Peer Conferences: Are they worth it?

18 Oct

Today we did peer conferencing in class with the narrative essays the students have been writing. Many times I’ve done peer conferences and realized after the lesson that it had absolutely no value and was a complete waste of time. The students are not teachers. Sometimes they don’t give the best advice. Sometimes they give REALLY bad advice to each other.

For example, after peer conferencing in a lesson last year, a student showed me her paper. She asked me if the word ‘I’m’ needed to be capitalized because her partner had told her that it wasn’t. Every time she had used ‘I’m’, her partner had drawn a big slash through the capital I……head slap.

And then you get the usual useless advice that students give each other like “It was good!” That doesn’t really help anyone.

I’ve been training students to give comments to each other based on the items I’ve taught them and based on the rubric provided for their narrative essays. Using Angela Stockman’s model of ‘Warm and Cool Feedback’ (see more about this here), I framed questions on an anchor chart that students will use to give feedback to each other on their essays. Examples for narrative would be:




Warm Feedback:

I liked how you used ________________________ to hook the reader.

Your dialogue in (this part) of the story was great.





Cool Feedback:

Could you maybe start your story with _____________________ instead?

What did you learn about life from this experience? (prompting students to come up with a theme)




These sentence frames allow students to give specific advice on the items on the rubric. Therefore when students go and make changes, the changes they make will automatically make their essay better ACCORDING to the rubric and the actual graded items.

My narrative common core rubric, as well as others can be found here.

What are your thoughts on peer conferencing? Waste of time, or worth it?

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2 Responses to “Peer Conferences: Are they worth it?”

  1. AngelaStockman (@AngelaStockman) February 15, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    Hey! Thanks for the shout out here! My own blog has been under construction for a while, so I just caught the pingback this morning. I hope that whatever I shared was helpful. I’ve been doing quite a bit with sentence frames and anchor charts instead of distributing a lot of paper tools for peer review this year, and I like this better. There are some different models I’ve been trying too. Like you, I really like anchoring it to the rubric. It’s made for much better conversations. Going to subscribe to your blog! More local teachers need to be blogging like you! This is a beautiful site!!

    • Andrea @Pencils and Pancakes February 15, 2013 at 9:36 am #

      Thanks that means a lot!
      Anchor charts also helped my students understand “mood” and “tone”. Oh my gosh- I’ve been trying to teach that effectively for 4 years! See you after Feb breaK!

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