Ahh, essay revision stations day–the part of the writing process where students reluctantly exchange papers, pretend they are reading a peer’s essay, then show off their vocabulary range by writing “good job!” on the essay they didn’t read. 😉
After many failed attempts at making traditional peer editing and essay revision effective, I decided to change things up and do essay revision stations instead. I can now confidently say that I will NEVER grade another essay unless they have been through these essay revising and editing stations.
From the first time I posted this picture on my ELA teachergram, I’ve gotten hundreds of questions about how I do peer review stations. Most of these questions are because my handwriting is so bad that no one could read what the signs said. Ha!! I finally got around to making these revision stations presentable and wanted to share an essay revision lesson plan with you.
ESSAY REVISION STATIONS IDEAS
ESSAY REVISION STATION 1: SELF GRADE FROM THE RUBRIC
It’s important for English students to know what is expected of them and how they can show mastery of their ELA writing standards. One easy way to reiterate essay writing mastery is by including the rubric you will be using to grade their essays in a revision station. First, students can look over the rubric and self-score their own essay. To up the ante, you may require that students show evidence of each writing criteria. Next, have students discuss with their station groups how they can best improve at least one standard on the rubric. Then, students can edit their writing until it’s time to rotate stations.
If you are a tested ELA course, I recommend adapting the state writing rubrics to each writing assignment. That way, students will become familiar with the state writing requirements throughout the year rather than cramming in ELA test prep at the last minute. In the picture above, I created an example rubric that combines writing standards with the single point rubric method.
If you find that students need some scaffolding to better self-evaluate their own writing, I recommend using revision essay examples. One quick place to find scored essay examples is on the ACT website. At the time of this post, you can access scores 1-6 by clicking the numbers you see in the picture above. To use these revision essay examples in your revision stations, print out at least 3 varied scores and match them up to your own rubric criteria. This will help create a visual for how your rubric will translate to their final essays.
Peer Review STATION 2 : GIVE COMPLIMENTS AND CRITIQUE
I picked up this peer review strategy in college and love how catchy it is! The three stars represent three parts of the peer-reviewed essay that shine. This helps students give compliments about their partner’s writing. The wish is for adding one thing they wish would be better. This gives students an opportunity to give writing advice during the revision process.
ESSAY REVISION STATION 3 : READ YOUR ESSAY ALOUD
It’s amazing how reading your own writing aloud can help you find typos and grammatical errors that your silent reading brain just skips right over! Though it might seem silly at first, there’s evidence to prove that it’s worth the effort and awkwardness. The American Psychological Association reports, “Participants read eight short texts silently, eight aloud, and eight in the disfluent font—and recorded the noncontextual errors (i.e., typos) and contextual errors (i.e., grammar, word choice) that they detected. Relative to silent reading, proofreading aloud improved detection of both types of errors, whereas the disfluent font impaired detection of noncontextual errors and did not aid detection of contextual errors.”
To implement this editing research, set up an essay revision station where students spend time reading their writing aloud. Depending on your classroom culture, you could make this less awkward and more fun with a few of these ideas:
- Have students sit in a circle on the floor with their backs facing the center so that they feel less awkward and formal.
- Have students read their essays into some thrifted vintage telephones. Students love tinkering with outdated electronics for some reason!
- Have students read their essays into a funny voice changer. I practiced with this one and laughed out loud at the turtle option HA!
Obviously, use your own judgement with using these funny read aloud strategies. While they might serve as motivators for some, they could be distractors for others. However, the main goal is to get students to actually read their essays aloud, so if you can successfully add a little fun to this revision station objective, then all the better! As we write in Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning, using flashbulb props like a vintage phone or voice changer go far in making lessons memorable!
ESSAY REVISION STATION 4: ONLINE ESSAY EDITING SERVICES
Having students use online essay editing services like Grammarly, Language Tool, Pro Writing Aid, or Hemingway App will help cut down on your grading and ensure you remain their educator, not editor. While there are pros and cons to all these options, Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid require signups and logins while at the time of this post update, Language Tool and Hemingway App do not.
