Peer Editing Esl Writing Assignments

Before you begin, be sure to model and discuss each step of the writing process (prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing), preferably using a whole-class story or class newsletter article. Please note that the revising stage precedes editing. Student should have already worked through content revisions before reaching the editing step.

When they are ready for the editing stage of the writing process, students should edit their writing and then meet with a partner to engage in peer editing. Prior to having students use this tool independently, it is important to model its use. To do this, display sample text on an overhead projector, document camera, or SMART Board so that all students can view it. Model the use of the self-edit column with the displayed text, with you assuming the role of author. Then have a volunteer fill out the peer-edit column so that all students can hear and view the process. Finally, discuss what went well and what could be improved in the editing steps that were modeled.

This tool serves multiple purposes, including:

  • The self-edit step
  • encourages students to evaluate specific features of their writing, increasing self-awareness of writing conventions
  • keeps the pen in the writer’s hand for the initial editing phase
  • The peer-edit step
  • helps build a learning community in which peers work collaboratively
  • heightens the awareness of various print and grammatical conventions for the peer editor and the author
  • Use a fish-bowl technique to allow the class to view a self- and peer-edit session of two of their classmates. To do this, first choose one student to model the self-editing phase. It is helpful to select a student who has a good understanding of the criteria on the rubric, such as proper grammar and punctuation. That student works through the items in the self-edit column as the other students observe. It is helpful to put the editing checklist on an overhead projector or document camera so all students can see the process. After the self-edit is complete, discuss the process with the students. Next, choose another student to serve as the peer editor for the piece that was just self-edited.  Have the two students sit in the middle of the class so that all students can see and hear them as they work through the peer-editing phase. Afterward, include the entire class in a discussion about the process itself and ways in which the editing session will help the author and peer editor improve on their writing.
  • Have students work in groups of two or three to edit one piece of writing. The interaction between peers will help make the editing process more explicit. While the students are working in groups, move from group to group to check their understanding of the editing process and use of the checklist. Try to notice groups that lack comments in the “Comments and Suggestions” columns and encourage them to use this section to provide feedback to the writer, particularly for criteria that lack a check mark. To guide them, you could ask, “What do you think you could write in the ‘Comments’ section to help the writer fix this error?” Be sure to tell students that if they are unable to mark a check in the “After completing each step, place a check here” column, they must indicate the reason why they cannot check it in the “Comments and Suggestions” column.
  • Regularly review the editing process by using samples of students’ work or your own writing samples. Assess students’ progress of the editing process by creating a simple checklist. List all students’ names down the first column and a row for dates on which the editing checklist was used across the top. Then, as you observe students during the editing process, you can rate their level of effectiveness as an editor by using simple marks, such as:

    NO = Not Observed (use this for students you did not get to observe on that date)
    +  = exceeds expectations
    √  = meets expectations
    -   = below expectations

    Student NamesDate 1Date 2Date 3Date 4
    Student A
    Student B

    If you notice a student who receives a “below expectations” two times in a row, you can have him or her work with a peer who typically scores “above expectations” to model the process for him.

  • If your school uses a team approach for grouping students (a group of students who all share the same content area teachers), consider encouraging other team teachers to use this checklist in their respective content areas. Consistency in the editing process will help students understand that the editing process can apply to all written pieces, regardless of the content area.

Grades   5 – 8  |  Lesson Plan  |  Standard Lesson

Digitally Telling the Story of Greek Figures

In this lesson students research Greek gods, heroes, and creatures and then share their findings through digital storytelling.


Teaching writing skills can be boring because writing is traditionally a lonely, isolated pursuit; however, the ESL writing class offers many opportunities for collaboration whereby both students and the instructor can work together at various stages of the writing process.

Peer Editing – Teaching Writing Skills

Perhaps the most widespread collaborative activity in the writing classroom is peer editing – also called peer review or peer feedback.  This activity has been popularized by ESL writing texts which normally contain advice on peer editing and tear-out peer editing worksheets for students to use and share.  Peer editing offers students the opportunity to share their ideas and writing with another reader in the class, and receive constructive feedback to help them further develop a piece of writing.  This can be an excellent activity if carefully and thoughtfully introduced by the teacher.  The students must be clear on several points before diving into peer editing.

3 Important Things to Consider – Peer Editing in a Writing ESL Lesson

Students should understand the purpose of peer editing and how this purpose ties in with the nature of writing.  The biggest challenge any writer faces is developing the ability to read his or her own writing as a detached reader, rather than as the author.   A peer editor can help the writer/author to develop this ability by uncovering inappropriate assumptions about audience knowledge in the writing.

Students should understand what specific features of the writing the peer editor should focus on.  Students usually presume that feedback on writing should focus on grammar.  This is important of course, but other areas of writing such as organization, register, and vocabulary can be equally important, especially in academic contexts.

Students should understand what constitutes constructive feedback.  They need to know what kinds of comments can actually help their peer to improve their writing in terms of positive, specific feedback.  For example, a comment such as “This paragraph is not good because I can’t understand the ideas” will leave the writer with very little indication of how the paragraph might actually be improved.  An example of better feedback might be to underline a specific sentence in the writing and comment, “I don’t understand the idea in this sentence.  Maybe you can add a transition word because I think it might be related to the sentence before.  Or, maybe the sentence should be moved.”

Give Proper Instructions – Peer Editing in a Writing ESL Lesson

In short, students require some background and training before jumping into peer editing.  Without this preparation, simply asking students to exchange papers and give each other feedback can be very confusing for students because they probably won’t know how to proceed, and often students believe that any kind of editing is the teacher’s job, not theirs. Used effectively, peer editing can make a writing skills lesson fun and engaging!

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Related Reading:

Group Work in the ESL Classroom

Using Wikis in the ESL Class – Part I


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