What I decided to do, though, was to partner my students together and have them peer revise each others' essays. Of course, when I was a kid, that didn't go very well and that thought immediately crossed my mind. Some kids just used that time to chat, while others read each others' stories, but said they were great as they were even though there were tons of mistakes. I wanted to make sure this was different. I drew on some of the energy from our "Quality Boosters" lesson to try to make sure that my students would take it seriously, while also being confident and helpful.
Here's how I did it:
- I told my students what was going on. I wanted them to know that I was about to partner them up with someone in class in order to help them revise their writing, based on perceived strengths & weaknesses.
- I told everyone that they were not to act judgmental (even though they were evaluating another person's work), but rather to find areas of their writing that could be better and politely suggest ways to improve it. I also asked students not to think that others were full of themselves when they were giving suggestions, because they're just following my orders!
- Next, I asked my students to move to three different parts of class. One area was for students who felt confident that they had nearly all of the components and requirements necessary for these essays and could confidently explain it to another student. One area was for students who worried that they might be missing some components and would appreciate another person looking over it with them. And a third area was for students who fell somewhere in between. I told them that after I have them move to the proper areas, that I might ask them to adjust slightly later in order to help even out the numbers.
- I thought I would have too many over-confident kids, but what I had were a lot of students wanting someone to look over their writing, and a lot of students in the middle! I asked the students in the middle to reconsider joining one of the other groups if they were comfortable doing that. Some moved.
- Now, I had the same number of students in the "Confident" group and the "Wanting Help" group, so I partnered them up randomly with each other using sticks, matching a confident student with one who wanted help.
- Next, I asked the students in the middle to divide based on slightly more confident and slightly less confident, then I partnered them up with each other.
Here's what that all looked like using sticks (the names have been randomized):
I observed each partnership reading and giving suggestions, making corrections, and improving word choice. Since each partnership was asked to start with the most recently completed essay and then work backwards, my students were working with their best piece of writing (theoretically, since they should be learning from each prior piece), and had plenty of essays they could work with in case they finished early.
I told them all to revise confidently with their partner no matter if they feel they are the weaker writer. Everyone has something valuable they can contribute, and no one should feel that they are not a good enough writer to help out one of our peers!
I asked them all to take a stretch break and then get back to work! It was important that we made sure that each partner got equal time and effort in revising their story!
When the period was over, my students were drained, but their writing was drastically improved! Although it was now a collaborative effort, it became a new opportunity for my students to learn. I may struggle to identify exactly what each student did on their own, but that shouldn't be what matters most. I'd rather know that each of my students are going on to middle school more confident writers because they got the attention they needed and their questions answered. I can't always provide that for each of my students as often as they need it, but when we work collaboratively, many of my students' needs get met! The power of collaboration!
- How do you think today's peer revision activity went? Explain.
- What was most beneficial for you during today's activity?
- Would it be a good use of time to do this peer-revision activity again on other human body systems?
I only gave them 5 minutes to answer, because another class needed the computers, but you get the idea from their answers...