Sunday, January 1, 2012

Quality Blogging and Commenting Audit Meme

Silvia Tolisano (@langwitches) challenges us in a meme to audit blogs and comments to raise awareness of quality blogging. I'm honored that both Kathleen Morris and Sheri Edwards tagged me in this meme.

Here is Silvia's meme challenge:
  1. Select a blog post or blog comment to audit (Professional or Student)
  2. Take a screenshot or copy and paste the post or comment into your blog post (be sensitive whether you want to reveal any names or references)
  3. Include or link to the rubric you use to assess the quality of post or comment
  4. Audit the post or comment by describing your train of thought regarding the level of quality you would assess your chosen post or comment
  5. Suggest how you would coach the author of audited post or comment to improve
  6. Tag (at least) three educators and challenge them to audit a post or comment
  7. Leave a comment with the link to your audit post on Langwitches

Quality blog posts

I created a few variations of checklists as guides for quality posts. The checklists are based on the work of Silvia Tolisano, Andrew Churches, Ryan Bretag, and Sue Waters.
Click here to download this as PDF.
Checklists are helpful as planning tools, self reflection prompts, and also for starting coaching conversations.

Coaching

I strongly believe in finding Wows and Wonders to provide feedback. A Wow would be something specific that is strong and working well. Based on the above checklist, I'd follow with a specific Wow for something that is checked off (and might add a few areas that should be checked off with a specific reason).

A Wonder is a statement such as, "I wonder how the post would look if (address one of the areas that was not checked off)..." I would try to focus on the one wonder that would make the most impact on the overall quality.

Crafting quality comments

Coaching conversations should also focus on crafting a quality comment. My favorite post regarding quality comments comes from Linda Yollis and her students. Her tips are what I share with students and teachers in my district.
Created on Glogster Edu. Tips learned from Linda Yollis & Class.
What if my kids still don't have the prior knowledge to start a quality comment?

Sometimes students don't have enough experience with writing or blogging to jump in and compose a quality comment, and the teacher/coach should address this.

That's just what Gina Fraher did when she realized her 3rd grade students didn't have the prior knowledge to successfully start creating quality comments.

Fraher created an assignment to help them analyze quality commenting:


She modeled her expectations with a real blog post and several comments.

After the students worked on their own for a little bit, they collaborated to share their thoughts and worked through their ideas together.

Their dialogue was amazing, filled with critical thinking. Students asked each other if the topic sentence could also be a compliment? They realized that the conclusion could also be a question. They recognized "Your blog is cool," was not a quality comment, then explained why, and how they'd improve it.

Breaking the task down and working through it together raised their awareness of quality comments, which is what this meme and post are about.

Improving quality in comments

We could use Gina's color coding from above to analyze comments, or the rubrics created by Silvia Tolisano or Andrew Churches

It's sometimes easier to assess someone else's comment than my own because I'm not as attached to it. However, I'd like to assess the comment I left on Gina Fraher's post:

Click here to see original comment; Click here to see Churches' comment rubric
I believe I left Gina a quality comment. When I use Churches' rubric, it scores high in quality. If I use Gina's or Silvia's, it will fall short in the area of starting a conversation because I don't ask a question, nor do I expect Gina to comment back on how amazing I think she is. However, if I had asked her about how she decided to raise money for their pen pals in Kenya, or the process of organizing a whole school to purchase pencils, etc. I could have started a discussion; hence, improving the quality of my comment.

Final thoughts

Blogging is such a valuable part of learning, and I hope it becomes common place in all classrooms. I believe if we focus on connecting with an authentic purpose, we could still meet all of our curricular standards and demands while practicing the joy of respecting others and embracing the love of learning!

In order for blogging to be part of classroom culture, we need to continue the discussions about coaching quality posts and comments. We also need to recognize that everyone has room to improve, and we all start somewhere.
  • How can educational blogging help students and educators regardless of age or experience?
  • How do you assess quality posts and comments?
  • How do you coach others to help them improve?
  • What else connects with you in this post?
Continuing the meme

Everyone is invited to write their own quality blog post and commenting audit meme. I would like to invite these three people, who do a fabulous job at teaching students about blogging:
I want to thank Silvia Tolisano for writing the series Learning About Blogs FOR Your Students, and for concluding with this meme!

