Learn how to use authentic texts to teach writing opinion comments on social media. There is also a sample worksheet and teacher’s notes with tips for you to download.

Writing comments on social media

Social media are everywhere now and most of our students use at least one app or platform. In fact, many teachers incorporate social media into their lessons, for example, by showing students YouTube videos or TED Talks. Users’ comments are an integral part of these platforms. At the same time, they are often overlooked. We should expand our students’ engagement with the sources by teaching them how to write polite and engaging comments on the internet.

 

How to choose a suitable source

To use an authentic text for comment writing, you need to create a plausible and realistic scenario in which the student would respond to a text by commenting online. Consider the following questions:

  • Why would someone be interested in this text? (e.g., interest in the topic, relevance to their own interests, personal life or hobbies)
  • Why would the students feel the need to comment on the text? (e.g., it is of an emotional nature, it affects the lives of many people, it is a controversial topic)
  • How much support do students need to identify points to include in their comment? (e.g., do they need the main points or statements pulled from the text that they then agree or disagree with, or do you expect them to identify the points independently? Do they need specific instructions regarding the number of points?)
  • What target language do they need to write their comments? (e.g., language for stating opinions, agreeing and disagreeing, criticising, evaluating, or justifying, etc.)
  • Do they need support with the structure of the writing task? (e.g., tell them to first give their general reaction, and then support this with facts or examples)

 

How to structure your lesson

Teaching how to write opinion comments on social media can be introduced with any teaching approach, such as Task-Based learning or Presentation–Practice–Production. When introducing a text for the purpose of writing opinion comments on social media, start with engaging students with both the topic of the text and its character. This will activate students’ schemata.

Follow these steps for using authentic news articles for teaching writing opinion comments on social media:

 

Activate students’ schemata when using authentic materials

When using an authentic text, it is important to keep in mind where students might encounter it. Nowadays students are likely to see news articles on the internet or in their social media feed. Activate their knowledge about the topic of an article by having them read the title and subtitle and eliciting what they may know about it before reading. You can ask students what they think about the topic in general, or create a few quick discussion questions as a lead-in.

 

Get students engaged with authentic texts

Students read the text carefully. If they need more guidance, ask them to pick and underline a specific number of things they agree and disagree with. For engagement with authentic materials, let students express their real opinions about the text. Ask if they agree or disagree with any of the ideas. This personal response will also motivate them to process the text more carefully

Check students’ understanding of the source before writing

Students check their understanding of the main idea of the article and identify the parts in the text that they agree and disagree with.

In preparation for the writing task, you can ask students to work in pairs or small groups and briefly share and discuss the things they agreed and disagreed with in the text.

Writing comments

Ask students to first plan their post. Although it is an informal piece of writing, it should still follow a clear structure so it is easy and engaging for the reader. Students should start their post with a general response or opinion, followed by more specific points. Remind students to use handy phrases and to be polite. You can also encourage students to peer-edit their comments before sharing them more widely with other classmates.

If time allows, get students to exchange their comments, read a classmate’s comment, and then reply on the comment like they would in a real-life setting. Monitor and choose examples of good responses and ask students to share them with the rest of the class

Follow up

Students write a short message to share the article from the class with a friend on social media. They can also look for another article and comment on it.