Teaching Writing with a Peer Editing Co-op

by Jimmie Lanley on October 24, 2011

Teaching Writing with a Peer Editing Co-op

At my local homeschool group’s October meeting, we divided up into grade levels with the middle school moms (6th – 8th) all meeting together. Our topic was writing, and some common trouble spots emerged as we shared our children’s situation with writing:

  • weak editing skills
  • not applying the writing skills they know
  • lack of proofreading skills
  • lack of  motivation for the tough steps of editing and revising
  • ultra sensitivity to mom’s criticism during the writing process
I don’t know who came up with the idea first, but many of us agreed that a peer editing session might do our middle school writers a world of good for all of these problems.  And thus the peer editing coop was born. I took the initiative to organize it, and we have met once already.

Planning the Peer Editing Session

Each child brought
  • a draft of an expository essay that could be marked on (double spaced is preferred)
  • colored pens or pencils for marking
As the organizer I made sure to
  • give a name tag to each child and parent
  • have peer editing helps such as checklists and other printables listed below
  • have extra colored pens
  • have references available — list of transitions, dictionary, thesaurus, grammar guides
peer editing pair

Sprite and her partner reading each other’s essays

Editing Mini-lesson

Before dividing up into pairs, I talked to the students briefly about how to do peer editing.

First, I reassured them that offering your paper to someone to read is a very scary and vulnerable thing. I shared some of my own recent experiences with receiving major edits to a piece of writing.

I stressed that to do peer editing well, we need to be sensitive in what we say to others but be tough skinned when it comes to receiving criticism. If we all have that attitude, the peer editing will go smoothly, and everyone will benefit.

Peer editing means sharing the positive as well as the negative. But the foundation is always to be specific. General praise or criticism is not helpful in honing writing skills. All statements must be grounded in precise examples from the paper.

Not helpful

Your paper is awesome! Loved it.
Your paper needs a lot of work.

Helpful

Your descriptions of the Greek god Poseidon made me visualize him clearly.
You have four run-on sentences and two fragments. I marked them here….

Structure of the Peer Editing Time

  1. Sit across the table from your partner.
  2. Read the essay without a pen in your hand. Read for meaning, and enjoy the paper.
  3. Pick up your pen and read the essay through again, marking notes directly onto the essay.
  4. Go through the checklist systematically, rereading the essay as necessary. Make notes on the checklist — yes/no, smiley face/frowny face, plus/check mark/minus — use whatever system works for you.
  5. Return the paper to the writer. Allow him time to look over your comments and the editing checklist.
  6. Discuss your praise and edits.

Peer Editing Helps

This Lesson plan at ReadWriteThink includes some very helpful guidelines:

Peer Editing Checklists

Insights

We scheduled two hours, and we needed every minute. Doing peer editing well does take quite a bit of time.

On the upside, the preparation work for me was minimal. All I did was print out some checklists and writing aids.

Some pairs preferred to go off by themselves to discuss the edits. Fortunately we had a large space of three rooms to work in. I don’t think that a small area would work at all.

I read each child’s essay and gave some specific feedback. Later I realized that Sprite didn’t have another adult read her essay, so next time I will request that one of the mom’s read her essay (besides me).

The children seemed to benefit from the process and from seeing the work of other middle schoolers. In the same ways, the moms felt confirmed that they were on the right track after seeing how their children’s writing compared to others.

We plan to make the peer editing co-op a monthly event.

Have any of you done a peer editing co-op? How did it go?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily October 24, 2011 at 9:04 am

We’ve never done peer editing, but I wanted to thank you for the Complete Writing Guide file! That’s awesome! I have been thinking today about having my children write more – it’s something I haven’t been making the kids do as much as they really should.

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Melissa Telling October 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

I took a writing class in college with a teacher who made use of peer editing. The students in her classes were paired in groups of four or five, so we got more than one point of view. I actually thought about having my older three try it this year, but they didn’t like the idea of having “one more thing to do.” (And since they are doing a pretty heavy course load, I conceeded.) I may suggest this to my co-op ladies as we have discussed the same “trouble spots” you listed. Thanks for the links. Great stuff!

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Barb-Harmony Art Mom October 24, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Love the great ideas and checklists in this post. We will be incorporating some of these into our editing sessions. Thanks Jimmie.

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Lee October 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Superb idea

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Jo Anne Mendonsa October 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm

This is a great idea! Thank you so much for taking time to write this post and include the printable aids.

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Deanne Robertson October 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

What a wonderful idea Jimmie! I’d love to see something like this happen with our co-op. I especially appreciate the aids. You rock. :)

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e-Expeditions October 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm

What a great way to get kids more interested in grammar and structure! Those printouts are great–thanks for sharing! :)

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Kate March 5, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Thanks for your great, clear resources!

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Whitney October 28, 2012 at 9:26 pm

This was a wonderful post. I will use a lot of the ideas for my lesson that I am teaching soon. Thank you for all of the great resources… I will adapt this lesson to my classroom and make it a round robin peer editing activity, so that they can get a feel for how to build on their writing and learn from what other classmates have to say. Peer criticism is much more effective. Though certain aspects must be addressed in different types of essays, you have it really broken down in the writing guide. Thanks again!

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