Toby Murphy DEMAREST MIDDLE, DEMAREST, NJ
8th Grade ELA : Unit #7 - Research Paper: Influential Lives Part III : Lesson #11

Peer Editing and Revising Research Papers

Objective: SWBAT gain insights into their research papers through peer revision and editing.
Standards: W.8.5 W.8.7
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 Hook: Class Discussion: Revision vs. Editing - 5 minutes

Today's lesson focuses on peer revision and editing of research papers. This is the last step before students hand in the final draft. While many students are eager to be done with this process, others have been so invested in this process that they want to work on this paper to make it the best possible. I try and hook into that excitement and allow students to work on revising and editing with a partner. This helps students make their papers stronger as others can help them look for mistakes but it also helps to serve as a bit of an assessment as I can see how well they can apply all the writing qualities we have talked about since the beginning of the year.

I begin the lesson by pulling up the Peer Editing and Revising Powerpoint on the Smartboard. The first slide, which is just a title slide, is open as students walk in so they can see what the lesson will be about. We then move on to the second slide (here is a screenshot: Slide 2), which lists different questions. We spend this part of the lesson having a discussion about peer editing and revising by working with the following questions:

  • —What’s the difference between revision and editing? Is one more critical to the success of the paper?
  • —Why and how are peer revision and editing beneficial?
  • —What are the drawbacks of it? How can we fix that prior to working together?
  • —What are the best ways to give and receive feedback? Be specific.

I read each question one at a time and look for students to respond. Most of the time students are able to answer these questions rather easily. A discussion like this is great because it's low pressure. There really is no right or wrong answer as it is not based on content but rather their own experiences and understandings.

Overall, this part of the lesson helps us to build a common understanding of peer revision and editing so when students are actually doing it, they know what to do and how to do it in order to best help their peers.

 

2 Self-Assessment of Research Papers: Determing Strengths and Weaknesses - 5 minutes

We then move from a class discussion to individual work as students review their own research papers to determine their strengths and weaknesses. I want students to put this into words so they can ask for the right kind of feedback. One of the worst ways to give feedback is when students ask for me, or a peer, to look at the whole paper and tell them everything that needs work. This puts no responsibility on the writer and allows for inauthentic writing. Students need to take ownership of their writing and I want them to be aware of that. By putting into words what they need to work on, they have a great sense of this ownership.

I move on to the third slide (here is a screenshot:Slide 3) of the Peer Editing and Revising Powerpoint. This begins step 1. I read the directions to the students. Students will read their research papers and jot down notes about their overall strengths and weaknesses as a writer. They should also think about all the qualities of writing we have talked about throughout this paper and the entire year: organization, ideas/analysis, word choice, sentence structure, conventions, and voice.

After we have created the list we then move on to the fourth slide (here is a screenshot: Slide 4) of the Peer Editing and Revising Powerpoint. This has students refine that list and come up with specific areas that they would like their partner to look at as they are revising and editing their paper. I remind students to make the list manageable, specific, and clear for their partners. By doing this, the pressure is on the writer, and not the reviewer.

Here are two examples of students listing their strengths and weaknesses: Strengths and Weaknesses 1 and Strengths and Weaknesses 2

3 Partner Work: Peer Revision and Editing - 25 minutes

The bulk of the lesson gives students the time to read their partner's paper and look at the areas of weakness in the paper the writer mentioned. While this can be a scary idea, working together can be very beneficial for the students. Since this is at the end of the year, students are aware of the expectations and are able to get to work. They also know the benefits of this. They are aware how this time can help them, not only from our discussion earlier in the lesson, but also in their desire to do well.

I keep the Peer Editing and Revising Powerpoint and we move on to slide 5 (here is a screenshot: Slide 5). I review the directions for this section of the lesson. Students will be partnered up by me and will then discuss how they want to share their papers. They will determine if they will read one at a time or read both at the same time. They will also discuss the best way to give feedback. By having students take ownership of how they will work they are usually more engaged. I don't care the parameters of the group work as long as they reach the goal, which they are aware of.

For this lesson, I purposely make groups based on ability. I want to make sure that no matter the pairing, each person would be able to get something out of the partnership. I mix partners based on writing strengths and weaknesses. By having students of mixed abilities, students are able to help each other but they can also observe weaknesses in the writing of their peers and then look at their own writing for improvement.

Here are some examples: Peer Editing and Revising Notes Example.

4 Closure: Work To Do Reflection - 7 minutes

The last part of the lesson has students self-reflect on the process of peer editing and revising. This self-reflection and assessment is crucial to students understanding who they are as writers. If they are able to do this, and do this well, they will be able to grow into solid, effective writers, which is one of my biggest goals as a language arts teacher. 

I move on the last slide of the Peer Editing and Revising Powerpoint, which is slide 6 (here is a screenshot: Slide 6).

I have the students think about the process they went through and also reflect on their own writing by doing and thinking of the follow:

  • —What has your partner said about your paper that resonated?
  • Was the feedback clear enough? Do you need to talk with your partner to clarify? Perhaps highlight a certain area in your paper?
  • —After you have received clear feedback, review your paper and determine how you will apply it.

Here are two examples of this reflection: Peer Work Reflection 1 and Peer Work Reflection 2

By spending this time to think about their writing and what their partners has said, they are able to make goals for what they need to work on as they finish their paper. Since this is the last lesson of the research paper, it's important that students understand what they need to do so during this time I circulate around the classroom and conference with students quickly. I check-in with students to make sure that they have an understanding of what to do, and most importantly how to do it. The majority of conferences really do not take a long time as they were able to ask their partners for clarification if needed.

Student Confidence
Positive Reinforcement

In this lesson it is important to look out for student response, not only to each others writing but to their own writing. Pay close attention to what students are saying about what they have written as they share their research papers with their partners. In the beginning of the lesson it is important to make sure that students are able to come up with clear areas that they want to work on with the hope that they can work on those areas once they leave the classroom.

What I was surprised by is how a few students thought their papers were not as effective as they actually were. Many students had areas that they thought needed to be worked on but realized, after sharing with a partner, they those major areas only needed minor touch-ups. This is great for me to hear as a teacher and I really credit students for working hard not only throughout this process but throughout the entire year. They were able to understand what these writing qualities are and how we can apply them across various writing assignments.