The Case of the Anonymous Commenter

25 Apr

They don’t teach handwriting analysis or crime scene investigation in teachers college. Those are skills good teachers just pick up along the way.

I had to call on these superpowers last week in The Case of the Anonymous Commenter.

You see, we have a classroom tradition. At the end of a writing unit everyone displays their finished product and students wander the classroom, take a seat and read a person;s paper. When they have finished reading they make a positive comment that acknowledges a move the writer has made. After reading and commenting on one piece, they get to take two cookies.

We like to splurge when we celebrate writing.

The kids know the rules: Sign your actual name. Comment on the moves. No ‘suggestions’ or criticism.

Well, last Tuesday, we celebrated the end of our sci-fi mini unit. The room had a minty scent because I bought mint Oreos. What I really wanted to buy was alien head cookies at a bakery, but, with 600 6th graders in two classes, that was not in the budget. Minty Oreos, green like alien heads, were. In any case, students were milling around absorbed in the creativity of their peers, munching their Oreos. It was good. All too soon, it was time to wrap things up.

“When you finish the story you are reading,” I announced in my best Lt. Uhura voice, “please return to your seat and take a few minutes to look over the comments you have received. When you have finished reading the comment, staple them to you paper, turn it into the basket, and take your break. ”

I looked around the room monitoring student behavior. A quiet girl came up to me, her paper in hand.

“Someone didn’t sign their name,” she said, concern in her voice.” They just put anonymous.”

I looked at the paper. Indeed, someone had signed something other than their name, for written on the line for a name, was  “anonomous”. Interestingly, the comment was actually quite complimentary. It turned out she was not the only recipient of  an anonymous comment.

Break buzzed with the mystery of who the anonymous commenter might be. I overheard a conversation and knew which papers to start with to solve the mystery.

When the students returned from break, they got started on their Social Studies project while I got to work sleuthing. I took the stack of papers from the basket and found the ones with Anonomous’ comments. All in the same handwriting. Then, I looked through the others, paying special attention to the one belonging to the name I’d overheard at break. Sure enough, there was a match. In fact, he used some of the same words in his comments, anonymous and signed. I had him. The funny thing was, all of his comments were kind and supportive. I didn’t really understand why he hadn’t signed his name.

While the class worked, I sauntered over to his table feeling like Miss Marple must, just before cracking a case. I crouched beside the boy and simply asked, “Are you Anonymous?”

He reddened and spluttered, “Yes, but…. I….” and didn’t really know how to excuse his crime. I complimented him on his comments, reminded him that he should always sign his own name, then I slipped him a sticky note.

“By the way, ” I said, a smile on my face. “This is the correct way to spell anonymous.







7 Responses to “The Case of the Anonymous Commenter”

  1. Jane Kurtz April 25, 2017 at 5:29 am #

    What a sleuth!

  2. rosecappelli April 25, 2017 at 6:11 am #

    Great slice! I wonder what was behind his thinking? Maybe he just liked using the word “anonymous.” And I loved your approach at the end. Thanks for inviting us into your classroom today.

  3. lindabaie April 25, 2017 at 10:19 am #

    Funny, Adrienne. I do wonder what he was thinking, just fun to create a mystery!

  4. wahooteacher April 25, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

    What a great slice of your teaching life! I’m so curious about his reason for anonymity!

  5. Joanne Toft April 25, 2017 at 5:43 pm #

    Funny! I am so glad you found your mystery writer. Also loved the way you dealt with it. I do wonder if he just wanted to play with the word or was one of the stories written by someone he likes – so many wondering!!! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Brian Rozinsky April 25, 2017 at 7:34 pm #

    Elementary, my dear Adrienne! I enjoyed this peek into a writing celebration ‘splurge’ in your classes.

  7. Lisa Corbett April 26, 2017 at 4:15 pm #

    I really, really want to know why he signed “anonymous”! Kids are such interesting thinkers.

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