Parents Comments Count!

Comments are incredible motivators for student bloggers. Shame most parents and families rarely leave comments on student blogs.  Yet a thoughtful and encouraging comment from a parent can mean so much to their child.

Can you please leave a comment (or write a post) to share your thoughts and tips:

  1. What do you think are the main reason(s) why families are reluctant to leave comments on student posts?
  2. What strategies do you use to encourage families to visit student blogs?
  3. What methods have you tried to get families involved with commenting on the student blogs?

You might also like to read these comments on my personal blog on reasons why readers mightn’t leave comments on posts and tips for encouraging comments.

Thanks to Jane Smith for the comment “I would love to hear how others are getting families involved in the commenting on their child’s work” which inspired this post!

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Sue Waters

Edublogs Support Manager @suewaters on Twitter

32 Responses

  1. inkedlibrarian says:

    Hi Sue,
    I’m an elementary school librarian at an urban PreK-5 school. I started a library blog in January, and I must say I’m a bit disappointed by the low numbers of readers within my school community. I’m thrilled, on the other hand, to see I have had visitors from all around the world (Clustrmaps, I love you!). Anyway, I borrowed this idea from another teacher-blogger at my school: I post a “Question of the Week”, and I randomly choose a winner from the respondents to receive a small prize. This might be a paperback book, a set of pencils, etc. The questions are open-ended, and there is no “correct” answer. This idea has been somewhat successful. There is a core group of students who follow the blog and respond regularly, but the number of readers is growing too slowly for my liking. That being said, our school community as a whole is not very comfortable with web 2.0, so I realize I must measure my successes in baby steps.
    I’d love to hear what others have found to be successful in this area.
    Thanks for opening up this line of discussion.
    Ruth

    • Sue Waters says:

      Hi Ruth , I really love the idea of the question of the week. Can you give us some examples of the questions you ask or give us a few links to the posts so we can check out the responses?

      Are you finding the visitors from overseas are leaving comments? And is it worth considering trying to encourage them to comment so that your readers might check out information about other countries?

      • inkedlibrarian says:

        Hi again, Sue-
        Since I’m the school librarian, I try to connect the Question of the Week to literacy. Questions I’ve asked so far include:
        -What’s your favorite genre?
        –What’s your favorite picture book and why?
        -What will you be reading over spring break?
        -If you could have lunch with any author (living or dead), who would it be? Why?

        I’ve had just a couple of responses from overseas visitors, and I will try encouraging them to comment.
        Thanks

        • Sue Waters says:

          Thanks for sharing the types of questions that you ask in question of the week. Definitely helps visualise how you are doing it. Perhaps you could write a post where you talk about the overseas readers and ask them to share a few points about their country? If you let me know once you have written the post I’m happy to twitter it to my network to ask them to drop past.

  2. Nathan Toft says:

    So here’s my comment about Sue’s comments about Jane’s comment:

    We (that would be Jane and I) have been trying to increase parent involvement in the blogs for the past three years. At the start of the year we have a “Meet the Teacher Night” where we make a point of demonstrating the blog and podcasts that the students will be making.

    We also spend the start of the year collecting the parents’ email addresses. Then, whenever something significant goes up on the blog or podcast we send an email out to them. Once that initial group email list is created, this is very quick and convenient. In those emails we point out how good it feels to get a comment on the blog from home.

    Still, this hasn’t resulted in much participation. In my class there are two parents who have left a comment more than once since last September.

    We continue to do the emails (Jane is better at keeping up with that than I), even doing more personalized ones letting parents know that their children’s artwork has been posted or their voices appear on a podcast.

    I try to make a point of having something new on my classroom blog on a daily basis – even if it is just what was supposed to be written in the agenda that day. Therefore giving a reason to visit regularly…

    I guess this is one of these things that will (very) slowly grow.

    I myself have to admit it took me a good year or two to get my head around what blogs were and then take the plunge and leave a comment on sites like this. One would think that leaving a comment for your own child wouldn’t be so traumatic.

    Of course, this might just be a question of time. With the amount of things a typical parent needs to get accomplished on a school night, finding time to visit a classroom blog on a regular basis could very well be quite low in priority.

    • Sue Waters says:

      Hi Nathan, LOL I’m loosing track of which comment we are up to. I’m wondering if adding an feedburner email subscription to the blog and getting the parents to subscribe by email to the posts would be a better option.

      Definitely would save you time in terms of workload because the emails are automatically sent whenever you write a post. Although I could think of reasons why this mightn’t be the way to go. But it will deliver to them the entire post, minus any embeds and images (though).

