Peer Workshop Pointers
are giving peer feedback you are asked to respond to the writer as a
audience. You do not have to be an expert writer to give good feedback.
simply need to read thoughtfully and response respectfully.
better than general—always. “Good job” is general and unhelpful.
like this: “I’m not
sure what you mean
by _____ word/phrase.” “I think you did a great job setting the
context/background for your argument in the introduction.” “I like the
argued against the quote in the second paragraph.” “I think you need
evidence/explanation/development in paragraph four.”
- DO NOT fix grammar unless the lack of correct grammar
interferes with the readers’
ability to understand the text. Read essay once with out a pen in your
avoid the urge to nitpick. Nitpicking a rough draft DOESN’T help. I
- DO NOT, under any
something lazy like “good job” at the end of the essay. It’s okay to
writer did a good job, but it’s not okay to end your feedback there.
read carefully enough to give the writer suggestions for revision,
what you are earning points for.
doubt, ask questions of the writer.
What are you
looking for when you
read a peer’s essay?
entire reason for peer workshopping is so the writer can REVISE and
their writing. What do you need to tell them that will help them do
essay meet the prompt requirements?
strong, clear introduction? Is the thesis a good representation of the
of the essay? If not, how can the writer improve/rewrite it?
reasoning strong? (Or, conversely, are there holes in the argument or
writer include source materials that are well chosen and well
the support varied and relevant?
places where the essay needs more support / explanation / development /
conclusion answer questions / problems posed throughout the essay? Does
bring the ideas in the essay to resolution?
where the essay is working, praise strong thinking and interesting
then, make suggestions, directing the writer toward revision.
of us love group discussions with our
peers and others of us would rather not participate at all. However,
is an important learning tool—for all students, of all learning styles,
us introverts would like it to be or not—and we will utilize it in this
Getting good at discussion, like other skills, takes persistence and
Here are some tips for successful group work and discussion.
prepared. If you haven’t done the
assigned work in advance, you are dead weight to the success of the
also have less fun and learn less stuff.
down the directions for the group
work, and take time at the beginning to assign a note taker or a
report back to the class, if necessary.
genuine and respectful. Of course, be
yourself and own your thoughts and ideas, but do so with kindness. When
encounter ideas you disagree with, respond respectfully.
hog the floor. Just because you think
“no one else is talking,” that doesn’t mean you need to talk more. Some
require a bit of silence before they feel able to contribute. It’s ok
to have a
bit of quiet between speaking, even if you feel uncomfortable with it.
feel the urge to keep talking or fill up all the quiet space, take a
water, breathe deeply and count to ten, write something down in your
yourself from the urge. A little bit of quiet can give others an
opening to participate.
And consider this: maybe all your talking is scaring them off.
your own weight. Don’t let others
hog the floor. EVERY person
in the group should contribute to the discussion. It’s your job to
speak up and
not someone else’s job to make you speak. However, good group members
seek balance and draw out the quieter members with questions.
questions. When it seems like no one
really has much to say, ask each other questions related to the task at
people have a hard time staying on
task. It’s ok to remind them of your purpose. Simply say, “Alright,
back to...” and continue with the discussion.
all else fails, go back to the original text and use the Four Questions
some self-reflection. When things aren't going well, consider your own
contribution to the groups:
- do you let
- do you ask
- do you allow
for long silences so quiet students might gather their thoughts?
- is your voice
so loud it's bothering other groups?
- is your voice
so soft others can't hear you?
- do you gather
your courage and contribute even if you're nervous?
Digging Deep in Readings & Discussions
one important concept, theory, or idea … that you learned while
believe that this concept, theory, or idea …
you have learned from this activity to some aspect of your life.
question(s) has the activity raised for you? What are you still
answer “nothing” to any of these; you must come up with something.)
from: Dietz-Uhler, B. and Lanter, J. R. (2009). “Using the
Technique to Enhance Learning.” Teaching
of Psychology 36.1 (38-41).
is a tool or strategy to get words on to
the page, to helps us explore what we think about the world and the
readings, and to exercise our writing brains.
Best practices for freewriting:
writing and don’t stop. Keep the hand moving at all times. Even when
stuck for what to say, keep writing. Don’t stop because momentum is one
most crucial parts of writing. Even erasing and crossing things out
momentum, so don’t. Just keep moving.
and meander. Repetition is okay. It can even help. When you get stuck,
pen moving, even if that means repeating what you’ve already written.
the focus topic or question if there was one. Repeat the same word or
over and again until a new idea occurs. Just keep writing. If you don’t
what to write, actually write that out on the paper, “I don’t’ know
write….” Write what is going through your brain when you are feeling
frustrated with the writing process.
the rules. Spelling, punctuation, grammar and other rules don’t matter
freewrite. No one (besides you) will read this, so it doesn’t matter
looks like, what it sounds like, what it says. Just get any words, no
how sloppy, down on the paper.
attention to what is happening in your brain while you write. As you
freewriting, notice what all those voices in your brain are saying.
down. Metacognition is thinking about your thinking, and one stumbling
many writers face is the negative voices in their heads getting in the
their work. Some writers call this the censor. To really improve our
eventually need to turn the censor off. But this takes lots of
practice. The first
step is simply to notice how your brain works when you write. The next
to address those thoughts and process. The bottom line is that the
on fear and anxiety, it has a terrible work ethic, and it won’t help
your essays. So, the ultimate trick is to feed your brain thoughts that
help you write better.
a student you will need to send
email to your professors. It is important when
you do this to maintain a professional persona. These websties offer
the web. This one on netiquette and this one written by
the professors at USA Today.
this video about keeping it simple is cool.
Here are some other guidelines for creating suitable email messages.
an appropriate email address.
“LilMizPimp22@yahoo.com” is not appropriate for work or school.
and “email@example.com” are. If you do not currently have an
email address, all students are assigned an account through school you
activate; you can even forward it to another email account if you don’t
check multiple emails accounts. Or, create a new email account on any
free web-based providers and forward all your other email accounts to
one. Most accounts allow you to set up forwarding or popping. My gmail
checks/“pops” two other email accounts for me. There are clear
the help menus of the email providers how to do this should you wish to
this kind of thing up for yourself.
sure your display/screen name is your
actual name and not blank or a nickname. You can do this in the
options tabs. The display/screen name is the name of the person who
account, which is likely different than the email address. For
students get email from me, the email address is “firstname.lastname@example.org”
display/screen name is “Cherri Porter.”
your full name and the class you are
taking with the professor you’re contacting at the end of the email.
have lots of students (sometimes with the same or similar names), and
helpful for us to see your full name to accurately match you to our
Even if we know you in person, we see your name on the roster and may
recognize an abbreviated form of your name in an email.
complete sentences and copy edit. An email is not a text message.
correct language usage. Be clear, brief, and spell check; correct
punctuation errors before you hit send. Compose it in Microsoft Word
the editing tools, and then paste into email for safety.
Good Questions for Good Discussions
If you can answer the question by doing a quick google
search, it's not a good question.
open a subject rather than solving it
itself with audience and authorial intent
from a critical or careful reading of the text, balancing healthy
skepticism and logical reasoning
or ties in wider issues and / or relates back to thinking practices as
out of your own frame of reference (“what does this mean in our
your author’s (“what was the author trying to convey when he/she wrote
how would the audience have responded?”)