27 comments:

  1. Dear Tracy,

    Thank you so much for continuing the meme! I am not surprised you were tagged by two people :)

    This is a great post! You've included some fabulous resources about quality commenting that will be useful for many people.

    It is interesting what you wrote about improving your comment by asking a question. I don't know about you, but I still find that a large percentage of blogs that I comment on don't regularly reply to their readers.

    Replying is something I try to always do and encourage my students to do. I know you are the same! You not only learn something when you engage in conversations with others but I feel like it is polite and will encourage readers to visit again if they know their comment is valued.

    So sometimes I wonder about asking questions if I know the blogger is unlikely to respond. Obviously this is something that I'd like to see changed in the blogosphere. It would be great if bloggers saw the value of replying to comments!

    Another thing about questions is that sometimes I have had to tell my grade twos that there comes a point when you don't keep replying over and over again and asking questions for the sake of it! I guess kids need to learn how to start, carry out and end a conversation.

    Thanks again, Tracy, for making me think further about this!

    Kath

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  2. Hi Kath,

    I have noticed that not all comments are responded to on some blogs. I usually noticed after I've spent a lot of effort working on a comment, but it was never acknowledged. So, as a result, even though the posts were incredibly strong, I just hit my bookmark tab and didn't bother to leave comments when there wasn't an open dialogue.

    I remember Sue Waters once writing about that in Here's My First Five Tips For Writing Fetter Blog Posts--What Are Yours?. Commenting amplifies what is being said, and opens opportunities for coaching, mentoring, and building community.

    I've always appreciated how you reply to all your comments. I've only been in the blogosphere for a little over a year now, and the amount I've learned from you is enormous. It's because I knew I was safe being me and asking questions. I also knew you were passionate about helping others grow, and understood everyone has a starting place. You encouraged me by responding. =)

    When a teacher has a class blog and spends time daily discussing the posts/comments, a huge amount of interest and learning goes on. You've made a great point about teaching kids that it's okay to end a conversation and how to do so. That's one of those teachable moments that happens best in context.

    Thanks again, Kath, for all you do!

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

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  3. @ Tracy,

    That is so sweet! You're right, I do like helping people, as do you, so it is great to hear such wonderful feedback.

    Teaching kids about how to start, maintain and end conversations is definitely best done in context. There are so many great concepts that can be taught in context through blogging!

    I have seen some kids transfer those 'social etiquette' or conversation skills to other aspects of their schooling and lives. That is wonderful to see!

    That's a really fabulous post by Sue Waters and it was a timely chance to revisit it.

    Speaking of Sue, I was mentioning to her just recently how great it would be to have some sort of "thanks" or "like" button for comments on Edublog blogs. You know sometimes when someone has just written a really short comment and you want to acknowledge them but you don't really need to make a comment? Anyway, she said they have looked into it. So maybe one day...

    Kath

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  4. Wow, I'm amazed at the thoughts and resources in this post! Thank you so much for all you've shared.
    A few thoughts I have after reading it- first of all, while quality commenting is definitely the goal (and I am always surprised by how many teachers and parents leave poorly modeled comments on student blogs) I don't think every, single comment must meet every criteria in the checklist. I feel there is a fine balance between inspiring quality, thoughtful responses and allowing authentic communication. For example, I have seen students leaving forced questions because they were using a guide that said they should ask a question to continue the conversation, but they didn't have a genuine question to ask.

    Also, I agree that it is frustrating to spend a lot of time composing a quality comment because you genuinely want to further discuss the ideas in a blog post and have it ignored. I am trying to teach my students that blogging is a commitment (I stop short of saying "lifestyle" cause I don't want to scare anyone :-) and if you want comments, you must leave comments for others and respond to those that are left for you. It's hard for them to respond, though, when the comments are bland and pointless.

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  5. Dear Tracy,
    I am so impressed and challenged by the information shared here and in the comments of your readers. I am working on a post for Sylvia's meme, as well, so it's a timely visit. It is an important post, and I've not taken enough time to write it yet--just thinking and researching so far.