      I’ve found prolific bloggers and twitterers even can be reluctant commenters (due to fear) – these people should be the least frightened. For parents it is an even more foreign concept. PS really love your link to the write area on the blogs.

  3. acobb7 says:

    Hi Sue,

    I have had a class blog for the last three years and I have never had a parent comment on anyone’s post or comment. I teach seventh graders 12/13 year old girls and boys, and I truly think that the last thing these kids want at this age, is to have their mom or dad read what they are writing and comment on a public space where all their friends can see. These “tween” years are the most finicky, growing up years filled with hormones, peer pressure, etc. They do not want mom or dad looking over their shoulder.

    Now, having said this, I go about getting the parents involved in another way. I also run a parent blog where I post happenings in the classroom, video, and images I find that they would find interesting, and I do get conversation. I am also sneaky. My class blog is very extensive, and I am constantly putting up video and images of the kids in class, on field trips, etc. I’ll post the page link to my blog in my parent blog for them to visit and they do. I know they are reading the class blog even though they are not commenting because they tell me so. And the kids know they are reading it too, which is fine with them as long as they don’t comment. I also embed any Voicethreads, or Vimeo video I take of the kids into my parent blog with a link back to the class blog.

    My students are conversing with others internationally, and we have had teachers from outside the U.S. (and inside) comment on our site. I also direct the parents to see this. Having a parent blog is a very powerful tool. It keeps them in the loop as to what I am doing, it initiates dialog with me, I can have fun on an adult level and it shows them why their child is blogging in the first place.

    • acobb7 says:

      I forgot to add the link to my class blog: http://writeoutloud.edublogs.org
      My parent blog is located in the password protected site of the school website.

      • Sue Waters says:

        Very good point about whether students want their parents commenting on their blogs. When I get home from traveling I will be interested in discussing it further with my kids.

        I’m sure my 10 year old would love it if he was blogging in class and I left comments whereas my 14 year old mightn’t. Might need to place bets on if I have got it right.

        I really like the idea of the parent blog. How often do you write posts on this blog? Can I ask what were the main reasons you decided to make one blog public and the other private?

        • acobb7 says:

          Hi Sue,

          Good questions! I post to the parent blog every weekend, and this way I can relate to the parents what has gone on in the classroom during the week, and what’s on tap for the next.

          As far as the public vs. private blog? I think you can agree with me that a true blog is one that is public and viewed by the world, and that was my number one criteria for a class blog, so I was never going to host my class blog on the school site. My reason for the parent blog on the private site of the school website (which is a totally new community website this year) was because I felt that I would get a better response and conversation going with the parents if they felt some measure of privacy. Also, the parents have profile pages and email access on this new site, and I thought it would be easier for them to subscribe to my blog, since they already have a presence on the site. While I certainly don’t entertain any personal discussions about their child on the blog, we do talk about things going on in the classroom. This year, I have around 42 families out of 71 subscribing to my parent blog.

        • Sue Waters says:

          I really love the idea of your parent blog and in some senses it is sort of like a newsletter but much better because it is interactive and they can connect with you more as a person. Just as you can also do the same with them.

          As you explain the features of this blog appear to be helping the whole connection. I would really love to be able to log in to see what it looks like as a parent — but understand that may not be possible. But if it is, I may help me work out how we can create a similar type feature on Edublogs.

          Thanks so much for sharing this as it provides lots of ideas. Looks like I’m going to need to write up a post on both this and the other post because I’m sure people aren’t aware of how much is being covered in these comments.

  4. Ken Allan says:

    Kia ora Sue

    I was going to write a post on writing comments on kids blogs but Joanna Young’s post on Confident Writing says so much that I would have included in that post that it would have looked like plagiarism. Check out her post and site if you haven’t already visited.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

    • Sue Waters says:

      Hi Ken, yes I’ve visited Joanna’s blog before. Question is those points she makes apply to getting blog readers to comment. Most parents don’t normally read blogs so how can we adapt some of her points to make parents more inclined to comment?

      • Ken Allan says:

        Kia ora Sue.

        I’m with you now – I just thought you wanted points that may encourage parents to make comments – doh! Em . . . Pass.

        It’s hard enough to get my colleagues who are teachers to read and comment on blogs. BUT, from my experience with parents of distance students, they tend to take a back seat when it comes to anything to do with communication on computer. There are some who are active, true, but, yep, it’s a real problem and some of these parents are half my age!

