An essay is a meaning-making piece of writing in which a writer seeks to make sense of the world by exploring some particular problem or phenomenon, often through the lens of some particular idea. The essayist tries to make connections among ideas and experiences to create knowledge.
As you read your peer’s drafts, write comments to help the writer improve the global dimensions of their writing. Each writer should receive clear and concrete answers from each of his or her peer reviewers to each of the following questions:
- How well does the opening of the essay work to introduce readers to a fairly narrow question or problem to be solved and to initiate a line of exploration?
- In more fluent openings, the reader will be able to easily identify which of the essential questions in the conversation about literacy and literacy narratives the student-writer is writing about.
- Novice openings might seem overly general, simply mentioning one or more concepts without setting up a question or problem.
- Peer reviewers can help writers by summarizing the writer’s approach and paraphrasing the questions or problems driving the writer’s paper. Peer reviewers can also help by pointing out sentences and paragraphs that might cause trouble for readers.
- To what degree does the writer briefly and appropriately introduce Alexander’s text in a way that sets up his or her own approach to the paper?
- More fluent papers will focus readers on the particular aspects of Alexander’s article that establish their approach to the paper fairly quickly.
- Novice papers may spend too much space summarizing Alexander’s findings without seeming to have a point.
- Peer reviewers can help by suggesting cuts, or providing bits of language to help the writer get to the point.
- To what degree does the paper go beyond the gist and engage specific passages and scenes from the texts?
- In more fluent papers, writers will use Barclay’s Formula, TRIAC, signal phrases, voice markers and parenthetical citation to paraphrase/quote, explain, analyze, interpret and connect specific passages to one another and their argument.
- In more novice papers, writers may point to ideas in overly general paraphrase, without making much use of the quoted or paraphrased ideas, with the result that the controlling ideas of the paper are not advanced.
- Peer reviewers can help by pointing to missing TRIAC or Barlcay’s Formula elements, or by pointing out sentences and paragraphs that might cause trouble for a high school reader unfamiliar with the concept of Discourse.
- To what degree is the writer clear about the ways his or her findings confirm and/or complicate Alexander’s findings?
- In more fluent papers, writers will use Barclay’s paragraphs to compare their findings to Alexanders, exploring in detail how their findings confirm and/or complicate Alexanders. More fluent papers will be explicit and detailed about the meaning and significance of their findings. Even more fluent papers will consider their own findings from the point-of-view of a naysayer.
- In more novice papers, writers may only reveal the similarities and differences between their findings and Alexander’s, or do so in an overly-general manner, leaving out important details and nuances. Discussion of the meaning and significance of their findings may be skimpy, absent, or uneven.
- Peer reviewers can help by playing the Believing and Doubting Games with writer’s claims about their findings, and provisionally offering writers their own ideas and interpretations of the writer’s findings. Reviewers can also help by pointing to absent or skimpy elements.
- To what degree does the writer connect the implications of his or her findings to one or more of the essential questions driving the conversation among Alexander, Gee, and/or Brandt?
- In more fluent papers, the writer will be clearly driving the argument, using sources to a) introduce new concepts, b) to grapple with arguments, and maybe c) to shift the conversation out of its track. Signs of fluency include use of voice markers to signal the writer’s point of view on quoted or paraphrased passages, explicit use of the They Say/I Say organizational pattern, and robust analysis, conclusion, and connecting moves in the TRIAC and Barclay’s Formula paragraph structures. Fluent papers will explicitly connect their own ideas and the ideas of others to one or more of the essential questions driving the conversation.
- In novice papers, writer’s may not use voice markers or signal phrases, resulting in “dropped” or “hit-and-run” quotes. In general, the writer’s voice and perspective takes a back seat to other writers’ ideas and assertions. The writer may not clearly connect their own ideas and the ideas of others to one or more of the essential questions driving the conversation.
- Peer reviewers can help by pointing to missing TRIAC or Barclay’s elements in source-based paragraphs, suggesting claim-based topic sentences for paragraphs that present evidence without making a point, prompting the writer to bring his or her viewpoint to the fore, encouraging the writer to use sources to introduce new concepts, grapple with arguments, or to shift the conversation, and suggesting signal phrases and voice markers. Reviewers can help by suggesting ideas or language to connect the writer’s ideas to the essential questions driving the conversation.
- How well does the writer draw conclusions about literacy, Discourse, and literacy narratives?
- In more fluent papers, writers will have fairly specific and easily findable answers to the questions they set out to answer in the beginning of the paper. In even more fluent papers, writers will move beyond literacy narratives to speculate about how their research help us understand something about how literacy really works in the world.
- In more novice papers, writers may have overly general or hard-to-find answers to the questions, or answers may remain implicit or undeveloped.
- Peer reviewers can help by pointing to and summarizing the writer’s conclusions, helping the writer develop or extend his or her conclusions, or challenging conclusions the peer review believes are not supported by the evidence presented by the writer. Peer reviewers can also suggest conclusions that they themselves see in the paper being reviewed, but that haven’t yet been developed by the writer.
A good comment will:
- Be generous and considerate in tone;
- Describe what you see or think as a reader, leading to a diagnosis of a problem or description of an improvement to be made;
- Suggest a specific strategy for improvement;
- Provide additional insight by: asking leading questions, providing further detail, suggesting specific materials for inclusion, or engaging in dialogue with the writer.
- Indicate whether this is a high-, medium-, or low-priority issue.
Aim for no more than two comments per page.
In an end comment, write some sentences that give the writer an idea of your overall impression or general effect of the paper. If you can, explain the central insight you have gotten from the paper as a careful reader. Make suggestions about what improvements the writer should prioritize as s/he continues to develop his or her paper’s argument in global revision.