What’s your comment? #SOL19 30/31

A few weeks ago I read the article The Feedback Fallacy in the Harvard Business Review. (Before you click on the link you should know that you only get three free articles from HBR every month.) The article is about providing feedback in a business setting, but it seemed immediately relevant to the classroom – in fact, it even uses examples from school settings. Much of the article resonated with me, and this really stood out:

Whenever you see one of your people do something that worked for you, that rocked your world just a little, stop for a minute and highlight it. By helping your team member recognize what excellence looks like for her—by saying, “That! Yes, that!”—you’re offering her the chance to gain an insight; you’re highlighting a pattern that is already there within her so that she can recognize it, anchor it, re-create it, and refine it. That is learning.

Isn’t that just what we do in this March Slice of Life challenge? We comment on each other’s work and point out the bits and pieces that make us stop and go “yes!” I know that the heart of the challenge is writing, but, in many ways, this month is a commenting challenge, too. Last year, my first, I didn’t quite understand this. I commented on the required three a day and was proud when I commented on five or six. This year, I comment on as many as I can get to, and I aim for twenty if I can keep my eyes open long enough.

Why? Why all the comments? Well, I’ve now been blogging and commenting for one year and one month (minus one day), and one of my biggest surprises is how giving and receiving comments has changed the way I write AND the way I respond to student work. Two for one! Here are some of my observations:

Receiving comments

  • I love receiving comments. I mean, I really love it. Knowing that someone is reading what I wrote and thinking about it is incredibly powerful. It motivates me in ways I did not expect when I started.
  • I love it when people notice something that I did on purpose or notice something that really worked in my writing when I wasn’t even thinking about it.
  • I love it when people connect to my story or relate my story to their own. I love the feeling of interconnectedness comments can generate.
  • I like getting comments anytime, but in the hours after I publish something, I sort of hover around, waiting to see if anyone says something.

Commenting

  • I never tell another blogger that their grammar is wrong or that a particular area of their writing needs improvement. I would never even think about doing this.
  • I use my comments to tell bloggers what I like about the structure, details or content of what they’ve written.
  • I often use comments to connect to posts, to share my reaction or relationship to the post.
  • I typically respond to posts from that day. When it’s not the March challenge, I try to respond to posts in the first day or two.
  • Commenting makes me read and re-read. Commenting helps me recognize the wide variety of ways to be excellent.

My own writing is better because of all of this. I am able to see what is working and what people are responding to. My use of structure has improved, and I have a wider range of posts. Sometimes, I realize that something I’ve written is unclear. I’m still not great at predicting which blogs will be most read (though sometimes that’s a question of luck), but I am getting better at knowing when my posts are done. 

Commenting on blogs has also changed my responses to my students’ work, especially on quick writes and early drafts. No longer do I point out what they are doing wrong; I try to extend to them the courtesy I extend to writers here. These days, I’m much more likely to tell them what I like about their writing or how I’m responding to it personally. The result seems to be that my students are now producing a greater volume of work and some of my struggles to get them to elaborate (such a hard skill for reluctant writers) are fading away.

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I still have challenges, of course, like making sure that I provide feedback as quickly as possible, but I’m getting better at using class time to provide oral – and even written – feedback as they write. This also lets me see patterns of mistakes which I can address with mini-lessons. These seem to help more with structure and grammar than the endless corrections I used to put on their essays. It remains to be seen if I can do this with a larger class – this semester’s is mercifully small – and if it will work with more formal essays, but I suspect I will be able to pull some aspects of this forward.

Commenting every day all month is challenging, but I’m pretty sure I’m getting out of it at least as much as I put in. So… time to post this and go write some comments.

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38 thoughts on “What’s your comment? #SOL19 30/31

  1. Thank you for sharing your learning. As a fellow blogger I absolutely agree! I love when people comment-whether it is agreement, appreciation or to challenge my thinking. As we take the time to write and share and put ourselves out there, we really don’t want to be in an echo chamber. As educators we hope that we are sharing to help someone along their own learning journey and it is nice to get that affirmation. Keep writing and sharing!

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  2. I love how your own experience receiving feedback has influenced your teaching so profoundly. That is why walking the talk of a writing teacher is so important-you’ve proved that. Seeing the comments on your students’ papers makes me wish you had my son in your class! Never underestimate how important those few little words of encouragement can be for our students. Noticing, naming, appreciating the moves of our student writers can SPARK the writer inside each of them. I know it does for me. Thanks for all of your comments this month, you have been an incredibly supportive slicer!

