Getting feedback is an important part of the writing process. While you’d love the opportunity for thorough one-on-one sessions with each student for every writing assignment, that’s not possible or practical with large class sizes and time constraints. Instead, you can rely on peer editing to help your students hone their writing skills.
Check out these tips to get the most out of peer editing conferences in your classroom:
Create Appropriate Pairings
Whether you assign peer editing partners or let students choose their own, it’s important to supervise the process of pairing up. You want to match students who have similar personalities and similar writing styles. It’s helpful also to have your stronger students work with your students who need help, as they can offer encouraging support and model writing skills. Still, don’t assume your best students are immune from requiring editing. Be sure they also receive the feedback they need to make their writing even better.
Set Clear Guidelines
Students will struggle if you just pair them up and say “go for it!” Where do they start? What are they looking for? Make sure your students understand what you hope they will accomplish from the peer editing conference. Do you want them to read just for grammatical errors? Should they be offering suggestions for clarity? Let your students know up front what you expect and you’ll take away some of the anxiety they may have about editing the work of their peers.
To help students stay on task, work as a class to discuss the three steps for peer editing: compliments, suggestions, and corrections. Spend a little time modeling what you mean for each step before you being the peer editing process. As a class, brainstorm compliments and write them on the board. Then, discuss suggestions and how to make them as specific as possible. For example, you might say, “I’m not sure what you mean in the second sentence. Can you explain it to me?” Finally, work as a class to understand how to make corrections. Talk about spelling errors, grammar, punctuation errors, and so on.
Practice Constructive Criticism
No one likes to be criticized, but thoughtful feedback will help your students improve their writing and is an important part of a peer editing conference. Talk with your students about the importance of constructive criticism. Emphasize that suggestions made by the peer editor should focus on the student’s work—not the student himself—and that the editor should treat his peer and his writing the way he’d like to be treated in return. Stress the importance of avoiding put-downs. Even the weakest piece of writing has some merit. Encourage students to find the positive things and point them out first before discussing the problem areas.
Peer editing doesn’t have to be boring. Try these creative ideas that are certain to get your students excited about the editing process. From using highlighters to creating “writing wheels” with checklists of the editing process, these tools will help students stay on track.