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Making The Most of Peer Review

I used to DREAD peer review workshops in my English Language Arts classes!!

One of my last horrid peer review workshop sessions took place during my ENGL 1101 class at Georgia Southern University.  The scenario went something like this:

Pass your essay to your neighbor.  Read it.  Edit it.  Pass your essay back to its owner.

Searching for any sign of constructive criticism–maybe, just maybe this kid siting next to me, who has NOT typed his essay as the directions instruct us to, will surprise me and have some words of wisdom, some useful criticis 

Instead, I find those dreaded two words and cringe.


At the bottom of my essay written in chicken scratch are those two useless, empty words:

 “Good Job”

…Meanwhile my partner has frozen up, discouraged and embarrassed.

Having my high school papers returned to me annihilated by red ink, I took my editing cue from my former teachers by preparing for our first Peer Review Workshop and purchasing my trusty red pen.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, my partner’s paper looks nothing like my returned paper.

My partner’s paper was covered in MY red ink.

I, too, had committed the fault that my former teachers had made– I wanted him to change his paper based on my thoughts.

I belittled him.

I believe that the failure of many peer review sessions is, in part, due to students never being taught proper peer review skills.

As a future English teacher, I wonder what I can do to make peer review sessions more effective for everyone.  I plan to use this blog to explore this idea further by reflecting upon my collection of research materials (scholarly articles, teacher-friendly books about teaching writing, teachers’ blogs and websites, and useful activity ideas) that I have and will continue to compile.  In addition, I will be posting writing samples where I will create and respond to even more peer review workshop ideas, and I hope to find and provide you with some helpful teaching videos.  Lastly, I plan to continually create new polls and encourage everyone’s participation!

Please comment on any or all of my posts!

M. Murray, Future Teacher

  • Brammer, C., & Rees, M. (2007). Peer review from the students’ perspective: Invaluable or invalid? Composition Studies, 35(2), 71-71-85,142-143. Retrieved from
  • Summary and Analysis:   Of the articles I came across, this one was the most interesting. This article includes a study based on a survey of students who discuss their opinion of the effectiveness of peer review.  One major point that is stressed in this that peer review is collaborative learning and NOT proofreading.  This idea, it is said, is essential for useful peer review workshops.  Collaboration not correction is a key idea.  However, because collaboration is a key element, students who have collaborative learning skills will benefit while those that do not have collaborative learning skills may not.  The article continues to discuss that the students who have been instructed on how to peer review and have practiced these skills benefit the most from peer review.


    “These positive impressions of peer review seem to be enhanced by student self-confidence in their ability to peer review. Students who are more confident in their ability to review peers’ papers also value peer review as an important part of the writing process.”


    From this article, I have learned that peer review must be taught and practiced to be effective.  In addition, I learned that stressing collaboration and NOT correction is a must!


    This article also included some student concerns about peer review:

    • If they can’t write a good paper, why do I want them to correct mine? (Student survey #308).
    • I don’t trust my peers to review my paper. I don’t think they can do it competently, just like I don’t think I can give a good Peer review b/c I am a horrible writer (Student survey #272).

    2. Peer Editing In The 21st Century College Classroom: Do Beginning Composition Students Truly Reap The              Benefits?

    3. Liberating Dialogue in Peer Review: Applying Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process to the Writing Classroom

100 Trait-Specific Comments: A Quick Guide for

Giving Constructive Feedback on Student Writing

Product Description

“Giving constructive feedback to student writers is critical to their success. But finding the right words can be difficult…until now. In this guide, Ruth Culham provides 100 trait-specific comments that address essential writing skills. The comments are correlated to the all-new middle school scoring guides, according to six performance levels—rudimentary, emerging, developing, refining, strong, and exceptional—making it easy to pinpoint areas of need and target instruction. Spiral-bound, color coded, tabbed by trait, and printed on sturdy paper that will stand up to years of use. For use with Grades 6–8.” (