Here is what Language Tool picked up from the ACT student writing example that I shared above. While it’s not perfect, it does help. Set up an essay revision station where students are instructed to run their essays through one of these online essay editing services and use the feedback to improve their writing.
ESSAY Editing STATION 5 : WORK ON WORD CHOICE
In this essay revision station, students work on word choice and variety of vocabulary. There are multiple ways to encourage students to revise their wording, but one fun way is to have them use a free word cloud generator.
In this example, I pasted a paragraph into Monkey Learn Word Cloud Generator, and it not only gave me a visual representation, but it also gave exact numbers for repetitive vocabulary. In one short paragraph, this student used the word “machine” 9 times. If this student were going through these revision stations, they would work to find synonyms that could add variety to their writing.
ESSAY REVISION STATION 6: MINI WRITING CONFERENCES
This is possibly the most important station because it gives me a chance to speak directly with students and catch any glaring problems I see with their writing. Since I teach high schoolers, I can easily have my own station while they work independently through the other stations. However, it might be best to try to schedule an assistant to help you keep order if you are worried that your students won’t do well without your guidance in the other stations.
Another option is to give verbal feedback during the entire writing process so that you don’t need to be a station yourself on essay revision station day. You can read more about how to do this here: 5 Tips for Grading Essays Faster While Leaving Better Feedback
ESSAY REVISION STATION 7: SHOW OFF SPECIFIC WRITING SKILL
I believe the key to improving writing is to build on skills. To do this, think about focusing on one new skill with each essay. As students do peer review and revision, have them show their learning by highlighting or circling mastery of that specific skill. For example, maybe you are working on embedding evidence. Have students highlight their embedding skills in this station. This will help them to self-grade while helping you with formative assessment.
You can find more self-checking highlighting strategies here: Using highlighters for student self-checking writing
TIPS FOR a SUCCESSFUL ESSAY REVISION lesson plan
For those who prefer video instruction, I found an old master class I put together for a project and thought it was worth sharing for more details.
If you don’t have time to watch this video, here are the essential tips you need to know!
- Make sure you have the right mindset before starting. Yes, these stations do take time, BUT the revision step is where the magic happens. Read more here: English teacher mindset shifts for prioritizing revision over grading essays
- Use a timer to help keep students on track. These stations take around 10 minutes each. I always start out with a full ten minutes on the timer then adjust from there. Here are some fun timer options: cute LoFi Timer with countdown, cute LoFi Timer without countdown, nature sounds with countdown
- Pair students strategically. My VP has done lots of research on student grouping and learned at the ILA conference that the most effective way of grouping writers is to list your writers from most skilled to striving then fold that paper in half. The top half (strong writers) should be paired up (top with top) and the bottom half should be paired up. This makes sense to me because strong writers grow when they are pushed by other strong writers. Likewise, striving writers might be intimidated or embarrassed by being paired with writers who might judge them too harshly. However, if you take steps to ensure ALL writers are successful during the writing process, then all students will have work they are proud of!
- Have a plan for those who aren’t ready for their peer review day. If students aren’t prepared for peer review day, then these stations won’t help them reach their full writing potential. This is why I try my best to work with students during their entire writing process to ensure they will have something for essay revision day. However, there will still be a few students who aren’t ready, so make sure you have a plan for students who are unprepared or absent. As I said in the introduction, I won’t grade an essay unless it has been through these editing stations. If students can’t participate on peer review day, then they have to work silently on their essay and show proof at a later date that they completed the revision stations on their own. 🙂
Whether you gave up on revision stations a long time ago or want to try them for the first time, I hope this post inspires you to give them a go! When done right, they really can be an active and efficient way to help students revise their essays and grow as writers. You can find everything you need to get started in my Fast and Focused Feedback bundle!