Workshop 7: Responding to Writing: Peer to Peer
Key Practices To Observe in Workshop 7
In this workshop, you will see effective practices for helping students
respond to each other as writers. These practices include the following:
- Teachers recognize that peer conferences not only contribute
to better writing but also validate students and build respect and
responsibility in a community of writers. Teachers carefully create
conditions for peer
conferences in which the students feel safe as writers and as respondents.
The workshop shows students engaged in their work as writers, participating
in a positive atmosphere.
- Through peer response, students experience an authentic reader
of their writing, a reader other than the teacher and a reader who
is important to them. This experience stimulates students' interest
in writing—and in revising. It also helps students develop reader
awareness, an important skill in writing.
- In peer conferences, students focus on their drafts and try
to improve them; however, the teachers' goals are not merely to
help the students develop better pieces of writing but also to help
students develop as writers. Teachers' explanations focus on strategies
and skills that students can apply when writing other pieces. The practices
used in the peer conferences help students gain more independence in
their thinking about writing. Though students in a small-group peer
conference focus on the work of one author, the discussion indirectly
other students as they apply ideas to their own writing.
- Peer conferences are organized in different ways—for example,
whole-class response to a peer, small-group response (three to four students),
response between writing partners, and teacher-mentored small-group response.
Sometimes teachers determine the groups, and sometimes students decide
with whom they will work. Partners or groups may work together for
relatively long period of time, or the make-up of the group may vary.
Even in classes led by highly experienced teachers, problems occur
in groups, and teachers, as well as students, may change the groups to help
- Teachers establish a methodical procedure for peer conferences.
They model response and conduct mini-lessons on how to respond effectively
and with respect. They also schedule regular times for students to
share their writing with each other. Routines may vary, but a typical
is for the student author to read the draft aloud and raise specific
questions. Students may record their responses on a feedback sheet
or sticky note and refer to these notes as they discuss the work with
author. In their responses, classmates identify what they think is
going well and address the author's questions. To preserve the writer's
ownership of his or her work, classmates phrase their responses in
terms of possibilities for change. As peers discuss a piece, the writer
takes notes to help with revision. The writer may end the exchange
by explaining plans for change.
- As students work together on their writing, the teacher circulates,
asks questions, offers suggestions, and listens. Sometimes, the teacher
calls attention to a student's work and asks the student to read
and talk about changes and the advice offered by classmates. Mini-lessons
often are based upon what teachers observe in peer conferences.
- Teachers often model response by reading a piece they have written
themselves, and then leading the students in responding to the draft.
Teachers are genuine in asking questions about their work. They listen
carefully and often emphasize principles and language that can help
students work with their own writing. Teachers also model a positive
attitude; they are not defensive when advice is offered, and they demonstrate
writers consider the views of readers but also assume ownership of
their work. In modeling their writing, teachers often use the overhead
and/or provide copies, so that students not only hear the work read
aloud, but also see and read it themselves. Students, too,
asked to model for the class, reading their drafts aloud and asking
- Aware of the pressure students usually feel in responding to
each other, teachers take steps to reduce the pressure or risk in a
peer conference. Modeling and establishing a routine are important
help students feel less pressure and be more open in discussing writing.
Teachers often arrange classroom furniture to foster discussion. One
of the most important ways to reduce the pressure is for the teacher
to affirm students' accomplishments in peer conferences. The
workshop showcases students who enjoy their experience in writing and
with classmates about writing. Teachers consciously foster such a positive
- Teachers do not assume that students automatically will be effective
in peer conferences. They intentionally coach the students, they conduct
mini-lessons, and they also set aside time to help students reflect
on conferences. These discussions call attention to the results of
revision based on peer conferences. Teachers affirm the value of writing,
help students practice a "writer's language," which
helps students think about their own writing.