About the Author

 “Ruth Culham, Ed.D., a pioneering researcher of the Trait Model, is president of Culham Writing Company, which  offers practical, engaging workshops designed to help beginning and experienced teachers implement the model  in K–12 classrooms. Prior to founding her company, Ruth was assessment program unit manager at Northwest  Regional Educational Laboratory; a teacher at Meadow Hill Middle School in Missoula, Montana, and Mountain  View Middle School in Beaverton, Oregon; and English Teacher of the Year in Montana, a highlight of her 19-year teaching career.” (
Purchase this book here:
Although this book does not focus on peer review sessions, I’ve included 100 Trait-Specific Comments on my blog because I believe this book will be useful to any writing teacher.  By practicing the tips on giving constructive positive feedback to your students, your students will be able to emulate your constructive criticism skills. Putting some of the techniques in this book to use will allow the teacher to show the students a sample of meaningful responses to their own work where the students can, in turn, reword and create their own lists of ‘constructive feedback tips/positive,meaningful comments’ that the student may  use in future peer review workshops. This idea should be effective because students often make similar mistakes or could use similar advice concerning a specific areas of their writing.  Using the techniques that the teacher uses to critique their own papers, students will learn from the advice and pass it on to their classmates.
Author Ruth Culham includes writing  topics such as:

1. How to explain to students what is and is not working in their writing. This idea is BEST performed by first complimenting the student on one or many specific elements of the writing, followed by asking the student thought provoking questions about their work(‘Can you tell me more about what is going on in the scene you describe in ¶ #2’) , offering suggestions (‘You may want to look back at the comma rules and ¶s 3 and 4 of your essay’ ), pointing the student in the direction of additional references (‘A teacher in the school has gone through a similar experience. You may want to try and schedule an interview with her.’), or providing personal knowledge about the subject matter.  

2. Commenting on: Ideas, Organization, Voice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions, Presentation, and Word Choice

  1. Compliments
  2. Suggestions
  3. Corrections

This is a video of a teacher who is explaining her 3-Step to Peer Editing to two students.  Her three steps stress first complimenting the writer, making suggestions to the writer, and, finally, the writer making corrections.

Enjoy and feel free to comment!!

Dr. Patrick Davis discusses how he uses peer review in his college classroom.  Although this blog focuses on middle and secondary grade students, many of the tips I have found are useful across all age groups. Dr. Davis discusses a standard evaluation rubric (without a point system) that he provides to his students on Tuesdays, his class’ Peer Review Workshop Day.  In addition, the importance of open, quality discussion concerning the student’s writing is stressed.  One really important  tip Dr. Davis provides is to allow the students a few minutes following the workshop to jot down any other ideas that they have taken away from the session.

Enjoy and feel free to comment!

Writing Smarter! Over 100 Step-By-Step Lessons with Reproducible Activity Sheets to Build Writing Proficiency in Grades 7-12.

By Kieth Manos

Product Description: 

Writing Smarter! provides 106 detailed lesson plans with reproducibles to help students begin writing better immediately! These writing improvement materials are complete and self-contained, can be used with individual students or an entire class in any order, and are organized into 13 sections: Orientation, Description, Character Sketch, Sentence Structure, Personal Narratives, Persuasion, Research, Interviews, The News, Writing Letters, Short Fiction, Poetry, and Peer Editing.   To purchase this book, simply click on the link below!—Step-Reproducible/dp/0787967394/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1310932472&sr=1-1

I purchased a copy of this book myself.  I initially intended on borrowing this book from a local library; however, things did not turn out quite that way.  The three libraries that had the book in stock were:

1. The Seby Jones Library at Toccoa Fall College (80 miles from home)

2. The Macon State College Library (98 miles from home)

3. The Middle Georgia Regional Library (99 miles from my home)

I then quickly realized that borrowing this book was OUT.  On to Plan B- Find a Barnes and Noble. Buy it.  It will be useful in the future!  Again I ran into an obstacle.  Every nearby Barnes and Noble was OUT OF STOCK.  Frustrated, I decided to purchase the book online.  I was worried that online ordering would take too long  and postpone my research.

I learned an important lesson.  Shop smarter, not harder!  Amazon offers 2-day FREE shipping for students!

I finally received this book!  What I think is GREAT about this book is that almost every section discusses different genres and appropriate peer review exercises!

-Peer editing for…

  • Description
  • Character Sketch
  • Persuasive Essay
  • Research Essay
  • Interview Article
  • News Articles
  • Letter Writing
  • Fiction
  • Poetry

In addition, this book provides several Peer Review Checklists, a peer review editing model, five-minute prompts for introducing peer editing.


