Over the many years I have taught seniors in composition and/or juniors and seniors in creative writing, I have experimented with various ways to structure peer critiquing. I’ve been using the 1-on-1 writing conference and peer-critiquing since 1991, and I believe in these techniques and processes.
In fact, as my dissertation research showed, one of the most under utilized aspects of school curriculum is the peer-to-peer conference for improvements in writing. (My dissertation focused on the use of a school-wide writing/literacy center, based around the work of student writing tutors.) I, therefore, do a good deal of work with the peer-conference.
However, I have found the peer-conference to be, at times, difficult to use, especially if students are not attuned to the nuances of the process. Students often do not want to be “mean” (as they perceive) or they may even assume an indifferent stance. Many conferences are too short and of little value to the writer, frequently ending in the empty advice to “add more details” or “fix some grammar.” So, in order to make these conferences more meaningful from the beginning of the drafting process, I ask students to -- in a very deliberate way -- answer specific questions about the writing of their peers.
For the Rhetorical Analysis (as I have for other, major essays in my course) I’ve created a Google Doc grid each student uses for his/her critique of a fellow student.
First, I make sure students are sitting with a randomly assigned partner (I generally use playing cards for this). After I have distributed the playing cards (two of each number or face) then I rearrange the room so that each new pair/partnership is sitting next to one another. Then, I ask each student to (finally) login and locate his/her draft Rhetorical Analysis in Drive and share it with his/her partner.
After asking students to open the day's presentation Slide in a fresh tab, I direct students to open the linked, public copy of the critiquing grid (a Google Doc) and "make a copy" of this peer-critiquing grid I have designed for this specifc assignment. (The video associated with this "cornerstone lesson will demonstrate the "set-up" at the beginning of this lesson; also, I have attached the "grid" as a .pdf to this lesson in the resources section.)
With their various resources, arrayed in separate tabs, we are ready to begin the critiquing ...
Once each student has a copy of his/her own grid organized, then I have each student cut-n-paste his/her partner’s draft Rhetorical Analysis into box I, on the left side of the critique grid, students will provide answers to eight specific questions. They will respond in the corresponding, numbered rectangle inside box II.
I developed the eight, specific critiquing questions directly from the rubric for evaluating the final draft. (I have also added this rubric to the resources section of this lesson.)
Before they begin to answer each of the eight focus questions (correlated with the rubric), I ask that each student read his/her partner's draft, adding at least six comments with the "insert comment" feature of Google Docs. I ask them to make "lower order" comments first as they will be writing, specific "higher order" comments in the grid. I generally provide six - eight minutes for this "first pass" for grammar/style advice.
After completing the "lower order" feedback, I ask students to tab-over to their critiquing grid. fill out the "id. table" at the top, and type answers to the question sets, one set of answers per rectangle. Before they begin, I make certain there are no needed clarifications for the eight focus questions. About half-way (at maybe question #3 or #4) I ask students to share their doc with the “writer” -- that is the “critiquer” shares to the writer.
Throughout the "live" critque, I circulate in the lab, asking and answering questions. I will challenge a few students about the quality of their judgments and the thoroughness of their comments.