Many students can tell when they are really excited about or amused by or moved by a piece of writing, even another student’s writing. However, they often have difficulty noticing what makes the writing interesting or not. This lesson gives developing writers some things to look for and ways of asking questions that supports themselves and other writers in revising.
I introduce this lesson by explaining to students that before they publish their stories for a larger hallway audience and me, they need to rethink or revise their writing. We have been reviewing our writing with every new lesson but not we are going to get the help of a peer and specific things to look for.
In order to teach students how to look at a piece of writing for strong writing qualities, I show them a PowerPoint that is also interactive. I give them a handout that can be filled out as we go through the PowerPoint. The paragraph is the same for all three areas of focus but each time they read the paragraph, they are looking for something different.
The first part of peer edit shown on the PowerPoint is providing "Wows" which are basically compliments. Students should start with giving positive feedback by specifically identifying things the authors did well.
The second part is "Wonders" which are basically suggestions in the form of questions such as, "I wonder if you can provide more details in this part." By asking a question, the writer is more likely to feel comfortable reconsidering the way they wrote rather than feel bad about doing something wrong.
The final part is "changes" which is when the peer editor makes suggestions about spelling, convention, and grammar mistakes in the writing.
For each exercise, I ask them to complete it on their own and then share it with the class. I help correct any misunderstandings and encourage any strong responses.
After the PowerPoint exercise, I ask students to reread their own writing and write down areas that need revising and possibly write down questions that they may ask themselves in order to rethink how they wrote parts of their story.
Although, this lesson is about peer editing, it's important to provide students an opportunity for them to reflect on their own writing before getting feedback from their peers.
I do this so that have a chance to see changes before receiving critical feedback from peers. If they are able to acknowledge that their writing might need to be improved then they are more likely to accept ideas from their peers without being defensive.
Finally, students get a chance to work with a partner or two to receive feedback and questions. I pair students up using a partner clock, where two students have listed each other on a specific number on the clock face that I call out for that lesson’s activity. They sit together and student A reads their story out loud while the other student listens and possibly take notes. When student A is finished reading, student B shares feedback and questions. I encourage student A to take notes on what student B shares but acknowledge that that may be difficult for some students to do. Then I have students switch.
The share is a time for students to talk about the effectiveness of the lesson with the class. I ask the class if any students received feedback that helped them rethink their writing. I call on a few students to share. Some students say things like, “Emily asked me to add more details on this part of my writing because it was hard for her to picture what was going on,” or “Ben asked me if I really needed this part about getting ice cream because it had nothing to do with the main thing going on in my story.” I then remind students that peers can be very useful in helping us revise our writing and make it the best.