Is a peer edit a good edit?

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Uncategorized
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So, I’ve been thinking about peer editing. Honestly, there is no way that I can read and edit everything that my students write. And, just as honestly, there is no reason for me to do so. I get that I am the paid professional in the room, but that does not mean that I am the only person from whom students learn or even the only teacher in the room.

I have noticed that the group of students I have this year seems very interested in reading and sharing work as they write. Great. Let’s do more of that.

Being a good editor, peer or otherwise, doesn’t happen without practice or guidance. We’ve been working both angles. The other day we had worked on a web to pull apart a few particular sections of the story in The Island of the Blue Dolphins. We’ve been working on turning making inferences into a bit of a math problem (information in the story + background knowledge=inference). We had worked through several short passages in a guided format and students had another example to do independently at home. Then, they were to use that information to write a paragraph that answered the bigger question we were investigating.

This was the second question/go-round with this strategy. I had students work over their paragraphs in a couple of ways. After having written at home, I worked with one small group at a time to review, again, what would make both a good paragraph and a good answer to our question. We also talked about constructive criticism: what it is and what it is not. Students reread their writing and made some changes. Then, they switched papers and gave each other comments on post-it notes. Finally they made any changes they wanted before I got to read and assess their “best work”.

In class I was impressed with the seriousness with which the students commented and worked at editing their short paragraph. The effort was certainly there. But, what it would look like as a product? You just never know.

Last night I was reading over the work. Most of them made some real changes. This is no small feat for 5th graders, in October no less. I gave everyone comments as well, although I am not asking for another rewrite on this one. More than anything I was glad to see the openness and seriousness with which they approached the task.

So my final call on this one is that it was a good peer edit–the process was definitely positive. And, the products were not all that different from what I would have expected from a second draft after I edited, with the added bonus that students got to practice editing in addition to being edited. It’s a good thing.

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