Using students to give feedback about their writing is a powerful way to develop students’ skills while reducing your workload.
Simple two-step process
1. With students working in pairs, the author reads his/her work aloud while the other listens.
Why it helps: Slowing down to read aloud may be enough for the author to spot grammatical errors that the author doesn’t see when reading silently.
2. For a second check, the listener reads the work aloud to its author.
Why it helps: The person who didn’t write the paper is far more likely to read sentences as written instead of the way the author intended.
Why it helps: Hearing the paper read by someone else is more likely to reveal to the writer problems he/she corrected mentally but still needs to correct on paper.
During the second reading, students may want to stop at the end of every paragraph, or more often, to see if either questions something that they read. A penciled question mark in the margin (or highlighting on the computer screen) is all that is necessary to help the author remember to check that sentence later.
Tips for trying the technique
Although most strategies I recommend are geared toward teaching teens and adults, this activity can be done with students as young as fourth or fifth grade.
For the activity to work, students need to be fairly well matched in respect to their reading and writing skills.
Also, the reading order is important. The author gets the chance to identify needed changes before the partner can note them. If the listener has reading difficulties, reading second lets him anticipate words s/he will see in the reading.
Read aloud pairs is not a peer editing activity per se. The point is to get the author to focus on the words s/he put on the page.
Comments? Questions? Let’s hear from you.
This post appeared in Writing Points for May, 2011, ©2011 Linda G. Aragoni