Revise! Engaging Peers to Improve Writing

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SWBAT strengthen writing and connection to their audience by working in groups to revise and edit their culture narratives.

Big Idea

If students build content and organization, peers can help with the polishing.

Let's get started...Self-Revision of Culture Narratives

10 minutes

Our second foray into revision begins with self-revision.  I assume it has been at least five hours since the students read their essays.  However based on experience, I am pretty sure that some students finished on the bus on the way to school.  Ideally, this reading of their essay would give them a fresh perspective. 

I have a powerpoint on revision protocols which outlines all of the revision activities for the day.  I really want to focus on peer revision(W 9-10.5).  My students are abundantly self-ware as personal writers.  They know exactly what they want to say to themselves about themselves.  The challenge is getting the students to look beyond themselves to an audience.  

So, I don't want to overemphasize self-revision at this time.  The goal is a quick review that will hopefully result in a few corrections followed by a more intense examination Peer revision of their writing by their peers.  

The lesson will return to individual revision at the closing.  

Building Knowledge: Revision Protocol Review

10 minutes

Before I unleash the students in their groups I need to review the Revision Protocols.

I use this three step process because each step allows them to interact with their essays in different ways, it gives them feedback from more than one reader, and it is student driven.  

Since we already completed the self-revision as the opening activity, I check it off the list.  The exercise seems less daunting when they realize that they have completed some of it.   

Next we review the team activities.  I ask them why each step is important.  The responses are correct spelling, check paragraphs, underline thesis etc.  It is clear from their answers that they still have a difficult time distinguishing between revision and editing.  In anticipation of this problem, I have two slides of helpful hints for revision that I give them in the next section of the lesson (W 9-10.5)

The last step is a personal reflection. I want the students to give useful feedback. I tell them that their team members have to use their feedback to improve their essay. Feedback needs to be meaningful and specific.


Applying Knowledge: Engaging in revision activities

40 minutes

Now that the students are divided into groups of three, I give them time to complete the first step of group revision: the read aloud.  The students who are listening have to paraphrase the claim/thesis of the narrative, identify supporting evidence, and note anything that either wows them or confuses them.  I give the class 10 minutes to complete the read aloud and team share. The share is verbal feedback.  It gets them talking about writing. Eventually, the team members will give what they paraphrased to the writer as part of the feedback. 

After the read aloud I draw the students attention to the smartboard.  I ask them what is the next step.  They all know that they need to pass their papers to one of their team members.  Next I ask them as revisors what are they looking for in the essay. I get responses about editing. So I show them a slide that focuses on content and organization  content and organization hints. I tell them to underline the claim/thesis.  Then they need to make sure the thesis is supportable: fact or clear subject with an opinion about the subject. Next comes supporting evidence, is it present and relevant? Does it connect to the thesis?  For organization, I ask them to if the evidence is in the best order to support the thesis?  (W.9-10.2a and b) I also suggest they check connection between the intro and the conclusion as well as the formatting (W.9-10.2e). 

I walk around the room monitoring progress and answering questions when necessary.

Approximately 15 minutes later, I again ask them to look at the smartboard.  This time I put up hints for diction and sentence structure (diction and ss hints and content and organization hints). It is time to trade papers again.  I remind them of the forbidden words, repetition of words, and the importance of using transition words (W.9-10.2c and e).  I know transitions create organization, however I tie it to sentence structure.  I want them to think about how information and sentences flow together. As their writing improves, I will include transition with organization.  

Standard W 9-10 5 focuses on writing specific purpose to a specific audience. The feedback students are getting from their peers should help them address connecting to an audience.  If their claim is clear then their purpose is clear.  Now the feedback on the quality of the evidence in their culture narrative should help students connect to their audience since their target audience just previewed their essay.



Closing: Planning improvement in Reflection Letters.

10 minutes

The final step in the revision process is for the students to read and reflect on the feedback they received from their peers.  I ask them to write me a letter about how they are going to improve their essay so that it will better connect to their audience (W.9-10.10).

Furthermore, I ask them if I am a member of their audience.  Confusing questions.  Most will say yes.  When I ask why I am a member of the audience, I will get "because you grade the essays."  

My response will go something like this,

"Wait", I say, 'Who is your audience?"

"Our peers, the students in the class..."

"I am not your peer nor am I a student in the class, so how am I part of your audience?" 

The air conditioner will groan and lips squiggle with possibility, but silence prevails. 

My response is NO--I am not a member of your target audience.  I am your evaluator.  I judge how well you communicated with your target audience. Epiphany!  Do not write an essay a please the teacher.

Now back to the letter.  I tell them I am the audience for their letter.  They need to write me a letter on how they are going to improve their essay using the critical feedback from their peers.  I don't expand beyond that information.  I want to see what they will do with it. 

The have the rest of the class to work on the letter.  If they do not finish, it is homework due at the beginning of the next class.