One of the goals of having the students writing a blog is that they see a purpose in effectively communicating their thoughts, ideas, opinions and information. Knowing that they have an 'outside audience', besides me, motivates them when they consider topics, organization, revision and editing.
Being able to comment on each other's posts has been a positive by-product of the on-line blogging process. Seeing someone's words on the screen is a terrific reinforcement. Given that I can't provide feedback as often as I would like, enabling the students to respond to each other lessens this interesting but sometimes time-consuming task. As well, the look on their face when they log on and see the comment number has changed is wonderful.
We have spent some time on how to provide feedback when commenting. As we have already established the practice of constructive criticism in our writing circles/conferences, the students know how to look for positive (and authentic) things to say and how to ask a question that leads a writer to re-examine or clarify a point.
"I really liked the point where you..." "The part where you... worked well." "I agree with you when you say ..." " If you tried...., this would be clearer to me." "Could you tell me more about...."
So we are trying to build on that type of verbal, respectful response when we write to each other about our blog posts.
We are about to open up our site to parents who will have guest passwords. I will be sending home, and posting, about how to respond to their child, and others, in a similar manner. The kids will know the difference between a real comment and the somewhat vacuous "good job!"
Though I am sure they will appreciate all the responses!