Motivating Student Authors: Harnessing the Power of Comments


Audience As Motivation

When I signed up for Kidblog just over a year ago, I asked myself a seemingly simple question. “Which topics would motivate a fourth grader to write for fun?” I came up with the usual things: Minecraft, sports, TV shows, movies. And yes, these topics did motivate some students to start blogging regularly, but I found that these were mainly the students who already enjoyed writing. Reaching the others took a little more time.

I soon realized that the topic didn’t matter as much as the audience they were writing for. Kidblog motivates young writers because they are no longer writing for just me; they are writing for each other, they are writing for students around the world, and they are writing (and reading!) to connect with other students who have similar interests.

The Power of Comments

This led me to another realization. I had to harness the power of the comments section. Through comments, students motivate each other to write. If they are reluctant to write a whole post, then encouraging them to make a few constructive comments on other students’ posts can go a long way toward inspiring them to write about the topic themselves. And it’s OK if their first blog posts are only motivated by receiving comments on their work, because you’ve still got them hooked. Today when I assign students a blog post on a certain topic, I usually make it a requirement that they also comment on at least three other posts. This has many positive effects: it exposes them to different styles of writing, it makes them think critically about what they are reading, and it builds relationships between students who otherwise might not interact with each other very often.

Meaningful Experiences

One of the more meaningful experiences our class has had with Kidblog was last year when a student of mine had to cut short the school year to undergo surgery on a brain tumor that had been growing since her last operation. Her classmates were worried about her and missed her, and in previous years she would have been cut off from them as she lay recovering in her hospital bed. With Kidblog it was different: When she woke up from her surgery she blogged from her hospital bed and shared her writing with the rest of the class. She shared her experiences of the hospital, her recovery, and what she’d been up to since the surgery. Within 5 minutes of the class discovering her blog post she had over twenty supportive, loving comments from her classmates saying things like; “Hang in there, we all love you,” “keep smiling, we miss you,” “come see us soon, we are thinking about you every day.” These comments, and the email I received from the student’s mother later telling me how wide her smile was when reading the comments validated and emphasized the power of Kidblog.

About the Author
Originally from England, Matthew Carrington is a fourth grade teacher at Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary in Charleston, SC. His school has been recognized across the nation as a leader in Arts Education, and he is passionate about teaching through the arts. He has a MAT in Elementary Education from the College of Charleston and at the end of his third year of teaching was chosen by the Ashley River faculty as their 2015-16 Teacher of the Year. As assistant coach of the school robotics team, he has helped plan and carry out a successful school-wide STEAM Fest (, and he also implements in-school technology trainings for parents and faculty. He was recently chosen by Charleston County to be part of the Digital Learning Cohort, a pilot program to deploy iPads in select classrooms, and is passionate about connecting with classrooms around the world using technologies such as Skype and Twitter (@TeachingSC).

One comment

  1. Rhonda Blanton

    I loved the last part of your blog and how much it helped a student who out after having major surgery. What a plus for the blog, and I’m sure it was a big part of the success for the young lady’s recovery.

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