It was any ordinary day during writing workshop, and as I was conferring with a third grade student, Jumaane walked up beside me, a tattered paperback book in hand. “Mr. Working, I’m trying to do a lead for my story like the one in this book, but I don’t get it.”
“I can show him!” Yuliana chimed in from across the group of desks, even before I had a chance to respond. I smiled and watched as Yuliana rushed back to Jumaane’s desk and pulled a chair up alongside him.
When it came time for sharing, Jumaane proudly offered up his newly created lead with the class, an enormous smile plastered across his face. It struck me then: Yuliana provided high quality feedback that improved Jumaane’s writing, and neither of them could have been more pleased. Neither could their teacher.
This hasn’t always been my experience with peer response. For years I have struggled with finding a framework or structure that seems to work with elementary students, something that will bring the author a more substantive response than the all too common, intentionally helpful yet ineffective feedback, “I like it.” The problem was, I simply couldn’t be present in every peer conference.