Peer Editing the Synthesis Essay

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SWBAT evaluate peer argument essays in terms of effective organization for building a topic, synthesis of relevant evidence, and strong command of objective language.

Big Idea

Writing doesn't have to be lonely; feedback from peers is an important part of the process.


Two Stars and a Wish: Peer Editing the Essay

70 minutes

While I think peer editing is important, I don’t know that it is that productive without a structured process—without providing some guidance, the feedback inevitably becomes “this was good.”  Students simply don’t have the experience to determine what to provide feedback about, and they are a little uncomfortable giving it anyway.  So this kind of structured peer-editing model alleviates some of these issues, and gives students some tools to work with to really help their peers.  Additionally, they can learn about their own writing, since part of the reason to do peer editing is for students to learn from each other as they read each other's work (and to give students an audience other than me!).

The “Two Stars and a Wish” model is adapted from a wonderful book on teaching poetry by Baron Wormser called A Surge of Language:  Teaching Poetry Day by Day The activity, and in fact the title itself, emphasizes the positive and makes critical feedback seem, well, less critical.  Students used this format for peer review of their rhetorical analysis essay and did a thoughtful job of providing feedback with it, so I thought I'd go to this well again in hopes of similar results.

Here are the instructions students will receive (I will write these on the board and model as I go through them):

1.  Read your partner's rough draft carefully TWICE (this continues to emphasize that close reading usually requires a second read to be done effectively).

            -while reading, pay particular attention to the following:

  • evidence--use of relevant, specific evidence to support main idea in a logical manner.  Pay particular attention to how the writer uses quotes from at least three readings we've done in the unit to help construct their own argument.
  • syntax--use of sentence structures to develop objective, fluid prose.
  • organization--how the main idea builds throughout the essay, paying particular attention to the model from the textbook (pg. 165).

2.  For EACH of the above areas, identify two passages that you would give a "star" to and one passage where you "wish" something had been written differently, added, subtracted, had different word choices, etc.

3.  Share your thoughts with your partner.  Be sure to point to SPECIFIC passages as part of your explanation. (I will give them the option to do one complete paper at a time or bounce back and forth).


As students do this, I will listen in on conversations and interject if I want to clarify something, second the “star,” or take questions.  Additionally, I can get a good sense of who put a lot of time into the draft, and who is a bit behind—the ones who go through this rapidly generally didn’t do as much, and therefore have little to talk about.  So this also gives me a chance to talk to them individually.

Next steps—students will write a second draft based on the peer review.  I will also give some general feedback—to focus on specific evidence and logical progression, as well as transitions and general clarity.  Students will hand this draft in to me tomorrow (later in the week I will meet with each student individually in class).