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  3. I always feel like I leave the worst comments! But I agree with you, that the Slice of Life Challenge has made me more aware of how I respond to my students’ writing. I no longer pick it apart and point out everything they’ve done wrong and need to fix. Instead I focus on all the things they did right and nudge them gently in a direction I think, as a fellow writer, will make their writing stronger. I believe this is why writing always seems to be a joyous time in my classroom and my students write with such confidence.

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  4. This is a really great post about comments! I also hover around right after I post to see if someone comments! haha Glad I am not the only one. I will admit that sometimes the comments I receive are so amazing that I feel inadequate commenting on others’ posts. I just try to keep thinking that if I am truthful then I cannot go wrong! I will miss all the commenting next month.

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  5. This is an excellent post about why commenting is so important – for both the writer and the reader!! I read same HBR quote in an article in the Wash Post about the HBR article (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/02/20/everything-you-know-about-giving-feedback-work-could-be-wrong/?utm_term=.8510a6bfed20) and its wisdom has stayed with me for weeks. I’ve been trying to notice and accentuate what others do that is so great, whether colleagues, my grown sons, my husband…anyone. Yes! Comments – positive feedback – is life-giving. Thanks for this!! SOLSC should link folks to your post for future challenges – why we should comment.

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  6. Yes to all of this!

    I love it when people notice something that I did on purpose or notice something that really worked in my writing when I wasn’t even thinking about it.

    This made me chuckle. Just today, I was thinking about sometimes, people’s comments make me see my own writing in a new way- sometimes people see things way deeper than I ever considered when writing! I love that.

    This has also changed me as a teacher. I’ve read the research on feedback and I’ve always tried. But experiencing it myself, inspires me to give more. I love what it does to kids when I give more. They grow more.

    Thanks for sharing these reflections, sharing your writing, and all of the comments. ❤️

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  7. Thank you, Amanda, for this editorial on commenting. I have cherished your comments this month. You have an incredible talent at noticing and describing things in my own writing that surprise and delight me. I always look forward to reading your posts and comments. I can imagine how motivating your comments are to your students. What you describe is a form of appreciative inquiry that emphasizes what we do well in order to help with what doesn’t come naturally. I am so impressed by your marathon commenting after writing each day especially with such a long bedtime routine involving turkeys. I am grateful for your generous time helping me think more about my writing. I didn’t realize that you’ve been doing this consistently for such a long time. Your writing always seems to flow so naturally and easily and now I know that this is both a talent and the result of a lot of practice. Thank you for showing us how it’s done.

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    1. Appreciative inquiry – that’s exactly it! And, while *I* think a year of blogging is impressive, I look at other bloggers here & know that I am a relative neophyte. Ah, such is life. I think I have a lot more growing to do – and that’s a good thing.

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  8. Haha Love this! You made some great valid points. I agree so mich that I enjoy reading others comments, I enjoy everyone’s different writing styles amd it has changed me as a writer too. Thanks for writing this- you are spot on!

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  9. So many points here that I can relate to 110%! Particularly like the hovering and waiting with anticipation for comments! The part that I admire is that you take the work of blogging and use it to grow as a teacher, to see you kids in a new light! THAT is what it means to be a teacher writer! I look forward to reading more of you stories, your thinking, your reflection so that I can continue to learn and grow! Thanks for sharing!

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  10. I agree! And I agree again. And again. It’s sometimes hard to pick out something to say about someone’s writing, and that has made me conscious of the little snippet I post when I add my link to the main page. I want to attract people who will want to read about the topic I have written about. Commenting on blogs has helped me get better at giving compliments to my students, and that has helped me build their confidence as writers. Everything about this challenge has improved my teaching and writing!

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  11. So many great thoughts here! One gem that I will remember is to write positive (or fun) notes on student writing when I will be commenting on them tomorrow! If I want to keep on writing and grow as a writer, I need feedback. So, just like you, I love comments. They are fuel to my writing!

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  12. I love how you connected the commenting of the challenge to student writing feedback. It does certainly fuel our writing no matter if we are teacher-writers or students. You have shown how important it is to walk the talk. Now if I could just figure out to stop time when I am commenting so I can do more!

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  13. I love this perspective: “Commenting helps me recognize the wide variety of ways to be excellent.” Hearing all of the ways commenting has helped you grow as a teacher-writer has inspired me to see the challenging task of commenting through this lens, as well.

