Using Online Forms for Peer Critique

Since 2012, I’ve been using online forms to guide my students through a peer critique process of their writing.

4th Graders use iPad to fill in peer critique form.

Here are some samples of the forms I use with my class. Feel free to make your own copy, modify as needed, and use them with your students.

I share about using online forms in episode 16 of the 5-Minute MishMash podcast. Listen below. The whole show is, well, 5 minutes long.

How do I train my students to peer critique using forms?

  1. I spend a great deal of time modeling the use of the forms with sample student work. I show the student sample using a document camera. I flip back and forth between the writing sample and the form on my computer. I do a lot of think aloud as I model.
  2. I ask students to participate in the modeling. As students grow accustomed to the process, I ask students to share their thinking and vote on scores.
  3. I fishbowl peer critiques. I choose two students to model the process while the rest of the students form a circle around the pair. I analyze student behaviors and ask the students to give feedback as well.
  4. I carefully monitor on task behavior. As I transition to all students doing peer critique simultaneously, I work the room and tune into student conversations as well as the scores they give each other. I’m very concerned with students rushing too quickly through the process.
  5. We reflect on the process. For every step you see above, I spend considerable time and effort asking my students to self-reflect. Were you on task? Did you read the entire paper? Were you honest with your critique? On a scale of 1-5, how open were you to your partner’s feedback? Etc.

Why do I spend so much time on peer critiques?

  1. The most important reason for using this process with my students is this: When we critique the work of others, we end up being more analytical of our own work. Some teachers, students, or parents seem concerned with the scores and accuracy of the peer critique. Honestly, this isn’t a major concern of mine. My main purpose is to get the kids looking repeatedly at what makes for quality writing. In order to fill in the form, the students are spending time repeatedly reading things like, “Topic sentence fits the details of the paragraph,” or “Author uses rich vocabulary.” The repeated exposure to these expectations engrains the concepts in the students’ minds.
  2. Growth mindset. Teachers expect students to listen to the critique of others and improve their writing. It encourages them to see their work as always progressing and never perfect.
  3. Tech Skills. Students use technology as a tool for learning.
  4. Soft skills. Students learn so many soft skills through this process. As students share their thinking with peers, they learn to communicate more clearly. They also have to learn collaborate because they need to try to say things with tact to avoid alienating their peers. They have to learn to stay on task and not goof around when working with a peer. They learn empathy, patience, honesty, and much more.
  5. Writing process. Students revise and edit as a result of the peer critique.
  6. Instant feedback and accountability. Teachers can accomplish most of the above reasons without the use of online forms. By using the technology, students sense that the teacher can see their results instantly after completing the critique. Also, the teacher finds out right away which students are on task and which are off.

And they obviously become stronger writers.

Making Your Classroom a More Positive Place

In episode 13 of The 5-Minute MishMash, I share 5 tips to bring some more positivity into your classroom. You can listen to the show here…

And read the transcript here…

  • Trick number 1: Be a Never-ending Tsunami of Positivity. Just start saying positive things as often as you can. Anything positive at all. I love being here. This is fun. What a great day. I love learning. What a cool bunch of kids. Epic. Awesome. Amazing. Do you ever have kids react in a way that shows a bad attitude? Like if you say, take out your math books, some kids might groan? The best way to combat these inappropriate reactions is for you to be a tsunami of positivity.
  • Trick number 2: Talk to Kids Privately about misbehavior. When students misbehave, don’t correct them publicly. Find an opportunity to bend down, look them in the eye, and very calmly correct them for their poor choice. Let the student know that you believe in them, that you know they just made a mistake, didn’t do it on purpose, and that you want the best for them. No lectures. No shaming. Just a little positive pep talk. If a child is making a bad choice that must be dealt with immediately and publicly, then simply ask the student to stop very quickly and move on. Then address their poor choice in a face to face later. This will keep the positive climate strong in your room. Don’t let the negative choices of your students suck the positivity out of you as the class leader.
  • Trick number 3: Write Kids Nice Notes. Take 2 minutes every day to write a simple little nice note to one or two students. Leave the note in a hiding place where the student will find it. Everyone loves getting mail. How can kids disrespect you or defy you if you’ve written them really nice notes?
  • Trick number 4: Be ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’. The Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books is well-known for stories of human triumph. Be a walking Chicken Soup book for your students. Tell stories of inspiration to your class as often as possible. If you don’t have your own stories to tell about students or friends, dig up a few from a Chicken Soup book or from the Internet. Everyone loves stories, and telling positive anecdotes about former students (or even current students) will inspire them to excel. Your kids will want to be the focus of your next positive story. By doing this you are valuing goodness and making it so loud that the negative gets drowned out.
  • Trick number 5: Let kids overhear you bragging about them. Your students will live up to whatever they think your opinion is of them. One of the most powerful ways to pump your kids up is to “accidentally” let your kids overhear you telling a colleague, the principal, some parents, or other students something incredible about them. When kids think it’s an accident, they’re more likely to believe it. They won’t want to disappoint you so they’ll really be motivated to be the best version of themselves possible.

And now for a little confession. This episode isn’t for you…it’s for me. I am not telling you what you should do. I’m reminding myself of what I need to do to turn around some negativity that I’ve allowed to creep into my classroom. Yes, these tricks are simple, but they’re also extremely difficult. I am far from perfect at implementing my own tricks and this episode is a reminder for me to get back to what works. Annnnd maybe they’ll help you as well.

I’d cherish your comments.

It’s Raining Handouts!

When I pass out papers to my class, I chuck them in the air and let them rain down all over the room.

Yes, I really do this. And I did it with my 3rd graders, my 4th graders, my middle schoolers, and even with teachers during workshops.

5 Reasons to chuck handouts

  1. It’s fun The kids, and even the adults, get energized when they see me throw handouts into the air and have them explode all around them. It’s a party. It lightens the mood. It shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously. It makes you more approachable.
  2. It saves time If I can save the 2 minutes of slowly passing papers down aisles, or having student representatives help pass out papers, then I potentially could be adding hundreds of minutes of instructional time to my school year. That’s a lot more time for more important matters, even if it’s playing with the kids or resting.
  3. It encourages teamwork I train my students to quickly take a paper, but they also learn to pick up extra papers in their proximity and look for students who have a raised hand indicating they didn’t get a paper.
  4. It’s energizing All students get up and move. They get a burst of exercise that can help them be more alert to learn.
  5. It requires maturity I make it perfectly clear to my students that if they get super wild or can’t settle down after I throw the papers, then I can’t do it the next time. And they WANT me to throw those papers, so they learn to handle the crazy with maturity.

So do I chuck papers when I’m passing out papers with student names on them? Yes. The trick on this one is to have each student grab ONE paper only and hand it to the owner. They don’t look for their own paper. They don’t grab two or three papers. They just grab one and quickly get it to the owner. If a student hands one paper out and has extra time, then they grab a second to give out. This saves a LOT of time. I can pass out 30 named papers to students in about 30 seconds rather than take three minutes handing them to the owners one at a time.

Try it with your class. Shoot a video and Tweet it to me, won’t you? I will share out your video.

Here’s this week’s episode of The 5-Minute MishMash where I share about raining handouts…and more!