With this Guiding Question, I wanted to go ahead and lay it all out on the table. Peer Review isn't fun; kids hate doing it. If I could address their concerns from the beginning, I felt like we could move on. By giving them that platform for complaints, I thing we can acknowledge what can sometimes go wrong with the process and avoid those mistakes.
The Guiding Question asks them to list obstacles to peer review. Then, I have students turn and talk about those concerns. I intentionally don't make an anchor chart because I don't want "negative" things hanging on my wall. Instead, we have a brief discussion about what the issues with peer review are, and how we can address them.
We also talk about the benefits of peer review--how working with someone who understands the assignment as well as you do might be more beneficial than having, say, your mom read the piece. We also talk about how we improve our own writing by stepping out of it to recognize the strengths and weaknesses in someone else's writing.
It's really a year-long goal, so for now, we're just beginning to identify the weaknesses in the peer review process. As part of the Common Core Standards students are asked specifically to get guidance and support on their writing from both peers and adults, so its a skill that is applicable now and will transfer to successful social skills later in life.
So I thought that my kids certainly needed to see a peer review session modeled before they began. Before I assigned them partners, or gave them the form I plopped my copy of the "emerging" exemplar under the document camera and modeled how to peer review. I used this peer review form because it moves away from that "What is working well?" and "What does the writer need to revise?" generality. The reviewer has to identify what is working well with different signs and symbols. For example, they underline when a description is especially vivid. Then they put a star next to something that could use more description.
I do this on the document camera, and ask students for help. I might say something like, "Where is one place the writer uses a lot of description?" and then I mark it according to the peer review form. We've really spent a lot of time looking at personal narratives so far. Plus, if your district is anything like my district, these kids were writing personal narratives in Kindergarten. They are very familiar with the form, so I feel confident using this as the first piece that we peer review.
I create an extra-long Work Time with this lesson by cutting out the Wrap-Up, or reflection, at the end. I want them to have ample amounts of time to really dig into each other's work. Later my students will create a Revision Plan that will serve as their reflection, so it's not as if they'll never get to it. Here is a video of how my students did on their first peer review.
As they work, I circulate to make sure that they are actually having conversations with each other about their writing and not simply reading and underlining stuff on each other's narratives. The best feedback I've ever gotten on my work came out of a conversation, not just a form, and I'm really transparent when telling this to kids.