        That aside for the time being, Manaiakalani left a recent comment on one of my posts about research feedback from parents and commenting on blogs. She said that word-verification was a major barrier for parents. THIS could be one of many factors that cumulatively contribute to a problem barrier. I remember the trauma that I pushed myself through some years ago when I first started commenting on blogs.

        Word-verification AND the fact that all blogs were different, and that you had to hold your mouth in so many different ways to get it right, really got on my out-of-use-lacteal-orifices, to use a euphemism.

        Catchya

        • Sue Waters says:

          Hi Ken, isn’t that funny? You would think that if their children were studying remotely they would want to keep a closer eye on their work.

          Thanks for sharing that insight into Word Verification! Very valuable insight because it is spot on. New people get so confused with captcha words which is really annoying because we can’t afford to remove them but it is a barrier for engaging! One solution is to get the parents to log in before they go to write a comment but even that would be a barrier for some… more food for thought.

  5. Mrs. Yollis says:

    Sue,
    It is disappointing to put so much effort (students and teacher) into the posts and have very little response.

    Part of it is fear. I think people are nervous about writing. Everyone wants to appear clever…they don’t want to make spelling or grammatical errors…perhaps they are shy…

    One thing I have done with my third grade classroom blog is to collect data on the comments. I have two students who are our “Comment Collectors” and they keep track of who is commenting on a classroom chart.

    For some students, that’s a motivator. They want to be a leader in this area.

    Other students are unaware that they are on the low end of commenting, and seeing their numbers makes them try to comment more.

    When parents comment, the credit is given to the child. I think some of the kids go home and badger/encourage their parents to comment.

    Keeping track of the comments seems to have helped our numbers.
    http://yollisclassblog.blogspot.com/

    Linda Yollis

    • Sue Waters says:

      Hi Linda, I think the concept of having Comment Collectors so that students track their progress is a good idea.

      Wonder if it is worth adding an extra layer to it where extra points are awarded to those that write good comments that make you think more? To try to encourage the students that it isn’t just about writing a comment but adding value to the conversation.

      • Mrs. Yollis says:

        Sue,
        I like that idea of extra points being added based on content! Thank you.

        We regularly read new comments as part of our Language Arts time, and I will add the new point system to the mix.

        This week I added commenting as part of the grammar homework, rather than the traditional grammar worksheet. Each student had to comment on at least one post.

        I will introduce the idea that extra points will be given and ask them for ideas about how to earn them. The next day, we will examine the comments and together decide if a comment is worthy of two or more points.

        Thanks for a great idea!
        Linda

        • Sue Waters says:

          That is exciting news Linda.

          Please let me know how you go with extra points for better comments and especially if you end up creating a system for it that I can share with others.

          • Mrs. Yollis says:

            Dear Sue,

            Your idea of giving extra credit points for comments is really working with my third graders!
            Below is an excerpt from the parent letter I sent out introducing the idea:

            * * * * *
            I’m sure that you have noticed that I have started to include blog commenting as a grammar homework assignment. I feel that reading a post and composing a comment is more valuable than any grammar worksheet I could assign. I hope you support this and help monitor your child’s Internet activity. Please review a comment before your child clicks publish. Proofreading with your child strengthens his/her writing skills in an authentic way and ensures that a comment will be published.

            This week, I also have allowed students to earn EXTRA CREDIT for their comments. Here is how it works. If the assignment is to post a comment, your child gets ONE point for doing so.

            A SECOND point will be added for high-level vocabulary and content. In class we have talked about quality content…making an observation, connecting ideas together. Here is an example of a high-level comment recently published by Taylor S. in the Halloween Stories post:

            Dear Shane F.

            When Boo said, “I look cool,” I think he was acting like the ugly step sisters! I love your story so much, it’s awesome. The funny part was that Boo went to Toy R Us!

            Taylor S. :-)

            This comment demonstrates that Taylor read Shane’s story and connects his character to the evil step-sisters we’ve been reading about in our unit on Cinderella folk tales from around the world.
            * * * * *

            Each day we evaluate the comments from classmates. Students rate the comment by putting one finger up for a basic comment and two fingers up for a high-quality comment. I then call on individuals to justify why it is a worth two points. The possibility for extra credit and the ensuing discussions have greatly improved the quality of the comments from students AND parents!

            Thanks for a great idea, Sue!

            From,
            Linda

          • Sue Waters says:

            HI Linda, so you are also saying that no only has this improved the quality of the student comments but it has got the parents more actively commenting? And if they parents are commenting more how are the students taking this? Is it pleasing for them that their parents are taking time to comment?

