Arguably the beauty of blogging can be found in the comments, where online conversations carry interesting potentials. When blogging with students, I’ve found it very rewarding to look at levels of quality in comment-writing, and I’ve seen great results in the form of friendlier, more thought-provoking writing, and a deeper comprehension of the blog itself as they weigh their reactionary options.
The “A+1” method is what I’ve termed an extremely simple yet effective way to look at the art of comment-writing, and I believe it’ll work with practically any audience. This method is featured in the PikiFriends curriculum, but I’ll include downloadables in this article which you can use with your preferred blogging platform (please use a safe one with learners!).
The 50-minute lesson plan below assumes that students are already members of a blog, however computers are not necessary to teach the lesson. (All lesson plans in the PikiFriends curriculum are designed to be taught with or without computers.)
Setting: Classroom of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students, 50 minutes, without computers preferred in the beginning
English level: False beginner to fluent
Age: 10 and up
Objective: To focus on writing quality blog comments.
Materials: 2 PikiFriends worksheets, PikiFriends student textbook (all necessary documents are linked below)
1 – Introduce the very simple A+1 method. Look at the top half of the page below with students (click it to enlarge/print) and go through it at an appropriate pace.
2 – Check their understanding. Hand out the page below (click it to enlarge/print) and do with students. I like to read the blog post with students to assist their understanding and have them in pairs discuss the comments. (BTW comment #5 could be considered A+1 because the emoticon is an expression meaning shock.)
3 – Try it out on paper. This is where the fun starts. The page below (click it to enlarge/print) is a template for a blog entry with four comments, and I’ve had great success with the following procedure:
1 – Hand out the paper to all students. Ask them NOT to write their names.
2 – Give students an appropriate amount of time to write their own blog post in the space provided (I give my high school ESL students 10-15 minutes, walking around to help when needed).
3 – Time’s up. Collect all papers (with no names), mix them up, and randomly hand them back to students. Make sure no one receives their own print.
4 – Quickly explain that they will have 1 minute to read the blog post and write an A+1 comment.
5 – Strictly time 1 minute. When finished, students change papers with each other and the next 1 minute interval begins. Repeat until all comment boxes are full (4 minutes total).
6 – Ask students to return papers to the original owners (“Who wrote about Lady Gaga?!?!” “Trip to Hawaii?!?”)
7 – Sit back and watch as they read the comments on their page.
8 – Ask them to rate the comments – are they A+1 comments?
This print is useful for practicing blog writing as well and can be used several times.
4 – Homework assignment. Go back to the textbook page (see step 1) and assign one or both of the bottom activities.
Conclusion: The “A+1” method works for my students because of its simplicity and the focus on building a constructive conversation. Try it with your students and I’d love to hear about it (with an A+1 comment of course).