    I have had the benefit of some awesome comments on my blog and my students' blogs--many (possibly most) of them coming from you. I try to keep the conversation going by commenting back, but you have experienced on occasion when I or my student does not acknowledge the comment. It's just another of those many tasks that I don't do perfectly.

    My comments are often all over the place too. (Like this one.) I have so much to say, so much to comment on, that it becomes more a stream of consciousness on my part. I especially do that when commenting on Flickr photos!

    I love the comments from Kath and Andrea about responding back and asking meaningful questions. It IS hard for students to know how to carry on a conversation and when to stop it. It's hard for me, in fact. For instance, I'm wondering if you will respond back to Kathleen now? And will she respond back to you here?

    You'll all figure it out, I'm sure, but I realize it's much more difficult for students. It's also difficult for students and for me to keep up with the comments I've left. I try to subscribe by email to comments so I can check back, but that doesn't always work, and I perhaps miss out on part 2 of a conversation I tried to start.

    I agree with Andrea too about the difficulty in responding back to pointless comments. My students don't get that many comments, so they appreciate them all. However, to me some of those coming from students look like shotgun comments, sprayed out over the blogosphere--heavy on the misspellings and URLs and invitations to come visit their blogs.

    I realize I'm sounding whiny with all my things that don't work. However, I love comments on my blog. I love leaving comments on others' blogs, and I love continuing a conversation on the few opportunities when it works out. My teaching, writing, professional development, and online community have exponentially changed for the better this past year, so I'll live with the challenges and shortcomings of this form of communication.

    Thanks, as always, for your blog of awesomeness!
    Denise

    P.S. I am definitely going to remember to copy this before I post it--just in case.

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  6. Dear Tracy,

    Wow! A solid post about assessing quality posts and comments! Silvia's meme has really taken off, and I'm thrilled to see so much attention being given to blogging. Hopefully we'll see more classes joining the blogosphere in 2012!

    Like you, Kathleen, and Andrea have mentioned, the commenting back is so valuable. It has proven to be a meaningful way for me to develop connections and friendships with teachers and other classes around the world.

    When I first started blogging, I commented back to everyone. It is something I believe is important and vital to the growth of an online community.

    Having said that, I must also say that I do struggle with it sometimes.

    For one, when I do all the commenting back, it feels too much like it is my blog instead of our class blog. I've tried to encourage my students to comment back, but with limited success. Equipment has been a major obstacle. We only go to the computer lab every other week, and our classroom had two old/slow computers! Any kind of commenting was a struggle! However, we recently got five laptops, so in 2012, I'm going to be dedicating a larger block of our morning time to commenting. I'm really looking forward to this. I know Kathleen has had a lot of success with the morning rotation of blogging, and I'm excited to see what can be done!

    Second, I love blogging and have branched out in so many ways...I sometimes can't keep up! :-) Not only do I run the class blog, but I also have a class 365 Project, the Reading Round-Up!, periodic global projects, and numerous student blogs. I'm not complaining! I love each and every one of these projects! However, as I have expanded my world, I have also made an effort to be kind to myself and to be okay with the fact that I can't do everything. That acceptance has helped me. :-)

    Finally, I agree that a conversation shouldn't be forced. Sometimes there isn't a need for a reply and a *like* button would be just the ticket!

    Thanks, again, for a wonderful post. I look forward to another great year of collaboration and friendship with you!

    ~Linda Yollis
    California

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  7. @ Kath,

    Having a like button would make acknowledging the comments that don't need a response much easier. I think just saying, "Thanks for the comment," is sufficient for now, but a like button is a good idea.

    Regards,
    Tracy

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  8. Hi Andrea,

    I think you are right, not all comments need to meet all the criteria in the checklist, and your point about knowing when it should and knowing when it's okay not to is key. What I'm wondering is what's the best way to help our students understand this? Would modeling quality comments, but also discussing what comments peek our interest to continue the conversation vs. when to just say, "Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting," be the best approach?

    This reminds me a little of what I've heard Linda Yollis say about how she has her class rate the quality of the comments as a one point quality or a two point quality. I wonder if creating a flow chart with some appropriate scenarios for responses would work. For example, Linda calls a one point comment the type of comment that doesn't add much to the conversation. So, some appropriate responses would be, "Thanks for commenting," or "Thanks, I'm glad you liked my post." Two point comments are the ones that continue the conversation meaningfully. So, those would merit quality comments in response until it's time to end the conversation.

