How to Optimize In-Class Peer Editing to Help Improve Student Writing

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Andy Block, Edtentive Media LLC

Peer editing is a powerful teaching tool that teachers can use in their virtual and in-person classrooms to help students improve their writing. Generally, peer editing of students’ writing is a multi-part activity. First, the students produce a piece of writing. Then, the teacher guides them through the process of reviewing and editing each other’s drafts. Of course, the details of the process can be tailored to suit the students’, the specific objectives of the assignment, and the resources available to the teacher.

Benefits of Students Editing their Peers’ Writing

Including peer editing as part of a teaching practice benefits the students beyond the obvious advantage of having an extra set of eyes on their writing to catch grammar and spelling errors. 

For both the student writer and editor, the activity reinforces the idea that writing is indeed a process and, often, a collaborative process. It helps them understand that good writing is not about getting it right or perfect the first time. Rather, it is a process of improvement that involves feedback and revision. Also, it helps build trust and cooperative group dynamics among the students. 

For the student writer, peer editing relieves them of the urge to write for the teacher’s approval. And it gives them a welcome occasion to write for and receive feedback from someone who does not hold power to wield a grade. For the peer editor, it allows them to develop their reading comprehension, editing skills, and approach to providing feedback. Finally, as you can see, the peer editing process gives teachers an opportunity to assess their students’ levels of mastery in several aspects of writing and reading. 

Tips for Facilitating Peer Editing in Your Classroom

As mentioned above, the peer editing process can be tailored to suit the unique needs of each class scenario. For example, a third-grade class will probably need more instruction than a tenth-grade class, and the exercise details will be different in an asynchronous virtual versus in-person scenario. Following are some general tips for teachers who want to facilitate a peer editing activity for their students.

  • Match student writers with student editors who are not their best friends or significant others. This helps prevent biased feedback and promotes cooperation with new people.
  • Create a handout for students to use as a guide for feedback. Include rubrics on what to look for as they are reading. Provide a checklist of items to review. For example, the list could include grammar and spelling, content and structure, and clarity and tone.
  • Break down the process. Explain peer editing step-by-step and discuss the objectives of the activity.
  • Give the students an example. Before they start editing, show them an example of effective peer editing. Demonstrate how they can make their comments clear and identify both successful parts of the writing and parts that could be improved. 
  • Instruct them to keep their feedback positive. Encourage students to keep criticism to a minimum. This may mean students have to frame their comments in “I” statements. Or, maybe they are required to name three positive things about the writing and three things that could be improved.
  • Check-in with each pair or group as they’re working. Whether in-person or virtual, it is a good idea to check in with the writer-editor groups and provide guidance while they are doing this activity.

Teachers in all subject areas need time to facilitate effective peer editing that benefits their students’ writing.

Save time by using WriteRightNow, a writing software that provides teachers with multiple tools to streamline grading, quickly find writing prompts for in-class composition, and provide their students with feedback efficiently.

WriteRightNow is the perfect solution for teachers in any subject area interested in supporting their students’ problem-solving skills. No matter what content area you teach, the software can streamline the process of providing feedback and deepen students’ skills.

With WriteRightNow, teachers can more easily incorporate peer editing into their instruction strategy by using the writing prompt, feedback, and grading functions to save time.