            PS do you mind if I follow up with a post telling people how this point system has impacted on the quality of the comments?

          • Mrs. Yollis says:

            Dear Sue,

            Yes, earning extra credit points has help students understand that there are levels of commenting. They are able to recognize the difference, even though they are only in third grade.

            My students seem to love that their parents are a part of the blog. They get to read the parent comment out loud during Language Arts and get a Comment Counter point, too.

            We are out of school on June 17, so there are not that many opportunities left for commenting, but I will start the extra credit commenting program in the fall.

            Overall, I am pleased with the comments. I will say, it takes work to keep students and parents regularly coming back.

            Thanks for all your ideas and support this year!
            Linda

  6. Jane Smith says:

    Wow, it is great to have been an “inspiration” for something. I am enjoying reading all the ideas that people have left. I felt I should comment so as not to be seen as a lurker.

    I am taking note of the ideas that people are sharing. It is funny how I just assumed that when I started this blog thing that moms, dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents would be all over it. Still I am very pleased to see the communication that is going on between students in our classes, who wouldn’t necessarily talk to each other, and kids from around the world.

    When I comment I am always very concerned with spelling. It would be great if you could spell check your komments befor yu send them.

    Maybe we are just a little bit ahead of the curve. People just need time to catch up. I will still continue my emails to families. I can see by my stats when specific posts have been visited as direct links so I know that it works.

    Cheers
    Jane

    • Sue Waters says:

      Yes there has been so many excellent tips shared in the comments on both of these posts. As I said above I will probably need to write a couple of posts to bring them together as I’m sure people aren’t realising how rich these comments are.

      i think the key probably is that parents and grandparents are probably all over it but not leaving comments. Worth considering the online participation rule which is 90:9:1 to engaging parents — 90 % of people lurk reading the information but rarely participate, 9 % occasionally participate and 1 % actively participate and contribute the most. So perhaps realistically if you have a class of 30 students and assume that one parent is the main person who checks then the most likely outcome will be that only 3 parents will comment. Anything above this number will be really well done!

      Spelling in comments :) Goosegrade apparently has a plugin for WPMU that does this but we need time to install and thoroughly test. We have a few high priority things that need doing before this can be done. Feel free to remind me in a few weeks to follow up with where we are at!

  7. acobb7 says:

    Hi Again Sue,

    The blog feature on the new school site is very simplistic in its look, but I can very easily add images, video, etc. except for the fact that if I want to embed more than one YouTube video, say, like I did last week, I have to create two posts as I’m only able to embed one media at a time. One part of the community site is public information, newsletter, etc. and the password protected part allows students, faculty, and parents to connect together via a message center, photo gallery, blogs, homework pages, grades, etc. Every member of the school has his/her own profile page which links to blogs and all the other stuff. All the blogs can be subscribed to, in fact I post my homework assignments in one blog.

    The middle school kids have taken off with this site posting photos, videos, etc. on their page, and the parents I guess feel secure knowing this is password protected access.

    I would love to show you my parent blog, All about ME! (Middle English), but I am unable to. I’m happy to help you in any way though!

  8. ghoke says:

    Great questions! I look forward to hearing how others have enticed parents onto the blogs their students have created. Recently I sent out a mass e-mail through snapgrades to the parents of all my student bloggers encouraging them to read their child’s blog and make a comment. Surprisingly, only two parents seem to have actually left comments. I suppose once they reach the upper ages, parents take more of a hands off approach, but I was hoping more parents would read and respond to what their children have been working on.

    • Sue Waters says:

      Everyone has been sharing lots of great tips and insights. Commenting can be really confronting for people — in some ways more than other types of online activities. Plus for many parents they wouldn’t appreciate why it adds value. Wonder if it is worth explaining it in terms they understand?

  9. inkedlibrarian says:

    Hi Sue,
    I’m going to take you up on your offer about inviting your Twitter “crew” to stop by and post on our blog. Visit us at http://www.inkedlibrarian.edublogs.org... Thanks!

  10. Tina says:

    Hi there!

    I think that often people are not sure of HOW to post a comment! I have been on Edublogs for coming up on a year and I kept wondering…How can people comment on this? I thought there would be an easy-to-see spot (like this one here) but you actually have to click on the word “Comment” in light print over the actual post. I had no idea!

    I had a few slideshows made up on PhotoPeach and at the end of the slideshow it asks for a comment, and then adds the comment to the slideshow…I have had several responses to those…but still, not a ton.

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