Peer Review Activities

I came across an extremely useful PowerPoint presentation titled Peer Editing: The Art of Helping Your Students Help Themselves.

This PowerPoint presentation highlights many useful tips for teachers concerning effective peer review sessions.  The PPT is very helpful in that it provides many different peer review activities.  Take a look for yourself, if you would like:

Below I have both attached and copied a sample of a student peer review checklist for teachers to use with their students in the writing classroom. Checklist

Name of Writer______________________

Title of Assignment________________________

Peer Editor__________________________


Use this list to check over your paper before your conference.

Mark the column for each item with an ‘x’ after you have checked the paper carefully.

Writer Peer Editor Checked for:
I followed directions.
I read the paper to my partner for understanding.
I checked the paper for complete sentences.
I used correct grammar.
I have spelled all words correctly.
All sentences start with a capital letter.
Proper nouns are capitalized.
Each sentence ends with a proper end mark.
Commas and quotation marks are used correctly.
I indented the beginning of each paragraph.
I followed the writing process.
My name is on the paper.
In addition to this checklist, the teacher may ask their students to follow one of the following peer review workshop formats:
1. CLASSIC-  The writer reads aloud their paper to their partner/small group and the group comments orally or in writing.
2. SILENT- The partner/small group reads the writer’s paper silently, follow a guide (such as the one included above), makes written comments, and then returns comments to the author.
3. BOOKLET- The teacher collects ALL student finished drafts and creates a booklet. Each student then will receive a copy of the booklet and will compliment and make suggestions to each students piece of writing. Students will then disassemble their booklets and return the reviewed work back to the appropriate author (This would work best with short pieces of writing.)
4.SLICE AND DICE- This is a 2 day process. Again, student’s receive copies of the entire classes writing.  Students review and make suggestions on their groups’ papers at home.  The following day the students will form small groups, discuss, and make suggestions for each group member.   Being that this is a more lengthy process of peer review, the Slice and Dice format allows time for the student and the teacher conferencing to simultaneously take place.
5.COLOR CODING- Students are divided into groups and given a specific color writing utensil.  Each group/color is responsible for reviewing a specific area of the student’s writing.  For example, each member of the group (Let’s call this group the Red Group) will receive another student’s paper.  The Red Group, this week, is responsible for reviewing the Conclusions.  The students must read the entire piece of work before they focus on their designated task.  Thus, the reviewer reads the entire paper, they then must mark with their colored writing utensil areas of concern ONLY in the conclusion. In addition, the review should add suggestions to resolve the area of concern.  Another group may be responsible for reviewing the Introductions and so on.
6. POST TEACHER CHECK- The teacher may choose to collect all of the finished drafts before the peer review session and mark (not comment) on areas of concern.  The students’ writing will then be returned, and the students will form small groups to discuss the areas of concern and to find possible resolutions.
  • Copied peer review student feedback form included in the PPT:

Peer Group Response form
Writer’s Name ___________________
Thesis Statement:
(a.k.a. main idea, controlling statement) (Write in a complete sentence.)
What I like in this essay:
What questions I have about this essay:
(Discuss here areas that are confusing, that do not seem related, or that need further explanation.)
The suggestions I have for the writer of this essay:
Signature of Listener _____________________________
(Be as specific as possible, and write as clearly as you can.  Use the back of this paper if you need more room.  Give to writer after discussing the comments in your group.)
***Students should be aware that they will be graded on their participation in the evaluation process by both the teacher and the peer review group members!!  It is helpful to provide a Writer’s Feedback Questionnaire  and/or rubric to the students in order for them to evaluate their reviewer(s).

See It In Action!

Sample Writing Assignment

Small Joys

He rested his hands on the cracked, worn leather of an oversized steering wheel,

Scanned endless blackness narrowing before him,

Gazed at the new blossoms on the old trees by the road,

Eased his size eleven and a half foot on the break-

Empty coke cans rattle and clink with each stop and start,

Greasy Big Mac wrappers polishing the passenger seat,

“I get whisky bent and hell bound”

Resounding from the Outlaw Country station.

