Thursday, June 20, 2013

Peer Coaching in Writing

I am so excited to begin my three week experience with the National Writing Project through UW-Milwaukee on July 8th.  For three weeks, I will absorb absolutely EVERYTHING I can to make myself a better teacher of writing -- and of course, pass that information on to you!  (Check back often!)

On Tuesday evening, we had our last pre-institute meeting and had an amazing presentation by one of last year's NWP participants, Judy Bartell.  Judy shared the inquiry project she worked on last year called "Peer Coaching:  Handling a Classmate's Paper with TLC".

I took away SEVERAL good ideas that will help me in my writing classroom:

1.  Having two students meet to talk about their writing is called peer coaching (not peer editing or peer tutoring) because they are talking writer to writer, helping each other.

2.  It is important for peer coaches to sit side-by-side, not face to face.  This makes the coaching more collaborative and both students can participate.

3.  The writer should read their writing OUT LOUD while the other student takes notes on a separate piece of paper.    These notes should include things the coach was asked to listen for, confusions, clarifications, highlights, etc.  (Also note that having the writer read their paper out loud, there is less of a focus on editing for spelling, grammar, etc., and more focus on ideas.) 

4.  The coach should NEVER write on the other student's writing because then it takes the accountability out of the hands of the writer.  (I was SO guilty of doing this!)

Judy shared a cheat sheet for peer coaching with the basic outline of how students can run a coaching session:

1.  Welcome (Small talk for a brief moment)
2.  Listening
     - Tell me about your assignment/writing
     - What would you like me to listen for as you read?  What areas are giving you trouble?
     - Could you please read your writing out loud to me?
3.  Talking
     - I really liked....
     - Why did you...
     - You asked me to listen for....
     - I'd like you to tell me more about ...
4.  Wrapping Up
     - What do you want to do next?

I often struggle with meeting with all of my students on a frequent basis so next year, I will train my students how to conduct peer coaching.  Notice that I said "train" -- it will take lots of modeling and practice before students feel comfortable sharing their writing with and giving feedback to their peers.  Judy recommends holding these peer coaching sessions at least once a week.  In a writing workshop, students may be at all different stages of the writing process, but that is OK!  By training my kiddos to coach each other, they will be having a valuable conversation about their writing that will benefit both the writer AND the coach!

How do you use peer conferencing in your classroom?  I'd love to hear from you!


  1. I'm so glad you are enjoying your NWP time! I know what an impact it had on my teaching. Have you ever read How's it Going by Carl Anderson? That book really helped me with learning how to meet with my students. I have it down where I meet with each student once a week during workshop time.

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  2. These are great ideas! I really like the idea of calling the student a peer coach. I can't wait to hear what you learn at your conference!

  3. Just a little jealous! Have a great time:)


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