(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)*
After a peer-editing session, a student said, “My peer editor was kind of rude. He was too critical and told me to change my grammar in places that were not wrong. He also told me to change my thesis statement. But I think I already had a good one.”
Another students said, “My peer editor read my essay and filled out the checklist. She said she found nothing that needed to be improved. I was surprised because I think some parts were weak.”
There is a peer-editing process which can alleviate the problem of the over-critical editor and under-involved one. In this process, the peer-editor is NOT expected to find places to improve; instead the writer solicits specific advice. In other words, the writer has control.
The peer editing activity below involves critical thinking on the part of the writer. Unlike the common peer-editing format of the instructor providing questions /checklists for the peer to complete while reading their partner’s essay, in the approach described below, the writers themselves decide what advice/help they would like from their peers.
Peer-editing activity: Writer Solicites Advice
Sample essay and peer editing questions: In order to demonstrate to students how they will peer-edit with a classmate and the type of questions that they will ask, they are given a model essay with peer editing questions. (*See sample below, “Respect for Nature.”) After working with a sample, they then apply this technique to their own essays, starting with the Preparation Step.
Preparing for Peer Editor: After students have written their essays, they identify specific parts of it in which they’d like a peer’s advice. These could be about the grammar in some sentences, clarity of an example, a need to add details etc. On a separate piece of paper, they write questions about these parts that they will ask a peer-editor.
Working with Peer Editor Step 1: Students exchange essays with a partner and silently read them.
Working with Peer Editor Step 2: One partner will start by orally asking his/her editing questions. In other words, in order to make this an exchange of ideas, they don’t just trade their list of questions and write the answers. After hearing the advising partner’s (peer editor’s) advice, the writer can change anything on his/her essay but does not have to. Also, the advising partner only gives solicited advice. In other words, the writer has control of the type of advice he/she gets
Working with Peer Editor Step 3: They reverse roles.
A by-product of this activity is development of students’ critical thinking skills that they can apply when discussing their papers with their instructor. Instead of students approaching their instructor with an essay draft and asking the instructor to read it and tell them how to improve it, students analyze beforehand and determined what they’d like help with from their instructor. This kind of skill will enable them to become more independent editors of their own writing.
Sample essay and peer editing questions:
*Respect for Nature
My friend, Abdul, from Malaysia, told me about an 1 experience that he once had when he was in high school. 2 In this essay, I will tell Abdul’s story and what I learned from it.
One day, Abdul and his two high school friends decided to visit a waterfall. 3 First they drove to a village. 4 After they arrived at the village. They asked one of the village leaders when they could find the trail to the falls…
Writer’s questions to ask a peer orally:
- Look at the place on my essay where I marked 1. Should I tell what kind of experience it was, for example, exciting, sad or frightening?
- How can I improve the introduction? 2
- Look where I marked 3. Would it be helpful if I explained why they wanted to go there?
- Look at the sentence after 4. Is there a problem with this sentence?
The attached handout is a complete peer-editing model exercise. Sample Peer Editing Writer asks Questions. Sample Peer Editing Writer asks Questions
For examples of using this peer-editing activities and exercises to introduce them to students, for intermidate-level students, see Write After Input , for high-intermediate students, see Writing Strategies Book 1 and for advanced students, see Writing Strategies Book 2 .
*About the free-download materials. During my 40 years of teaching ESL, I have had many colleagues who were very generous with their time, advice and materials. These downloads are my way of paying it forward.