And then me: imagining life as a truck driver

Who just smiled and waved at the young girl in the backseat;

On the highway where wandering vessels search for some destination.


A Beginner’s Exercise (Group)

This peer review exercise may be helpful to use at the beginning of the school year when you are teaching your students peer review exercises.

First, the teacher collects all finished drafts.  The teacher reviews the drafts, only marks areas of concern, and returns the papers.

Next, after forming small groups, the students will discuss the marked areas of concerns and cooperatively suggest solutions.


Where I am From

Naugatuck: Remember the Quaint New England Town

A little Connecticut ‘valley’ town-

Her sons and daughters think she is famous:

“Rubber and Chocolate!” the proclaim.

Naugatuck or Naugaduck or Naugatalk or just Naugy-

So, have you heard of Her?

If you have, then you know:

Airplane Andy-

The homeless man.

Hand frantically, spastically flailing,

Dangerously, Andy stands

Blocking traffic;

Glaring through my car window,

“SLOW DOWN!” he screams.

Rubber Ave-

White, laced, and narrow

Rubber-soled shoes.

Remember Keds?

Towards the dark basement,

Mom pointed.

“Find a pair in the dollar bin.”

None my size.

The hurt my feet.

The Peter Paul Factory-

Cocolate, Coconut,

“Almond Joys have nuts, Mounds don’t.”

Samples in the mail,

Stocking stuffers,

Halloween treats,

Teachers’ Rewards:


Baummer’s Pond-

Settled between Field and Mill Street,

Dark and murky,

A thin slimy skin covers its surface.

Its stench—

a rancid, puke-enticing stink—

Comes from all the

Dead fish on top.

Haven’t you heard of Naugatuck?

Rubber and Chocolate.

She is famous.


Critical Response Process:  (A group peer review activity)

Group Facilitator- Name____________________

The group facilitator is responsible for recording important information and responses, calling on group members to speak, and for transitioning from one step to the next.  Facilitators will be different each week.

The author firsts reads aloud their piece.

The activity then follows these steps:

1. ‘Statement of Meaning’: The assigned group facilitator asks the group members for input concerning the piece being discussed and what works.  What did you find exciting, stimulating, surprising, etc. about this piece?  One appropriate response may be: The description of Baummer’s Pond is filled with a lot of nice sensory details.

2. ‘Writer’s Questions’: Encourage the writers to avoid being too broad or too narrow in their questions.  Broad question: Does the tone sound okay?  Specific question: Do u think my description of Andy is too negative?

3. Neutral Questions:  This time the group members get to ask ‘neutral’ questions.  Non-neutral: Who is Andy and what in the world does he have to do with shoes and chocolate?  Neutral: Have you looked at different ways to transition from one scene to the next in order to avoid reader confusion?

Feel free to take my poll!

**Over the course of time, I will be adding more posts and, as always, would LOVE your participation!!

(In the revision process; more information to be added soon…Very soon!)

Blog/Website # 1:

Collaborative Learning Options for the Writing Classroom

Overview: Tips for review sessions; questions for the reader to ask and for the writer to consider

“Because the term review has negative connotations for many students, you may want to call the activity by some other name such as peer assistance.”

 “The peer reviewer’s job is to get the writer to explain more clearly any parts of the paper the reader found confusing or did not understand. Peers also should alert their partners to assignment directions the writer overlooked.”

This website has a lot of information! One interesting bit of information I found on this website is a peer review strategy that includes assessing 5 elements or questions the reader may ask about the author’s writing:

  1. Does the assignment follow the directions? Students are “uniquely qualified” for giving feedback because they should know the directions themselves.
  2. Is the paper unified? Is the thesis statement clearly recognizable? Ask the reader to write down their understanding of what the writer is trying to say. Helps force writers to state their points clearly.
  3. Is the writing coherent? Is the connection between the thesis statement and the topic sentences ambiguous? *Remember the reader does not change; simply points out the confusion
  4. M
  5. M

Other Links


Great Idea!!


*There is a lot of great information on this website!  I found this Color Coding section particularly interesting.

Color Coding


Color coding supports the visual learners. Green, which means “go,” is the color of the topic sentence. Yellow, which means “slow down and use caution,” is the color of specific details. And, red, which signifies “stop,” is the color of the closing sentence.