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  14. This was obviously a great and commentable post! You’ve put into words what so many are probably thinking; so enjoyed reading it (a day late but nevertheless!) Last year was my first year of slicing too and I was mostly in awe of the high calibre of those posting and their jobs and their writing, so I was also rather tentative. This year, I’ve tried to express myself more freely. And thank you for all your comments on my posts!! Wouldn’t it be great if our fingers could just twitch across the keys and reply to a 100+ a day (but that would probably turn it into a full time job)!
    And yes, it does help to comment on our own students’ work!

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    1. Glad I wasn’t the only one in awe of others last year. I kept writing once a week all year & that has helped a lot. And yes, I wish I could magically comment on dozens a day; wouldn’t that be great?

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  15. Well, one thing that’s clear as I scrolled down through the seemingly endless list of comments here is that when you give, you also receive…in the comments column. So much of this fit exactly with how I feel about comments. I, too, hover and hope that something I tried to do gets noted. (You’re very good at noting!) This also gave me something to shoot for next year. I definitely fell short in my own commenting this month, which makes me feel a bit like a selfish slicer. I have really appreciated your comments this month. They’re always encouraging and perceptive, so know that you were fueling writers who were in your “extended classroom.” Twenty comments a day?! Plus writing your own entries! Plus teaching during the day! Plus raising two boys! I hope you’re teaching them your time management secrets. I could use some help in that area. Sorry about the overuse of exclamation marks. I’m guessing that’s a sin that you have to make an effort to overlook. See you on Tuesdays…I’ll try to be reciprocating more.

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    1. This year I have scrounged some minutes out of the school day for commenting. That helped but it’s not sustainable year-round, that’s for sure! Also, I use an untenable number of exclamation marks when commenting. Inexplicable, but true. See you on Tuesdays!

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      1. I think I should have done this. I used my mornings to post and comment on some of the early birds and my evenings to write. With that routine though, I often ignored some of my favorite slicers who tended to post later in the day. Need to fix that routine.

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  16. That HBR article flowed my way, too, via Twitter, and I appreciate the connections you make from it to slice commenting to interactions with student work. Those patterns have clicked for me, too. When I’m at or near my best, I frame responses to writing in descriptive, encouraging terms versus critically evaluative ones. That said, I came across a comment today elsewhere in the slicing universe where the responder described and offered a way to deploy punctuation that the writer hadn’t. The suggestion was tastefully, tactfully delivered — as a what-if option to try, rather than a gotcha related to correctness. Perhaps one more occasion where the “Know your audience” cry applies…

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    1. I would have loved to see that comment. I’ve literally never seen that & I would love to see it done well. I still think there is a place for positive, tactful suggestions, but as a teacher I’ve become much more descriptive and less critical in my commenting. Glad you read the HBR article, too.

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  17. Amanda, you are a thoughtful writer and commenter. I marvel at your fortitude. I like that you feel you have grown as a writer based on the slice challenge. It is an amazing experience reading and commenting on thoughts from so many individuals with different writing styles. As I have said before, I am glad that we met through TWT & that are friendship continues. See you on Tuesday when we slice up another tidbit.

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  18. Your commenting has been such a blessing to me this month! You encouraged me and made me feel worth your time. Thank you so much for all your kind words and attention. You have inspired me and this post gives me a lot of food for thought. See you every Tuesday!

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  19. I’ve thought about this exact same thing, as I’ve worked with my 3rd grade writers. I’ve told the parents of my little chickadees to focus on content when reading their child’s work and not errors, leaving that job to me and their peers. But, oh, how much more powerful to point out what’s working! I love this post and how you relate your own experiences with blogging and how that changed you as a teacher. I recently showed my students some blogger comments on my writing and how specific the readers were. It’s difficult to teach 8-year olds that there’s a lot more to say than, “Good job. I like your writing.” Being able to show them, with my very own writing, was powerful (for them and me!) I’m in awe of how many posts you read, truly. I do my best to read the requisite three, but feel inspired to do more (and, I really want to, but I’m usually just getting my writing done at the 11th hour!). Mr. Caramel Eyes has asked me, “Do you write for yourself?” and I’ve answered, “Yes, Handsome,” but I’m not certain that’s true. I love the feedback, when I get it, and part of me knows that it will always be positive, as long as I’m posting here, with this community. I, too, kind of “hover” after posting. I’ve also found that he’s a really good audience for what I have to say, and I also “hover” after sending something to him to read. Thank you for being sometimes being my only reader! No pressure. 🙂

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