In the past, I have done peer editing after writing essays. I have found that while some students gave meaningful feedback, a lot of students did not know what to really edit or comment on when it came to editing a partner’s essay and often times the students did not really look over the peer edits when revising their essays. Thus, I tried Peer Editing Circles in order to give students a more intentional revision process. This is what we did:
Students walked into class with three printed hard copies of their essays. Students were then placed in groups of three. This can also work well in groups of four, but I would avoid any larger than that. If you do groups of four, students should print four hard copies of their essays.
Students then exchange papers with their group. That means that each person should have their own essay and their partners’ essays in front of them.
I have students write their name on top of all the essays in front of them, just to keep things organized. Students will focus on one essay at a time. To save time and stress, I tell them to go from youngest to oldest (you can think of numerous ways to choose the order for them).
When it is a student’s turn, they read their essay out loud as others follow along. We also set community norms prior to this because this can be a really stressful process; there must be a trusting environment for this to work. When students read out loud, they find all the silly mistakes and better understand when certain sentences are difficult to follow. They can always pause to make edits directly on their paper (and same with the partners).
I ask students to stop after each paragraph to discuss what was written. I made some discussion questions for each paragraph for them to discuss and write notes about on the essay in front of them. These questions can change depending on what type of essay they wrote or what you would like to focus on. For this particular assignment, the discussion questions (that they had a copy of) were as follows:
If you would like an editable version of these discussion questions, click here.
Now, these are all areas of writing that we have already learned and practiced–these are not new elements to writing, and I am also walking around in case students need any clarification or have any questions. Keep in mind that depending on what the assignment is, these discussion questions can be broader or even more specific. It should be catered to not only the assignment but to your students’ needs as well. The discussion questions are mainly a starting point to talk about the essay’s strengths, in addition to what edits might need to be made. After going through the whole essay and all the discussion questions, they move on to the next essay. This process takes two days (students average about 25 minutes per essay, depending on length).
While I was unsure how this activity would work out, I was blown away with the discussions students were having. I was not only impressed with the respectfulness of their conversations but the high-quality feedback they were giving each other! This gave them an opportunity to ask questions, make mistakes, collaborate, reflect on the writing process, and even better understand the text as a whole.
I do think that this activity was particularly powerful because prior to writing these essays we also co-created a rubric. We spent time really discussing what qualities make a strong essay and we have also done revision before in essay editing stations, so students had experience with what they should be looking for in the revision process.
Not only was this a great activity for students to discuss and improve their writing, but it also cuts down teacher grading time because the students are the ones catching a lot of the early mistakes or issues, while you can circulate to support.
I hope this has been useful! Please let me know if you end up implementing this in your classroom! Thanks!