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What are some effective ways to implement peer feedback into the writing classroom?

Expert answer

One of the strategies that we developed with Charles McArthur is a peer revising strategy. Basically, what it does is provide a structure for kids to get feedback from each other on their writing.

I’m going to share a little story with you about its development. When we first tried this strategy out, we had the idea if we could get kids to say something about each other’s writing, it might be useful, both in terms of their own writing and the other students’ writing.

We sat down with two 5th grade students. We had each of the kids write a story. And then I said to one of the kids, I’d like for you to read your story to the other kids. And when he was done reading the story, I asked the other student, a young lady, to give him some feedback on it that might be useful. The first thing out of her mouth was “it stinks”. As a result, the poor kid who wrote the story went storming out of the classroom and I went home for the evening. And so we went back the next day and I asked the young lady if she would share her story with the young man.

Beforehand, I got together with him and said I know it was tough yesterday. It was my fault that we approached it the wrong way. I said I want you to tell her three things that you like about the story. And then I’m going to ask you to take her writing piece and to look for two things: (1) to look very closely where there could be additional information that would help you understand the story, and (2) look for any place where there’s some confusion.

If there’s confusion, put a question mark. If there was more detail needed, put a caret. And then he’d come back and say, you know, can you tell me more about what you meant there? Or, I didn’t quite understand this. And it worked great. So we used that as the basic structure for the peer advising strategy. Each kid writes. They share their composition with the other kids. The rule is you always say something positive about your partner’s composition.

What I like about this strategy is that it’s flexible — you can increase or decrease the number of criteria that you want students to look at. What we found with the kids is that it not only helped the peer adviser, but we started seeing things that we were looking for pop up in the first drafts of each of the kids.

They started internalizing those criteria as their own. So that’s a strategy that can be used all the way from first grade up to 12 grade. I’s very flexible. Use one strategy only, but with adapt the criteria you incorporate.

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