like to tag the following people to complete their own audit (if they choose):

Bec Spink (@MissB6_2) See Bec’s response here.

Cass Burgess (@CassBurgess)

Marie Kennedy (@marieck26)

6 thoughts on “Teaching and Assessing Quality Comments

  1. @ Stef,

    Thanks for taking on the challenge! You’re as bad as me, writing it straight away. When I have a blog comment I want to write about it, I just have to do it … now!

    I love how you have identified some modelling points and mini lessons in your examples. I wanted to do that too but I thought I would run out of space! Generally, that’s the way I approach a comment when we’re discussing it. We took about good things and things that could be done differently.

    I take my hat off to you for taking on blogging with Prep children. I have heard many, many teachers say they can’t blog with Prep or Grade One children and you have definitely proved them wrong.

    I have also heard teachers say that they can’t blog because no one else in their school does. Well, you and I have shown that it pays to be the trailblazer! Kids can’t wait for teachers to work through their excuses not to blog.

    Your children have come so far and I bet their Grade One teachers will be impressed with their writing skills!



    • @ Kath,

      No worries – it was a nice challenge to reflect on something that’s significantly impacted on my teaching.

      I loved how you had a great slideshow and arrows and comments on your examples… I guess I just found it easier to list the modelling points and mini lessons underneath each example. I found it gave my students a lot of confidence to talk about the things they did really well – to have them identify what they did well – and then go over what they need to improve on for next time.

      I think, as with all things in teaching, that if you get the students (and families) interested and engaged and excited about something, you can achieve anything with students of any age.

      I’m hoping next year will be a year of change at our school – one of the 5/6 teachers is very interested in blogging and one my preps (going into Grade 1) is hoping her teacher (a grad!) will have a class blog. And you’re right – the excuses teachers come up with now about not using blogs or technology have to be made to students, and they’re the ultimate judges.

      I’m very excited about next year – my Grade Ones are quite a good group and my students (from this year) already know about blogging and I know they’ll teach the other Ones. I think that will provide an even greater platform for structuring high quality comments (and jointly-constructed blog posts) in 2012.

      It does pay to be the one with a goal – and I’ll add another thank you to you (and Kelly) for being such fantastic examples. I’ve learnt bucket-loads from the two of you and your Grade Twos. And no one can really justify not-blogging with Early Years students anymore!



  2. Pingback: Quality Blogging and Commenting Meme | Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom

  3. Pingback: Meme- Quality Blogging and Commenting | MissSpinkOnTech

  4. Hi Stef,

    This post really got me thinking about how I am going to begin blogging with an older grade next year. I have learnt so much since beginning a blogging adventure this year and am looking forwarding to learning more next year! Here is my post- http://bit.ly/nawDYQ



  5. Pingback: Making Blogging Visible | Langwitches Blog

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