    I want to thank you for helping me think through this. I wasn't able to pinpoint what I was grappling with regarding the commenting until I started processing the comments here. So thank you!

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

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  9. Tracy
    Firstly, an excellent and informative post. Thank you for the criteria guidlines in pdf. I have saved them so easily to my ipad for further thinking and exploration.

    Also thank you for naming me in the meme, I had noted @langwitches original post and hoped it wouldn't find me! However your invitation has caused me to pause and reflect, to admit my shortcomings and lack of consistency in both posting and commenting with students.

    I saw Kathleen's comment about commenting back and she is such a role model, she certainly walks the talk. She by being, challenges me to develop my ideas and commenting further.

    I like and agree with Andrea's comment that a comment does not need to meet every criteria, if you don't have a question, then don't make one up.

    Denise's comment about the shot gun comments being sprayed on the blogosphere made me laugh in rueful agreement.

    Thank you again, your quality post inspires me with enthusisam to take up again the endeavour to promote quality posting and commenting in my class.

    Kind regards
    Kathryn

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  10. Hi Tracy,

    As always, you have given so much of yourself and your ideas in this marvelous post that shows how to guide students to quality blogging; you coach us in how to work with students. This is one of your gifts. Thank you.

    My students and I have also learned so much about blogging and commenting from Linda Yollis & Class. We also have adopted Linda Yollis's Class Quality Comment Guidelines for our checklist. As Andrea mentioned, sometimes our comments sound forced and constrained because they are using the checklist. That's why I'm glad you shared Gina Fraher's Color Coding Checklist. As you mention, students need to start somewhere; we all do. Following a model is one way to learn, and this color coding strategy is one I've used with younger students learning to write paragraphs.

    And once a writing piece is color-coded or self-assessed, then peer assess with "Wows and Wonders." I like that description; I think I will change our "compliment sandwich" strategy to include those terms. Our students and our parents practice this strategy by sharing two compliments and one improvement wish. It will now be: Share a compliment sandwich of two "Wows" and one "Wonder" during parent conferences. A written response from parents is a plus for conferences, and as Mrs Yollis says, "commenting back is so valuable--" in person, in conferences, and online.

    Writing is not easy. We need to do as you suggest by "Breaking the task down and working through it together." It will mean that sometimes our blogs and comments will be stilted and forced, but that is part of learning to break writing into the parts to work on improving them--- such as asking questions to carry on the conversation, --when it's valuable, because as Linda said, "sometimes here isn't a need for a reply." Kids need to learn that too.

    As I began to visualize all these marvelous models we'll have from Silvia Tolisano's blogging series and audit meme, I considered the voice from those who consider blogging a personal venture.

    I wonder if we need to add one more strategy to blogging and writing. Our goal is better writers, and we are asking our writing to be powerful and clear for the reader. Sometimes the audience and purpose, though, in blogging is as much for the writer as it is for the reader. Peter Elbow recommends that we sometimes struggle through "messy writing." Writing just to discover the ideas. This discovery writing will be "messy writing" to discover our ideas and to gather ideas from others. I've written about it here: Blogging For Writers Includes Elbow Grease Here's a class document we call
    Elbow Grease for Discovery Drafts. I wonder if there's room for both messy and formal writing in blogging?

    Of course, we always remind students that "Internet writing is your footprint, a path back to you; prepare your path wisely."

    Thanks again for the wonderful resources I will add to my collection from you. This meme is a fantastic conversation as well as a tool for teachers and students to become better writers and bloggers in the new year, and I am so thankful for learning with you again in the new year.

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  11. @ Tracy and Linda,

    I won't keep this conversation going on and on but just one more thing...

    Like Linda, I don't like being the one to reply to comments. I want my blog to be a class blog, not a teacher blog (obviously).

    For the last couple of years, I have found that for the first month or two, Kelly and I will be the role models, replying to comments and explicitly teaching about quality commenting.

    This builds the momentum. From about two months into the school year, Kelly and I rarely, if ever, reply to a comment. The kids take over!

