The ELA Teacher's Quick Guide to Meaningful Peer Feedback


Peer editing can be sooo helpful, or kind of a waste of time. In an ideal world, kids trade their writing, get great help, become better writers, and turn in a final product that is more meaningful. They learn more, and you can spend your marking time writing about their big ideas instead of explaining how to analyze a quotation for the three thousandth time. 

But without some guidance, peer editing isn't like this. Students read each other's drafts, add a period here or there, and write "good job" or "more quotes." 

That's why in this post, I'm sharing four meaningful structures you can use to help students give each other feedback that really helps. By the way, you can sign up for the pack of four free guides featured in the upcoming photos at the end of the post. 

#1 Lightning Round Feedback

Years ago I bet you sat down with friends at camp and had your counselor ask you to share one good thing and one bad thing about the day. I ask my advisees this all the time at our weekly lunches, and it's also a great tool for peer editors. This is a QUICK way to get feedback. Each student reads another's paper, then lets them know one onion (the thing to work on) and one orchid (the thing that's perfect). Have them trade at least twice, so your students get a few ideas for improvement. 


#2: Scavenger Hunt Feedback

In a scavenger hunt round of peer feedback, you've identified some specific things you want students to be looking for. Maybe the whole class is struggling with citation format, or you've got an epidemic of passive voice. Maybe it's all about paragraph structure or strengthening theses. Whatever it is, in a scavenger hunt peer editing session, you give students the issues to search for and get them started. They need to hunt for the items on your list, and give advice about them right on the paper. If you've got plenty of time, you can also have them write general comments once they've completed the scavenger hunt feedback elements.


#3: The 3 + 3

Like the lightning round, this asks students to identify specific strengths and weaknesses. Except it goes into more depth. As peer editors read, they can mark any grammatical or spelling issues they see, but their real job is to be thinking about the main ideas of the paper, and writing down strengths and weaknesses for the author to consider.


#4: The Checklist

This one is great if your writers and editors need a big helping hand. It carefully walks the editor through the important parts of the paper to consider while giving feedback. Each question has a specific step for the editor to take, and a specific way to respond.


Now, a college professor in my Facebook group shared some really helpful advice last year. He said it's important for students to know that all peer editing is not worksheet driven. That eventually it's about talking to each other about writing. So as your students progress in their abilities, and get the hang of this type of guided response, you can gradually move in the direction of conversation. By the end of the year, if you have upper level students, they might be ready to read and then talk to each other for a timed feedback period, rather than following guides like these. 

I've always remembered something my most intimidating college professor once told me in my freshmen year. I was hot off winning the English award at my high school, and practically fainted when he handed me a paper with a "C" at the top. 

"Your first draft is like a chair," he practically shouted, drawing a chicken scratch chair on his battered old whiteboard and hammering it with his expo marker. "Then you have to rip it apart and build a boat!" 

I like to share this idea with students. As they become better writers, revision becomes a far more freewheeling process. It's not about editing sentences, strengthening one point, and adding a bit of punctuation. Eventually it's about incorporating counterarguments, changing big ideas, addressing research, and coming to new mountaintops of epiphany. 

But having a little guidance along the way never hurt. Sign up below to pick up the peer editing templates pictured in this post, and help your students learn some new strategies that will make them better editors.  


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