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Peer Writing Partnerships

Middle school teachers have four to five sections of writing classes, which can translate into 100 to 150 students. Having to read, confer, and offer feedback on that amount of writing is frustrating and exhausting; it often results in teachers asking their students to do less writing, even though the research clearly shows that not only does writing frequently improve writing—it also improves reading comprehension (Writing to Read, Graham & Hebert, 2010).
Inviting students to help one another and provide feedback while they plan, draft, revise, and edit means students improve their writing before teachers read the work. Responding to these drafts takes less teacher time because many issues have already been addressed.
Peer partnerships can be formal, created by the teacher and given a specific purpose. They can also be informal, allowing students to choose their partners and the focus of the feedback. In a workshop, students might work informally with one to three peers each time class meets, based on the writers’ needs and their classmates’ expertise in the area that requires feedback.
Please share how you use writing partnerships in your classes.
Laura Robb

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Lori Lee

Although it's not the same environment; in my adult TOEFL class; I did Ms. Robb; what you recommended; this past semester. For those who don't know TOEFL is a diagnostic test to assess proficiency of non-native English speakers. In the TOEFL test; there is a Writing Section.

One day in class, I switched my routine. Instead of taking all the TOEFL writing assignments from my adult students; I had them pair up; and show their work to one another. I had the students show their work; to get feedback; and to help each other. The results were immediate; and astounding.

The energy in the room; for the better; shifted. All of the sudden; the students didn't feel scrutinized (or about to be scrutinized). Immediately; to one another; my students became; synchronized. They read each other' s work. They felt comfortable in contact; instead of feeling isolated; turning in an individual writing assignment.

Students read each other's work; they gave compliments and comments. Students helped each other with grammar, and typos. Students helped use the strategies that they had learned in class. This exercise of focus and feedback; helped all of them individually and collectively.

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