The ABC of ELT

Student blogs problems: Getting the first blog comment

[part of the helping students to blog series]

One of the biggest problems facing bloggers in general (as well as running a blog for your students) is getting people to comment. Often the hardest part is just getting the first comment.

In fact, this was my problem. Despite setting tasks, regularly updating the blog to include a summary of the lesson and homework tasks. At first, these pages had lots of views and students, although not commenting or posting via the blogs they were at least making use of this record. Of course, over time these views dropped off and STILL no one was posting a comment. So I had few options.

  • Keep doing the same path.
  • Give up (it does take extra time)
  • Try something new to encourage more engagement.

Why aren’t they commenting

I choose the third as, for the reasons I mentioned previously, I think blogs are useful for students and I am sure that some students want to try it they just need to overcome some hurdles.

  1. General inertia
  2. Shyness
  3. Lack of technology know how
  4. No one else is doing it.
  5. Don’t like the idea of blogging

What can we do to change this?

In the last case then there may well be nothing that could be done and in the case of a 1-2-1 students I would certainly consider stopping using the blog. However, although the current need or desire may not be there, in the future this need or desire may arise and so having the system in place, demonstrating it, and potentially having the testimonies of the other students might be enough of a kick.

Other than that we can.

  1. Make it anonymous at first
  2. Teach students how to use the technology (via blog posts, guides, screencasts etc)
  3. Get one comment and more will flow
  4. Remind students of the blog during classes
  5. When someone does comment, reply to their comment on the blog and bring it up in class.
  6. Incentives for comments (like bribing with chocolate!)
  7. Ask students what they think about the blog, if they like it or not and why they are/aren’t using it.

I tried a mixture of these and different approaches produced different results for different students (suggest the amazing possibilities that individuals are, indeed, individuals!) but the factor that actually had the strongest effect was saying that I would give my students a chocolate if they commented on the blog. This then lead to some of my students coming up to me after class and confessing they had tried to use the site and then had problems. Because of this I could then assist them after class and help them learn to post a comment or create a post.

This won’t be true of every students, another student has decided she likes the blogs, likes the pictures of the boardwork and extra tasks I set via it, but she doesn’t want to or is unable to post comments or posts on it.

What approaches have you used to help students comment? What have you found effective? Do you have any extra ideas?



About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

2 Replies

  1. Gareth @reasons4

    Chris this is an interesting post, I have a similar problem but with teachers. I run a blog and a Facebook page for Czech Teachers and I can’t get them to comment on it although i know they visit it. 
    I often think about posting on there myself but anonymously, or asking other people to post on there so it is not just my voice. (By the way if you’d like to post this blog on our facebook page feel free. search for #czeltI also encourage them to post in their own language which although might miss the point for English Language students might make them more confident.
    Thanks for an interesting read. 

    1. Hi Gareth, Thanks for the reply to this one. It really is a struggle and has a lot to do with group mentality which I’m definitely no expert in.
      I’ve had another thought since writing it which is “Is the problem the top down organisation of it?” By that I mean: I am the teacher, I set it up, I put things up, you read. Very much a passive experience.
      If a student set it up, or the idea was co-founded then it would be inherently the opposite. I guess giving people a sense of ownership would really help.

      Oh one last point that I read recently. “We are still very use to the old forms of publishing where we read, sit back and don’t do anything. This modern idea of responding, agreeing, questioning, and even criticizing are so counter to that. It takes a lot of effort to get over 500 years of traditional publishing formats.”

      I may do a follow up (oh and as soon as I have a work facebook account, I’ll be on #czelt)

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