5 Ways to Foster Effective Peer Editing

High school and middle school writing instruction: Effective peer editing activities
When I teach writing in my classroom, I teach it as a process. Every part of the writing process, from the initial brainstorming to peer editing, is equally important and integrally essential to the final draft.

All too often, students flounder when it comes to peer editing essays. Not only is it confusing for students, but they often lack the direction and skills that they need to successfully peer edit a paper. Simply designating a day for either peer editing and giving each student a red pen and free range to check his or her best friend’s paper is not enough.

When it comes to peer editing, students need direction and focus. Here are FIVE ways to make peer editing successful in your class.
Peer editing strategies and activities for the secondary ELA class.
Peer editing with mentor sentences is a great way to not only teach students how to write correct and effective thesis statements and topic sentences, but it also guides students in the because they are looking for and correcting or complementing specific aspects of the essay. I like to do this peer editing activity when my students are still outlining their papers. This activity takes about 15 minutes to complete from start to finish, can easily be completed at the end of the class period, and provides students with critical feedback early in the writing process.

To peer edit with mentor sentences, simply write or project a sample thesis statement and topic sentence (one, or one for each body paragraph) on the board. Then have students trade papers and instruct them to peer edit only the thesis statement and topic sentences. Students should use the mentor sentences as a guide to make sure that the thesis statement and topic sentences are accurate and complete. The thesis statement should include information about the topic of the essay, a strong verb, and the supporting reasons. Similarly, the topic sentences should include a topic, strong verb, and a clause.

When using this method of peer editing, it helps to color code the mentor sentences. Doing this provides extra support for struggling writers, and it especially helps them understand and identify each part of the thesis or topic sentence.

Students are never too old to work with crayons. I love using crayons in my classroom or essay writing and peer editing. You can read this post about how to score free crayons for your classroom.

When peer editing with colors, I like to designate colors for certain parts of the essay. Then, I have my peer editors underline each part of the essay with a certain color. For example, they will underline the thesis statement in red, topic sentence in orange, examples in blue, and commentary in green. From there, they will then look specifically at each part of the essay as designated by its color.

Peer editing strategies and activities for the secondary ELA class.
Ever since I started using my Peer Editing Stations and Rotations resource with my high school students, peer editing has become much simpler and more focused. To begin with, I introduce the concept of peer editing to all of my students with a PowerPoint that teaches about the process and why it is important. Then I explain that we will be going through a series of four rotations and that they will be sharing their paper with four different people.

Once I explain the process, we begin the rotation. As students work their way through each rotation, I keep a to-do checklist on the board for my students to follow. Each rotation asks students to peer edit something different in the essay. By doing this, students are very focused and they are editing with a purpose.

The last rotation is a suggesting and complimenting rotation where students must provide thoughtful and helpful suggestions and compliments for the paper. This is especially helpful because it forces the peer reviewer to read with a critical eye, which then strengthens their own writing capabilities. You can purchase this resource HERE.

If you are fortunate enough to have access to technology or be in a 1:1 digital classroom, you can take peer editing to whole new level in Google Docs. When I use Google with my students for peer reviewing, I instruct each student to change the editing setting from “editing” to “suggesting.” That way the peer reviewer can type directly in the document without changing the original content.

One of the benefits of peer editing digitally is that students can plug the essay into grammar checking websites like grammarly.com or polishmywriting.com to help them provide meaningful suggestions when it comes to grammar, spelling, and style.

Peer editing strategies and activities for the secondary ELA class.
One of the best and most tried and true ways to help students complete peer editing is by providing them with some sort of checklist, form, or even a rubric. I use my Peer Editing Made Easy forms in my classroom when we don’t have time to run through the rotations. These forms are detailed and provide students with specific information to look for. Plus, there is a peer editing form for all of your writing needs.

When peer editing this way, it is also helpful to provide the peer editors with a copy of the rubric you will use to grade the essays. By doing so, the reviewer is looking specifically at different elements within an essay with a critical eye.

As with any portion of the writing process, I always assign points and a grade for peer editing. Usually these points are merely participation points, but by doing so, I show the students that I value peer editing as part of the writing process.

Classroom Intervention: Regain Control of Your Classroom Without Losing Your Cool

Ever so often, secondary teachers will have a difficult and challenging class. While all of the students individually are great kids, the combination of students just makes for one bad recipe. That was the case in my sixth period class this year. It was a difficult class, and almost every day for a few weeks the class tested my patience and classroom management skills. I tried talking to kids individually. I tried positive rewards and interventions. I tried calling home. I tried whole-class punishment. I tried my whole bag of tricks -which includes everything that I do in all of my other classes where this does not happen. Nothing was working, so I paused the class, took an entire day off from instruction, and rebooted my class. I gave them a voice, and the results were amazing.

After several sleepless nights, I decided my class needed a classroom behavior intervention. I didn’t just limit this to my class though, I included myself. At the beginning of the period, I (once again) expressed my disappointment, frustration, and expectations, but then I did something to give the students a voice. I gave them an opportunity to honestly provide input.

I displayed this organizer on the overhead projector, and I told the students that I wanted each and every one of them to complete all of the boxes with information that they felt was reasonable and that would help create a productive and positive classroom atmosphere. This organizer contains six different categories: their expectations of me as their teacher, what I could expect from them as a student, suggested classroom rules, suggested classroom electronic device policy, fair consequences, and classroom goals and objectives. After completing the chart, I asked my students to rate themselves in the classroom and provide rationale.