    But as Linda said, if we didn't have the technology, it would be more difficult and our morning rotation does work well for this.

    Like Linda, we also encourage the kids to comment/reply at home. Recognising the efforts of children who do this, encourages others to try it too.

    Anyway, I will leave it there!

    Kath

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  12. Dear Denise,

    My learning has grown exponentially as well via all of the connections with my PLN and the online world. I knew about blogs, but didn't realize that teachers used them for their own growth. I kind of thought it was just for students to connect. I also didn't know how to connect with others, or why one would leave comments for others. Now, I get it... and am improving, growing, learning more and more.

    One thing I've learned from this dialog on this post is how I can do a better job with clarity. For instance, I have never ever been disappointed with commenting on your blogs. I know that if there is a discussion, you'll continue the conversation. I also know that you'll give your students opportunities to discuss things in comments when appropriate... and that means I need to be patient because the reality of the amount of time for commenting is limited in the day.

    When I look at your blogs, I see your effort in your continuing the conversation, or at least acknowledging the comments, for the majority of the time. When I go to other blogs, even if there are dozens and dozens of comments, the person who wrote the post has a choice to respond to all, some, or none for a certain amount of time.

    For example, I've noticed that Vicki Davis responds to all of her comments on recent posts. She helps me grow by seeing how she interacts with her community of followers. But, when I'm at other blogs, there might be little to no dialogue to commenters. While other bloggers might comment only on just a few individuals. So, I wonder why? I'm curious because when new bloggers ask why they need to respond because they don't see others responding, I'd like to know what I should say.

    I personally would like to see more people like you, Linda Yollis, Kathleen Morris, Vicki Davis, etc. who do their best to build community by responding to comments. I also would like for our students to experience that so they have models for fabulous digital citizenship and learning.

    I believe it's possible, and I believe with those models, more teachers will learn about the growth than can occur exponentially for themselves and their students.

    As always, thank you, Denise, for pushing my thinking and helping me grow through our dialogue. It is a joy and honor to learn with you.

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

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  13. Dear Linda,

    Thanks so much! I love the insight you share. Access and equity will definitely help your classroom have more opportunities to allow students to respond to comments, thereby it being less of an individual blog and more of a class community blog.

    I must say, I understand when not every single comment is responded to. But, I also realize that you do your best to respond to the current post that is on your blog.

    I actually hadn't realized you only had two outdated computers in your classroom! How did you do it?! Your class was involved in so many global collaborations! Did you have an ongoing rotation schedule to allow students access when you weren't in the lab? -- This really is a great testimony to other classrooms who also struggle with having only 2 classroom computers!

    Thank you, Linda, for all I've learned from you. I can't wait to meet you in person this summer at ISTE!

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

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  14. Dear Kathryn,

    I'm so glad you decided to write a post for this meme! I'm thrilled that you used the post as a way to share goals with your class and to challenge them to quality commenting! I'm wondering if you were going to collect some of the quality comments publicly? For example, would they add examples of quality comments to a wiki, a Google Form, or as links connected to your post? I'd love to have some sort of collection in addition to the Diigo bookmarks collected by Silvia.

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

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  15. To Sheri,

    Thanks so much for your insightful comment here and sharing your post! I'm wondering what would happen if students used your Elbow Grease for Discovery Drafts to compose quality comments. Would their quality improve, sound natural, and engage the audience? Is this the next step for becoming better writers? I know it would help me, and I'll let you know when I give it a try... You are right, kids in Gina's 3rd grade needed more structure and time to work through it. Would this assignment work for her students at this point? Or is this more for older students? Or, could it initially be done through dictation (maybe a speech to text app)? -- Just brainstorming. =)

    Sheri, I love how you get my brain going! Thanks so much!

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

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  16. Thanks, Tracy, it means a lot to be called someone who "builds community" by responding to comments.

    I have had the privilege of having Vicki, Linda, and Kathleen respond to comments I've left, and so I have experienced and learned from the sense of community their comments have given me. It makes the blogosphere not an elite off-limits club, but one that welcomes newbies and helps others to join the conversation.

    Thanks again. This is an excellent conversation here.

    Denise

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  17. Tracy,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment and kind words!

