At the start of the school year I was keen to let students publish everything they had written, hoping to foster an enjoyment of writing, especially in those who were normally hesitant to write. I would sometimes leave a couple of private comments with editing suggestions on a post prior to publishing their work for an audience. However, I would largely publish their loosely-edited work. This was proving to be effective in my classroom, as I noticed students were finding their voice and quickly finding enjoyment in writing. They were inspired to share their writing with each other in a grade-free environment.
Now, halfway through the year, I have found myself in a dilemma. I’ve been struggling with the extent to which student work needs to be edited and ‘polished’ prior to publishing. I often receive a piece of work painted with subtle errors, but I fear crushing the enjoyment of using Kidblog by pointing out these mistakes and making them edit every word prior to publishing. On the other hand, it is not only my hope, but also my job, to help students present their best work and continue to develop confidently as writers. Not to mention, with 28 students in my class, there is simply no way that I could read, edit, and conference with every author on every blog post.
With this dilemma in mind, I set out to find an effective way of ensuring polished posts without crushing the students’ blogging spirit: peer editing. Both the author and the editor have the opportunity to benefit from the peer editing process. The author receives supportive and constructive criticism from a source other than the teacher. For many students this makes the editing experience far less intimidating and even less of a chore. The other role, the editor, benefits by being given the ability to use critical thinking and communication skills to help another student.
With peer editing, students don’t feel like they are being given a traditional assignment, but more of an enjoyable enterprise. Plus, anything that saves the teacher time is always positive :).
My next step is to coach the class on best practices in peer editing, and to give them time to practice giving constructive criticism. To help with this I have used a peer-editor checklist developed by a colleague of mine which keeps editors focused when editing.
I believe that peer editing of blog posts, coupled with the evolution of their writing through in-class writing projects and assignments will have the desired effect of making my students’ writing not only entertaining, but also with limited error.