Peer Response and Editing

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What Is It?

Peer response and editing are processes through which students respond to and provide feedback on their peers' writing. They are not meant to take the place of teacher evaluation, nor can they identify all the strengths and challenges in a piece of writing, but when incorporated into the writing process in a thoughtful way, peer response and editing can be useful learning tools for both the writer and the student providing feedback. Generally, peer response focuses on the content of the piece, while peer editing concentrates on mechanics, such as spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Why Is iIt Important?

As Lucy Calkins (1983) states, part of being a good writer is being able to give valuable feedback to other writers.

Peer response and editing helps students in the following ways:

  • It requires them to write a draft of their paper before the final deadline, emphasizing the writing process as ongoing and evolving.

  • It exposes students to their peers' ideas.

  • It requires students to articulate what they think about a piece of writing.

  • It motivates students to ask the teacher useful questions about the assignment.

Teachers can become conditioned to being the sole evaluator of students' work and the one students rely on for feedback. Peer response and editing, when done well, improves the writing ability of both the writers and the readers. Through the collaboration involved in the process, students also receive social and emotional support as they share problems and attempt to come up with solutions.

When Should It Be Taught?

The peer response and editing processes are generally done when students have written at least one draft of their work, but peer response can also be used to help students develop initial ideas. Peer response, focusing on the content of the piece, occurs earlier in the writing process. Generally, peer editing, focusing on the mechanics of the piece, usually occurs when writers are preparing their work for publication.

What Does It Look Like?

In a classroom where peer response or editing is taking place, students will be working with a partner or in a small group. The teacher circulates among the groups, providing assistance as issues arise. The pairs or groups will be spread around the room, ideally separated by enough space to maintain focus on the task at hand. Teachers need to determine what arrangement works best for the class; for example, some teachers find that students who are physically comfortable (such as sitting on the floor or stretched out in the hall just outside the classroom door) are more likely to feel comfortable sharing their ideas with their peers.

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