    As we've all said, commenting back is about building community. Although it is a lot of work, it is well worth the effort!

    Yes, I've made it work with very little equipment. :-) Last year, I was able to occasionally get the 4th/5th laptop cart. My district also gave me some old laptops that were discarded from a local company. However, they are extremely unreliable. The have dead batteries, so they must always be plugged in. Plus they don't always connect to the Internet.

    What we lack in equipment, we make up for in enthusiasm! We pair up on computers and rotate access to them throughout the day! :-)

    Looking forward to meeting you in San Diego! :-)

    Linda Yollis

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  18. Dear Tracy,

    Thank you for tagging our class! We evaluate the comments that others leave all the time, but don't often take the time to self-assess and think critically about our own. I look forward to going back with students to evaluate some of the comments we left earlier in the year; I think it will be very valuable in our ongoing quest to become better bloggers and communicators.

    Sincerely,
    Shauna

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  19. @Kath,

    I love how your students reply to comments, and that they have had enough strong models and experience to be able to do so with your (or Kelly's) guidance. So, it's great experience for them, and a great example for others around the globe to witness. =)

    Regards,
    Tracy

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  20. Hi Shauna,

    I'm thrilled you are going to have your students reflect on the quality of their comments and to see the growth that has taken place. Is this the first year your students have been exposed to having a blog?

    Regards,
    Tracy

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  21. Hi Tracy, Yes, I think Speech to Text would lend itself well to this discovery format, if the app and the student are able to let the words just flow. I think most writing teachers allow their younger writers to have a free-writing time for ideas before they start organizing. It's an important part of learning to write and develop ideas. I think the two ideas here -- analyze to restructure quality and free-flow to develop ideas are reminders of the balance needed to create with fluidity and voice, and both require evaluation of content and process to improve. Peace, Sheri

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  22. I'm really impressed with this group of committed blogging teachers! First of all, my jaw dropped when I read that Mrs. Yollis is working with little equipment!!! We should make a PSA for teachers "What we lack in equipment, we make up for in enthusiasm!!" It is true- teachers who want to make it work will use what they have and figure it out!

    I feel that I've stumbled into a little group where people have already made connections and have been working together in meaningful ways and what I would like to do is join you! I am currently in a support/coach position working on "blog-folios" with grades 4-7 (and soon to add 3rd grade). One of the biggest challenges I face is to connect the students with that authentic audience they crave. Please let me know if any of you would like to connect student bloggers, either informally or formally (by collaborating on something, etc).

    Based on this conversation and meme, I created a wallwisher yesterday with 5th graders to brainstorm about quality comments. Here is the link: http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/qualitycomments

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  23. Andrea,

    I am so glad you found this post too! Your insight has really made an impact.

    Oh, and I'm loving the Wall Wisher! That's a great formative to see what they know. It seems like there were three areas that they addressed collectively: 1) stay on topic, 2) start a conversation, 3) use correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. I really like the visual and will use that with some of my classes. Thanks for the idea!

    I too am a coach for the district. My title is Technology Integration Specialist. The classrooms I've been working in this year have been as an introduction to blogging. I try to get them started and comfortable, then I transition myself to the background to do some shoulder to shoulder coaching.

    We love authentic audiences and collaboration. What do you have in mind?

    Regards,
    Tracy

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  24. Hi Tracy! We finally finished our post on quality commenting. Here it is!
    http://blogs.goaj.org/mrshamman/2012/01/17/commenting-check-up/

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    Replies
    1. Dear Shauna,

      I love that you had the students reflect on their comments, and I appreciate how you narrowed it down to three questions to self-reflect and promote the most growth for them. It is fabulous to see how much they've learned in just the five months of having a blog! Thank you for all you do!

      Kind regards,
      Tracy

      Delete
  25. Tracy,

    Thanks for sharing! This gives me many new idéas!

    Regards,
    Elisabet, teacher in Uppsala, Sweden
    http://elisabetsiktblogg.blogspot.se/
    http://www.v5or.blogspot.se/

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    Replies
    1. Hi Elisabet,

      You are welcome. I'm glad it helped! I liked that I was able to translate your blogs and read them.

      Regards,
      Tracy

      Delete

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