Learning About Blogs FOR your Students: Part VII – Quality

This is Part VII in the series “Stepping it Up: Learning About Blogs FOR your Students

Reading, responding, assessing and monitoring our students’ progress on their blog requires pedagogical commitment. It is a commitment to student learning and quality work, not a commitment to using a specific technology platform.

My guiding questions for QUALITY blogging are:

  • How do teachers recognize different levels of quality?
  • How can assessment for student blogging look like?

The blogging rubric, developed by Kim Cofino, mentioned in Part IIB-Student Writing becomes an invaluable tool to recognize quality, assess your students and plan to support each one at their own level. I have tweaked the original rubric somewhat. Another rubric I consulted and remixed from was University of Wisconsin, as well as Steve Peha’s list of six traits of quality writing from Teaching That Makes Sense. Here is the  link to Kim’s original rubric, so you can make edits to fit your own needs.

Part of blogging is commenting, which deserves its own rubric to address individual components that contribute to the overall quality of a comment.

Andrew Churches divides his Commenting Rubric (pdf) into two parts:

  • Construction – this is how the comments is constructed, its flow, logic and language
  • Understanding/Evaluations – this is a progression from simple to complex commenting; from simple statements to reflection and critique

See a commenting rubric below that you can use to help you recognize and support quality commenting. The rubric is based on Andrew Churches Bloom’ Taxonomy Commenting Rubric (pdf) from above as well as  Kim Cofino’s rubric and University of Wisconsin’s Blogging Rubric

Take a look at the two videos below, produced by two third grade classes. Mrs. Rogo’s 3d grade class from Florida and Mrs. Yollis’ class from California discussed and shared their ideas and thoughts about quality commenting.

Quality Commenting poster created for 3rd grade

It is hard to teach/coach students in quality blogging, if the teacher does not know what quality in blogging looks like.  As mentioned in Part I- of this series, blogging is about writing, but it starts with reading. Reading other blogs (many different ones) gives us an opportunity to see, become aware, evaluate and recognize all different levels of quality in blogs. Reading other blogs and comments helps us sharpen our own skills.

Andrew Chuches uses Bloom’s Taxonomy very successfully to assess the quality of student blogs. I especially liked his Blog Journalling Rubric (pdf)  where he adds fantastic examples, demonstrating different levels of quality.

I believe that seeing and learning to recognize quality samples of student work in various areas of the rubrics (writing, voice, presentation, citation, community, commenting) is beneficial to educators, new to blogging with their students.

Let’s take a look at several examples that demonstrate different levels of quality blogging.

In the example below, you will see 4th grade students consistently (and almost exclusively) use the words “fun”, “exciting” and “amazing” as they are commenting on a blogs post that documented an author’s visit via Skype into the classroom. Some comments are incomplete, leaving the reader hanging and wondering. Students needed to elaborate further in their comments to show understanding as well as connections.

Click for a larger image

After giving students feedback on their first comments, they went back to re-submit their comments. Take a look and compare these two before-and-after examples.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Here are a few more comments left by teachers, pre-service teachers  and other adults. These comments are well intended. They surely were left to make conversation, let the blog author know that their posts are being read, acknowledged and appreciated. How would they hold up against the commenting rubric?

  • Do these comments contribute to the topic of the original blog post (Even without having seen the original blog post…) ?
  • Is there evidence of understanding of topic of original blog post?
  • Are links to relevant resources added?
  • Is there a meaningful addition (information, point of view)?
  • Is an idea or point of view well stated?
  • Is there solid evidence of content knowledge or thinking present?





What about these comments below? Where would they fall in your opinion?

Linda Yollis, winner of the 2011 Edublog Awards in the categories of Best Classroom Blog & Most Influential Blog Post left the following comment on Langwitches:

Silvia, you’ve hit the nail on the head…quality reciprocation is the key to building an audience! All the blogging relationships I’ve built with teachers, classrooms, and students have come from reciprocal commenting.

Teachers often ask me how I have connected with so many classes around the world. The answer is through consistent quality commenting. When I started, I would visit lots of blogs and leave comments. I’d try to make a connection or add relevant information to a post, and I’d always end with a question. My hope was to engage the class in a conversation. If I would get a reply from the teacher/class, I would go back. If I got no response, I’d move on to other blogs and keep trying.

