Since 2012, I’ve been using online forms to guide my students through a peer critique process of their writing.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- Tech Skills. Students use technology as a tool for learning.
- 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.
- Writing process. Students revise and edit as a result of the peer critique.
- 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.