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February 20, 2014

Peer Critiques: A Lesson in Purposeful Feedback

By Kriscia Cabral
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Feedback is necessary in an effective learning environment. It creates a path for students to follow on their learning journey. Use a deeper learning strategy and video lesson to incorporate quality peer critiques in your classroom.

    I was introduced to "Austin’s Butterfly" during a Deeper Learning MOOC. "Austin's Butterfly," produced by Expeditionary Learning, "demonstrates the transformational power of models, critique, and descriptive feedback to improve student work." I first watched it as part of an assignment. Afterward I reflected on the effect the video had on me. I brought it into my classroom to share with my class. The conversations, feedback, and understanding of the revision process transformed the way we looked at all of our work.

     

    The Procedure:

    • Watch "Austin’s Butterfly" as a class

    • Have students share their reaction to the video

    • Discuss ways a good critique could benefit your learning

    • Try a critique with your class

    We decided to put what the class learned about critique into action with a writing assignment on opinion pieces. After viewing the video, students began their first drafts. As they started, I reminded them that this part of the assignment was just that: a first draft. My exact words were, “Remember how many times Austin had to draw the butterfly?” This was a good reminder as it took Austin six tries to make his beautiful butterfly and a connection for them to keep in mind — that their writing was not nearly done yet.

    Once first drafts were completed, we talked about Austin’s peers and how they critiqued his work. What did they say? How did they say it? What made their comments different from “That’s good,” or “I like your piece"? We talked about precise suggestions, being honest yet mindful of feelings, and how to offer ways to improve. This was our focus when we critiqued our peers.

    For this part of the experience, I had students partner up. Before partners switched papers, I offered a mini-lesson on peer critiques. I shared a slideshow highlighting the purpose of the critique:

    • Positive comment first

    • Critique with a helpful suggestion

    • Grammatical advice

    I emphasized the importance of the positive comment. I also gave suggestions about the grammatical advice, because my students will often focus more on the grammar than on the writing as a whole. I model with an example, we do one together, and then they’re off!

    After starting with in-class partners and verbal critiques, we then expanded our sharing using Google docs. We partnered with another classroom at our school and practiced more. Want to extend your students’ voices even further? Share them on your classroom blog or website.

    We posted the drafts to Kidblog and looked for feedback there. After reading the critiques, students went back to the drawing board to incorporate the advice and suggestions they received. Watching their opinion pieces transform, one critical — yet sincere — critique at a time was quite powerful!

    Watching learning in action and modeling what they saw in the video has not only transformed our writing, it has transformed the way we communicate as a class. When students give advice and share with each other, they think of meaningful ways of saying things. They remember to be honest and precise. They remember to speak with purpose. The concept has reached all areas of our learning. Their ability to communicate their ideas and support each other’s learning is a skill they can utilize for a lifetime.

    What are ways you encourage purposeful feedback in your classroom? I’d love to hear from you!

    Feedback is necessary in an effective learning environment. It creates a path for students to follow on their learning journey. Use a deeper learning strategy and video lesson to incorporate quality peer critiques in your classroom.

    I was introduced to "Austin’s Butterfly" during a Deeper Learning MOOC. "Austin's Butterfly," produced by Expeditionary Learning, "demonstrates the transformational power of models, critique, and descriptive feedback to improve student work." I first watched it as part of an assignment. Afterward I reflected on the effect the video had on me. I brought it into my classroom to share with my class. The conversations, feedback, and understanding of the revision process transformed the way we looked at all of our work.

     

    The Procedure:

    • Watch "Austin’s Butterfly" as a class

    • Have students share their reaction to the video

    • Discuss ways a good critique could benefit your learning

    • Try a critique with your class

    We decided to put what the class learned about critique into action with a writing assignment on opinion pieces. After viewing the video, students began their first drafts. As they started, I reminded them that this part of the assignment was just that: a first draft. My exact words were, “Remember how many times Austin had to draw the butterfly?” This was a good reminder as it took Austin six tries to make his beautiful butterfly and a connection for them to keep in mind — that their writing was not nearly done yet.

    Once first drafts were completed, we talked about Austin’s peers and how they critiqued his work. What did they say? How did they say it? What made their comments different from “That’s good,” or “I like your piece"? We talked about precise suggestions, being honest yet mindful of feelings, and how to offer ways to improve. This was our focus when we critiqued our peers.

    For this part of the experience, I had students partner up. Before partners switched papers, I offered a mini-lesson on peer critiques. I shared a slideshow highlighting the purpose of the critique:

    • Positive comment first

    • Critique with a helpful suggestion

    • Grammatical advice

    I emphasized the importance of the positive comment. I also gave suggestions about the grammatical advice, because my students will often focus more on the grammar than on the writing as a whole. I model with an example, we do one together, and then they’re off!

    After starting with in-class partners and verbal critiques, we then expanded our sharing using Google docs. We partnered with another classroom at our school and practiced more. Want to extend your students’ voices even further? Share them on your classroom blog or website.

    We posted the drafts to Kidblog and looked for feedback there. After reading the critiques, students went back to the drawing board to incorporate the advice and suggestions they received. Watching their opinion pieces transform, one critical — yet sincere — critique at a time was quite powerful!

    Watching learning in action and modeling what they saw in the video has not only transformed our writing, it has transformed the way we communicate as a class. When students give advice and share with each other, they think of meaningful ways of saying things. They remember to be honest and precise. They remember to speak with purpose. The concept has reached all areas of our learning. Their ability to communicate their ideas and support each other’s learning is a skill they can utilize for a lifetime.

    What are ways you encourage purposeful feedback in your classroom? I’d love to hear from you!

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