Activity Showcase: Drafting Class Expectations for Peer Response (Jessie Moore)

Feb 10 2010

Activity Showcase: Drafting Class Expectations for Peer Response (Jessie Moore)

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Description of Activity

Students practice collaborative writing strategies, using digital literacy tools, while developing expectations for peer response participation in the class for the remainder of the semester. Small groups draft sections of the class document and then post them for comment by other groups. Based on the feedback they receive, groups revise their sections before the sections are combined to form the class document.


The activity gives students an opportunity to practice using collaborative writing tools (i.e., Track Changes and Comments) and strategies (i.e., file naming, tracking revisions, accepting or rejecting proposed changes, discussing proposed revisions). In turn, it supports students’ development of a more sophisticated writing process.


If students have previous experience with peer review, this activity could be completed early in the semester. If students don’t have much experience with peer review, they might take more ownership of the class expectations after the first peer review activity of the semester.

Materials/tools needed:

  • Blackboard discussion board.
  • MS Word
  • Track changes/Comments handout
  • Optional reading for homework
    • From Writing: A Manual for the Digital Age: Contributing to Group Projects (2g, p. 27), Peer Review (6h, pp. 101-105), and Tracking Changes (pp. 110-113)
    • From The Academic Writer: Guidelines for Group Work (pp. 39-40), Guidelines for Group Brainstorming (p. 239), and Guidelines for Working with a Writing Group (p. 288)

Overview of Activity:

1. As a class, brainstorm characteristics of helpful/unhelpful feedback (from peers, faculty, family members, Writing Center consultants, etc.). (5-10 minutes)

2. Divide the class into five (5) groups.

3. Students work in groups to draft one of five sections:

  • Writer’s Responsibilities in Preparation for Peer Response
  • Writer’s Responsibilities during Peer Response Discussions
  • Reader’s Responsibilities when making Written Comments
  • Reader’s Responsibilities during Peer Response Discussions
  • Instructor’s Responsibilities during Peer Response

Students draft their section in a Word Document.

Optional ways to encourage participation:

  • Each student could be required to contribute at least one idea to their section. (Students could practice using track changes within their group to demonstrate their individual contributions.)
  • Group members could be assigned roles (examples: time keeper, recorder, creative idea person, etc.)
  • Faculty member could prompt participation while circulating among groups.

4 Groups post drafts (written in MS Word) to a Blackboard discussion board. (10-20 minutes for drafting and posting, at instructors’ discretion)

    5. Instructor introduces track changes and comments. (5-10 minutes)
    (Consider having students explain how to use these features. While one student might not know all the features, you could pose questions to the class – i.e., If I wanted to hide the comments but didn’t want to delete them, what could I do? – and let students who are familiar with the tools answer while you demonstrate on the screen.)

    6. Another group offers feedback/suggests revisions using comments (to pose comments or questions) and track changes (to suggest revisions) and posts their document as a reply to the first group’s post on the Blackboard discussion board. (10 minutes)

      7. Instructor leads a whole-class review of each section and discussion. The drafting group introduces their ideas and the response group shares their suggestions/critiques. The drafting group is responsible for taking notes about the class discussion, reviewing the response group’s suggested revisions, and re-posting their portion of the document (with tracked changes accepted/rejected and other revisions based on the class discussion). (15-20 minutes)

      [The activity could end here for one class session and the class could briefly return to the activity during the next class session. Students could read the final document (created in step 8) for homework.]

        8. Faculty member (or student volunteer) combines sections and posts for final review.

          9. The class discusses this activity as an example of collaborative writing. (5-15 minutes, at instructors’ discretion)

            • What worked well?
            • How did the review tools facilitate collaboration among groups?
            • What did students do within their groups to facilitate collaboration?
            • How do the commenting and track changes tools change the act of collaborating?
            • In what ways did your group apply what you discussed about peer response to this activity?

            10. Final Reflection: Students write a 5-minute reflection on the experience and how they might use the strategies they learned in other contexts.

              Reflect on your collaborative writing experience. What strategies worked well for you as you collaborated with your group? What experiences challenged your individual writing process? How might you use the strategies you learned today in other contexts?

              • Consider using different strategies for peer response (handwriting, Word features, summative response, etc.) throughout the semester and prompting student reflection on which strategies they would use for different circumstances.
              • Facilitate a discussion highlighting these tools as one strategy for managing collaborative writing and response. Talk about challenges of different strategies and how you might decide which strategies are best for your current collaborative writing circumstances.

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