I told my students that there would be time to compare lists, but that I wanted each student to work on his or her own piece of paper silently and individually, so that they could formulate their own ideas. I told them that I would also do the same, but that I would fill it out as a teacher.

For the first time in a few weeks, every single one of my students worked diligently and silently. And I mean EVERY. SINGLE. ONE! Students didn’t check their phones. They didn’t whisper and engage in side conversations. They didn’t complain. After about 15 minutes of working silently, I then instructed my students to talk with some of the people at their tables to compare notes, and then it was time to face reality. It was time for them to share their responses with me.

Since I wanted to provide my students with a voice. I had them share their expectations of me first. The well-behaved students in my class kept silent, as I suspected, but the ones who usually caused disturbances and distractions were eager to share. And while their expectations were more of a complaint about my classroom rules than an expectation, I made sure not to interrupt them. I listened. I took notes. I thought of ways I could improve in that classroom. I agreed with my students on some of their complaints, and we met in the middle. I made sure they knew their voices were heard.

I then shared my expectations, and together as a class we discussed what we wanted the class to be like.

That was almost a week ago, and ever since that day, classroom morale is up. The students are more cooperative, more learning takes place, and I don’t leave the classroom at the end of the period feeling frustrated and defeated.

I didn’t want to ditch my lessons for a day, but I needed to get my class back on track. I needed to reign them in, while still showing them respect. There are so many people in this world telling our students that they aren’t old enough to make informed decisions, or that they don’t know what they are talking about, or who don’t even give them the time of day to listen to their thoughts and opinions. By doing this with my worst class, not only did I show them respect, but I showed them that I care.

You can download this free classroom intervention organizer here! To help keep your classroom moving in a positive direction, please check out my Growth Mindset Activities resource especially designed for secondary students.

Secondary ELA Seasonal Blog Hop: The Daring English Teacher Shares Tips and Tricks

Halloween teaching ideas for secondary ELA teachers.
Despite rigorous curriculum demands from schools, districts, and the state, secondary ELA teachers can still have fun on Halloween, and even teach some content as well.

Nothing says “Halloween” to me more than dimmed lights, eerie background music, and a spooky story. This is the perfect opportunity for English and literature teachers to really instill a love of reading into students because there are so many spooky stories to choose from. Also, Halloween is well after my short story unit, so I’ve already taught all of the major literary devices for the year, so we can just read the story. Personally, my favorite story to read on Halloween with my students is “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs.

From the very moment that my students step into my classroom, I want them to feel the mood of the story...even before we read. Even though I've packed my day with rigorous curriculum, I want my students to have some fun with story story.

I play ominous background music all day, I keep the lights partially dimmed, and because I can be a big cheeseball, I bring in a flashlight to use when I introduce the story. You know, like how we used to do when we would gather around the campfire and tell frightening stories. Here is a link to a YouTube video that plays a few hours of background music. This track isn't too distracting, and it will really add some Halloween ambiance to your classroom.

Since I’ve already covered short story elements, I briefly introduce the story and ask them to look for elements of foreshadowing and suspense. Then I read the story aloud, deliberately and slowly, for added effect. Since I use this day as an opportunity to show students just how enjoyable literature can be, I usually read the story all the way through. I find that the fewer breaks the better because it really allows students to have an opportunity to sink into the story and experience all of it’s horror and suspense.

After we read the story, we have a quick classroom discussion to check for their comprehension, and then we complete a close read activity for the short story. This activity is perfect for schools with strict curriculum guidelines or for schools that require that teachers teach and post the standards daily. This close read still allows students to have fun and celebrate Halloween while working on an academically rigorous assignment that is aligned to the common core standards.
Teach close reading with The Monkey's Paw.
For the close read activity, I have the students work in pairs to closely read selected passages of the story for elements of foreshadowing and suspense. The students then need to select the best quotes in the passages that represent these literary elements and explain how the author incorporated these elements and the effect that each of these elements had on the audience. If time permits, once the students are done closely reading and annotating passages from the story, I have them work on the paragraph writing assignment.

This close reading assignment is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. In addition to the story passages and close reading notes, this assignment also includes various writing assignments and scaffolded paragraph notes to help differentiate for struggling and less proficient students.

Some of my other favorite spooky short stories are "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Most Dangerous Game."

This blog is part of a Season Secondary Blog Hop all about teaching tips, strategies, and resources for Halloween. Be sure to check out all of the other amazing resources.

Blog Redesign Giveaway

To help me celebrate the redesign of my blog, I’ve teamed up with an old childhood friend, Shannon Pash, a Thirty-One Sales Consultant, to giveaway one of my favorite teaching bags and a shopping spree to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

The grand prize winner will receive a Thirty-One Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote of their choice and a $20 shopping spree to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Four other lucky winners will receive a $10 shopping spree to my TpT store.

The giveaway is open to all US and Canadian teachers. The giveaway begins Sunday, October 2 at 12:00 am EST and ends at midnight on Saturday, October 8. Winners will be announced on Sunday, October 9. All entries will be verified to make sure entrants follow the giveaway.

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