Scavenger Hunt for ELL Peer Review

Teaching an evening class can surely be exhausting not only for teachers, but also for students. When I started teaching a freshmen composition course last year, my class (which met every day, from Monday to Friday) started at 4:30 and finished about 5:30 in the evening. Most of my students were enrolled in a number of classes and other activities during the day, and sometimes I had a hard time keeping them alert and engaged. I had to create interactive activities to help my students learn in a more productive (but also fun) way.

In today’s post, I would like to share a peer review activity that I tried a couple of times in my writing class, and it worked great. Often, students perceive peer review as a boring activity. But it doesn’t have to be this way! We, teachers, can always make it more interesting and helpful for them. The activity that I would like to share today is called “Scavenger Hunt” and its purpose is to help students provide (and receive) feedback on some of the organizational issues in their writing. However, you can certainly adjust and modify it as you see fit.

Put students in pairs and give each student their peer’s draft and a set of colored pencils. Explain the task: The students need to find specific essay parts in their peer’s paper and mark them with certain colors:

  1. Mark red the thesis statement and other parts (phrases, sentences) that clarify/explain the thesis statement.
  2. Mark green the topic sentences. If you can’t seem to find a topic sentence in a paragraph, make a note in the margins.
  3. Mark blue the sentences that provide support for topic sentences.
  4. Mark yellow the sentence(s) in each paragraph that breaks the unity of the paragraph (does not relate to the main idea of the paragraph). In the margins, explain why this sentence does not/do not fit into the paragraph.
  5. Mark orange the words and phrases that establish the logical and smooth flow of one idea to another.

After the students are done with the Scavenger Hunt, have them discuss their findings with each other and provide suggestions to each other. If you have time, have a few students share their findings with the class.

As you can see, this Scavenger Hunt activity focuses on organization. However, you can always modify it to fit your purpose. You can do the same activity for development (content), grammar and mechanics, vocabulary, and conventions.

In my experience, students stay very focused on this task, and although this peer review is fairly structured, it accomplishes its purpose.

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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