Peer Review Reinforces Writing Instruction

For the past few years, I have been experimenting with peer review in my high school History classes. The California Council for the Social Studies recently published my article about this just as I was conducting a peer review activity with my 10th grade World History students. In the article, I detail using a computer program called PeerGrade, which is great, but can add several days to a lesson because students have to type their work, submit it, and then conduct several peer reviews.

This post will showcase some student work in doing a peer review activity on paper in one class period. The essay was an argumentative task where students had to state a position about eugenics and support it with evidence from 15 Minute History and the Eugenics Archive. Before writing the essay, students shared the evidence they had categorized on a Vee Diagram. The peer review worksheet I created can be accessed in this Google Doc.

In two (50 minute) class periods of writing my 10th grade students produced an average of 361 words with 6 explanations of their evidence.

Eugenics - positive or negative

Eugenics - positive or negative (1)

Eugenics - positive or negative (2)

Eugenics - positive or negative (4)

I stole this list from one of my awesome ELA teachers, Mandy Arentoft and will project it when giving students time to practice using transitions in their historical writing. Another great teacher, Keith Hart from Brunswick High School in Maine has a helpful blog post teaching students how to use transitional phrases to present their evidence.

A benefit in using peer review is that I get immediate feedback from my students that tells me who is applying the skills from my mini writing lessons. In this case, I clearly need to go back and re-teach the importance of including a creative title, a complex thesis, and in using transitions. Fortunately, not everyone will need this instruction and I can create more advanced writing lessons for them in my next station rotation activity.  For more information about peer review, please look at this #TeachWriting Twitter archive on the topic. It has a wealth of resources for teachers looking to implement peer review into their classroom writing instruction.

WWI Podcasts

This post will showcase 11th grade US History students’ podcasts on a person, place, or event from the Great War.

WWI Banner

This WWI Podcast assignment was adapted from an NWP article detailing how to conduct a First Person Research Paper  by Cindy Heckenlaible (2008). First students listened to a 15 Minute History lecture to understand why the US joined WWI and then they used the resources provided to brainstorm topics. To see the directions for a previous assignment, look at Vietnam War Narrative. You may listen to three earlier student examples: The Orange Mist Protest Becomes Tragedy, and The Last Moments of Elizabeth Hall.

Decide to work with partners or work solo. Then use this spreadsheet to declare your narrator and story (topic). Each narrative must be at least three minutes for an individual assignment, add 1.5 minutes to your story for each additional person involved in the project. The five components of this project were worth 50 points each.

1) Produce an Annotated Bibliography in MLA format with at least six sources. If a historical detail is not included in your annotation, then you cannot use it in your narrative. 92% of students turned this in on time.

Use the details from your annotated bibliography to write your script. Document the historical details in your story by underlining them and including a (parenthetical citation) immediately after. The theme of your story should be — What is a moment in history that all students should learn about? You may use sound effects and soundscapes, but NO MUSIC!

BBC Audio 

Make sure you study the tips in this presentation as you plan your narrative and 2) use this format to submit your story in writing.  81% of students turned this in on time. 3) Create an Annotated Timeline that includes maps of where your story takes place. 37% of students used their time well enough to complete this on time. 4) Write a 5 question Quizizz to share after your story has been heard by the class. Emphasize the most important historical details in your questions and include facts that you would expect to see in a history book. 74% of students turned this in on time. 5) Submit your narrative recording to get all the points. 44% of students made this deadline. 65% of students were able to complete all components on time.


Describe how you managed your time and completed each component of this project? Which of the resources provided did you find most helpful? What does this piece reveal about you as a learner? What would you change if you had a chance to do this project over again?

CA USH Standard: 11.4.5: Analyze the political, economic, and social ramifications of World War I on the home front. CCSS: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.