Peer Response - Alternatives
Thinking About Peer Responses Outside the “Day,” Outside the Formula, and Outside the Classroom
Why Peer Responses?
There are a number of positive values for requiring peer
response. Some are traditional. Here are some traditional peer response formats: Peer Editing for Fun and Profit or Peer Response Form or Peer Response Sheet
- Focuses student attention on audience
- Forces students to develop a draft at least a day or two
before the “final” version is due
- Allows more able students to give feedback to less able
But we also depend on
them for many “by-products” of the process (and who’s to say which is the by-product
and which is the product?).
- Works as a sort of “norming” process so students who
didn’t understand the assignment can start to understand what kind of paper is
- Allows students to read a good number of essays so they
can gain confidence by comparing their work against less-developed essays
- Spurs students to greater effort when they compare their
work to better-developed essays
- Forces students to make drafts that we teachers ourselves
can look at in order to help students
- Gives us a day when students are mentally able to do some
work of their own on their own drafts
- Is a day when everybody suffers together so it builds
have the negative by-products:
- Humiliates students who have writing blocks
- Humiliates students whose papers are the worst in their
- Humiliates students who are slow readers
So, how can we keep the positive aspects, reduce the negative
by-products, and make the Peer Response process more helpful and more humane?
- Think outside the Peer Response “Day”: Use peer response occasionally during
the weeks leading up to the draft. Ask
students to write (or bring in) one tiny bit of the papers on which they
are working. Then, after some
in-class work on that issue, ask them to share their:
- thesis statements
their opening lines
- or their titles or topic sentences from their body
- or their methodology paragraphs (if required)
- or one
well-developed paragraph with great details
...and give them time to do
this during class on days before
the official Peer Response “Day.” The sharing will probably be done just
in pairs, not in large groups.
- Think outside the formula. Just
because it’s Peer Response day, you don’t have to start by doing peer
responses! Instead, start by asking students to improve the drafts they have brought in -- before handing them off to others. [You may want to hold
Peer Response day in the AT lab.] All of the suggestions below can be done
by handwriting OR if you are in the lab, the students can manipulate their
the thesis so that it is precise and accurate. Underline or highlight the
thesis to help readers.
the title into a short, clever title (give them help with this) and a
long, boring explanatory title.
certain that every topic sentence connects in some way to the
some dialogue or sensory detail to one body paragraph.
the opening line more intriguing (give them help with this).
get the idea.
THEN, after this preliminary work,
begin the peer response process.
- Think outside the classroom. This
is a particularly good idea for literature classes, in which the students
are writing looooong essays yet you have so much going on that you
hesitate to use a full class period for peer responses (which are still
useful!!). Give students written, specific, easy directions, preferably
in a chart or rubric, and ask them to respond to one, two, or (at most)
three student essays on their own, between one class and the next. Give some real credit for this work.
Responding outside the classroom
can be done with hard-copy papers or digitally.
Students can simply exchange email addresses and then send attachments
to each other. They can add comments in
a number of ways (bold, brackets, capitals) or simply send a digital
chart/rubric, filled out, back to the author.
In a composition class, you might
try one of the digital-response software programs like Comment.
if you decide to hold an in-class peer response session, use the time
to read some student essays and give appropriate advice. That means that you should ask everybody to
bring in at least two copies (perhaps enough for everyone in a group).