Peer Editing and Writing as Process

Until the late 1960's and early 70's, teachers and consequently students were commonly taught about the tools of the craft of writing -- grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, and handwriting -- but not about the craft itself.

In truth, however informal it may be, writers use a process that typically includes these stages: prewriting and planning, writing a first draft, responding and revising, editing and proofreading, and writing a final draft.

Looking Back to 1980 is one of several lessons in this curriculum which offer opportunity to use the peer-editing process.


In "Balance the Basics: Let Them Write," a 1980 Report to the Ford Foundation, Donald H. Graves offers the following arguments for the importance of writing as a learning tool.

  1. Writing contributes to intelligence by requiring analysis and synthesis of information.
  2. Writing develops initiative, by requiring that the student supply everything him/herself.
  3. Writing develops courage, by requiring that the student give up anonymity.
  4. Writing increases the student's personal knowledge and self- esteem.
  5. Writing encourages learning in all subject areas, by employing auditory, visual, and kinesthetic systems all at once.
  6. Writing contributes significantly to improvement in reading skills.
Advantages of group collaboration in the writing process include the reduction of writing anxiety, overcoming some of the difficulties students encounter in "getting started," emphasizing the importance of addressing a particular audience, focusing on "getting it right" through multiple revisions and drafts, and establishing a norm of critical self-evaluation.

The Stages:

Writing activities are an important feature of A Living Laboratory, with special attention given to small-group collaboration in the prewriting, responding and revising, editing and proofreading stages. Attention to the following steps may help you effectively use writing as a teaching tool, whatever your content specialty may be.
  1. Prewriting (Preparing to write)
    • Read, think, free-write in a journal format
    • Identify purpose and audience
    • Research, take notes, gather information
    • Brainstorm with a peer group (See Clustering/Mindmaping)
    • Organize thinking and plan

  2. Drafting (Putting thoughts on paper)
    • Focus on content (quantity and quality to be considered later)
    • Compose freely, without concern for mechanics

  3. Revising (Taking another look)
    • Maintain focus on content vs. mechanics
    • Share draft with peer group
    • Invite discussion, accept response and helpful input from peers
    • Add to, delete from, rearrange and revise first draft

  4. Editing/Proofreading
    • Share revised draft with peer group
    • Invite correction of grammar, spelling, punctuation, usage
    • Incorporate corrections in final draft

  5. Publication (The final draft)
    • Share the product with peer group (dramatizations, small group reports, individual oral presentations, etc.)
    • Invite evaluation by peer group
    • Submit for final evaluation by teacher

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