Another Peer Review Activity for ELLs

And yet another peer review activity! I used this activity just today during a group writing conference with my students. At the beginning I was somewhat hesitant, as I thought the activity might restrict students’ freedom in providing feedback on their classmates’ drafts. However, during a recent group conference, I noticed that they were a bit reluctant when commenting on each others’ papers, so I decided that just a bit of guidance wouldn’t hurt. As it turned out, the students enjoyed the activity, and it helped some of them with their own writing, as well.

Before I describe the activity, I would like to briefly introduce the writing assignment that the students are currently working on. They just submitted the first draft of their formal proposal, which is the first writing project in the series of the four sequenced assignments of the course. The idea of sequenced assignments is adapted from Leki (1998). The students have to explore a topic of their choice by composing a series of essays in different genres. In their current assignment – formal proposal – they had to introduce their topic, explain its importance, and indicate the specific research questions or the focus that they wanted to pursue in their subsequent assignments. Here is the description of the peer review activity:

Each student received a draft for the review. They were asked to read the draft and comment in the margins with the following phrases:

  • I think this part needs to be clarified.
  • Could you add more details here?
  • I am not sure if I understand this. Are you saying ____________________?
  • Well said!
  • Point well taken!
  • Great example!
  • Nice expression!
  • Very interesting detail.

By asking students to provide these comments, I wanted them to develop their ability to notice both strengths and weaknesses of their classmate’s draft. However, the students were instructed not to feel constrained by the above phrases and offer other suggestions if needed.

As I mentioned, the students found this activity helpful. One student, for example, said that after he had commented on his classmate’s draft with the phrase “Could you add more details here?”, he realized that he was making a similar claim in his own draft without providing much support. By noticing this problem in his classmate’s paper, he knew what kind of revision he needed to make in his own proposal.

I hope you and your students will find this activity helpful as well. Do you have any other peer review activities that you’ve found especially helpful with your writing students?


Leki, I. (1998). Academic writing: Exploring processes and strategies (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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One Response to Another Peer Review Activity for ELLs

  1. Sarise says:

    Hi Elena, I feel impressed by the approach that you used for ELLs. The true thing is that when we look at others’ works we can easily find their mistakes, and maybe we are making the same mistakes but we have not realized yet. I am now in my first year master degree in TESOL program at University of Rochester. Given that I am a novice in TESOL field, it could have many teaching skills that I can learn from experienced teachers, just like you.
    What I have done when I tutor a small group of Chinese students (most of them were at 5th or 6th grade), I usually ask them to do free-writing around a specific topic, for like 2 or 3 minutes. Then let them talk with each about what they think of that topic.

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