Peer editing is a god-send and a nightmare, and it all depends on which peers are doing the editing. Sometimes I observe thoughtful commentary being written on student work while at other times I watch students virtually ignore what is read with no more than a “good job” written on the paper.
Thus, I have started using rounds. I know it’s not new, but it’s how I do this.
I have the students arrange desks in a large circle, and I give each student a bunch of sticky notes. The students place their own writing on the desk behind which they are standing. I am on the inside of the circle while the students are on the outside. Before we begin I hand each student a card, and each card has the specific skill or correction on which to comment. These may include a nuanced thesis, quotation usage, citation inclusion, capitalization, comma usage, pronoun/antecedent agreements, etc.
Then, I ask each student to rotate clockwise one desk, and we begin.
I begin the timer with 60 seconds. Each student gets about 45 seconds to read the piece and then has 15 seconds to write one critical comment on a sticky note and one kudos (which can be about anything read) during this time. Critiques are stuck on the desk to the left and kudos are stuck to the right. If this is a longer piece of writing, I then have the students write their names in the margin of the paper where they stopped reading, which allows a future reader to see where the editor left off.
After the 60 seconds everyone rotates, and we begin again. I usually rotate 10-15 times depending on how things are going and how long the writings are.
After 15 minutes or so, every student has a series of positive and critical comments, and each student only had one skill or correction on which to focus. This eliminates students getting overwhelmed, and, if we rotate enough times, two students may assess a piece of writing looking for the same corrections.
I monitor the process (and look for ways to improve it the next time), answer questions, keep students from chatting, and ensure everyone honors the process. Frequently, I follow the peer editing with some silent editing time where the students may use the sticky notes to mark their own papers. I can then move around the room helping students, and from time to time I allow students to partner up or talk with someone who edited his/her writing.
All in all, this has worked well for me.