Many teachers/classes not only responded in their comment section, but they would visit my class blog and connect. A comment that shows you’ve read the post and are interested in what’s happening in the classroom is much more valuable than “Our class loves your blog, please visit ours!” Of course, composing thoughtful comments takes time, but the payoff is tremendous!

One of the first teachers I connected with was Kathleen Morris (@kathleen_morris). Through reciprocal quality commenting, we’ve built a relationship that spans four classes. Students regularly comment to each other, and two families from Kathleen’s Australian class visited our class when they vacationed in Los Angeles!

I teach third grade and when my students earn their own blogs, they are excited to get that first red ClustrMap dot and a comment or two. I teach dedicated lessons about how to comment
using our class blog, so by the time students have their own blogs, they have a good understanding of composing a quality comment.

Before too long, I will hear a student complain, “No one is commenting on my blog.” My response to them is, “Hmm…well…whose blog have you been commenting on? Where did you leave your last comment?” They look a little sheepish as the light bulb goes on. In life, you have to give to get. If you want people visiting and connecting with you, you have to get out there and model what you want!

Focusing on a few blogs is a good idea. It can be overwhelming to try and keep up with too many classes. Deputy Mitchell’s (@DeputyMitchell) Quadblogging idea is a great place to begin. http://quadblogging.net/

There are so many wonderful global projects springing up. It’s tempting to join too many. I have found that if I over-schedule my class, we are not able to participate fully and that doesn’t help anyone. Budgeting your time and choosing projects that fit your schedule makes blogging and global projects more meaningful and enjoyable.

Finally, I love your idea about mentoring student bloggers. Edublog’s Student Blogging Challenge is a wonderful place to volunteer your time. Following the Twitter hashtag #comments4kids is another way to support students.

As you can see, I am passionate about educational blogging! I thank you, Silvia, for guiding and encouraging teachers to blog. It’s the best project I’ve seen in my twenty-five years in the classroom!

Please don’t just notice the length of the comment compared to the others, but take a look at writing, voice, content and presentation. Ask yourself, if:

  • this comment contributed further information on the blog’s topic (The role of reciprocation in blogging)?
  • the comment’s author added further resources?
  • the content was organized and easy to follow?
  • the author’s voice came through?

We need to be reading AND consciously reflecting on the quality of a blog post or comment to become good at recognizing and guiding our students to quality work in blogging.

Below you will find samples of blog posts. While keeping the blogging rubric in mind, how would you evaluate them? Where does the blog author need to improve?

Spelling, grammar and punctuation would be something to work on for this student (proof reading and editing). The visual formatting of the body of text could also use improvement. I am not sure if the link included in the post was supposed to cite the author’s source of information or be the image credit. Once I followed the link, I discovered that the site (and therefore I have to assume the image as well)  is under copyright. Simply adding the link to the site where the image was found is not enough.

I liked the inviting title to the blog post. It made me curious to continue reading. The post author starts out describing a personal experience. I am left with wishing for more information. A link to Wikipedia, for example, explaining the condition, would have been inviting to learn more. A visual in the public domain (free to use), grabbed from Wikipedia would have also been a nice addition. I am left with many questions for this blog author. His writing left me unsatisfied. I don’t feel that he told a “whole” story.

The blog post above is from my favorite fourth grade blogger Miriam. She was a finalist in this year’s Edublog Awards. What I love about her writing, is that I can HEAR her voice so clearly (although I have never met her personally). In the above post, she takes her readers along a car ride as she observes the autumn trees changing colors. She takes images of the trees she sees and inserts them into her blog post in order support her writing. The post is not only a narrative, but Miriam weaves information into the post as well. Miriam closes her blog post with question directed at the reader, inviting them to continue a conversation or information exchange.

Take a look at the Edublog Awards nominees as well as the Student Blogging Challenge. There are literally hundreds of links to student and classroom blogs. With the blogging and commenting rubric in hand, evaluate a few (or many) of them:

  • what do you like?
  • what components do you consider “QUALITY”
  • what could be improved?
  • how would you coach that student?
  • how would you transfer the learning opportunity to your own classroom?

Once you have unofficially “audited” several classroom and student blogs, it will give you a better idea and more confidence in recognizing and gauging quality in your own students’ blogging.

Please share:

  • your own auditing methods and successes for quality blogging with students
  • an audit of a student blog post you conducted (this could be a great next blog post to tackle!)