Peer Editing

Author: Catharine Niuzzo Honaman

Time: 3 days
30 minutes to read over lesson plan and make copies of proof-reading forms
Materials: Proof-reading forms


Students will exchange their science fiction short stories with three of their peers on three consecutive days. The first peer editor will check to see that all the elements of the short story have been included and developed appropriately. The second peer editor will mark problems with mechanics. The third peer editor will look for the scientific elements, public policy information, and stylistic components. There will be a short conference time at the end of each class.

Purpose – The students will read and critique three of their fellow students’ science fiction short stories for mechanics, short story elements, and style.

Students will be able to:

  • Identify and indicate mistakes with:
  • The short story elements of plot, setting, characters, and theme
  • Mechanical elements of spelling, punctuation, grammar, and capitalization
  • Stylistic elements such as transitions and varied sentence structure
  • Informational elements from science and government classes

English Education Standard
W-P6. Write a story that develops complex characters, plot structure, point of view and setting; organizes ideas in meaningful sequence; and includes sensory details and concrete language to advance the story line.
PO 1. Write a first- or third-person story:
- develop a point of view
- present events in a logical order
- develop events that convey a unifying theme or tone
- include sensory details, concrete language and/or dialogue
- use literary elements (e.g., plot, setting, character, theme

W-P1. Use transitional devices; varied sentence structures; the active voice; parallel structures; supporting details, phrases and clauses; and correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar and usage to sharpen the focus and clarify the meaning of their writing
PO 1. Use transitions (e.g., conjunctive adverbs, coordinating conjunctions, subordinating
Conjunctions) where appropriate
PO 2. Vary sentence structure (e.g., compound, complex, compound-complex)
PO 3. Use active voice as appropriate to purpose (e.g., creative writing)
PO 4. Use parallel structure appropriately
PO 5. Sharpen the focus and clarify the meaning of their writing through the appropriate
use of
- capitalization
- standard grammar and usage (e.g., subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement and consistency of verb tense)
- spelling, with the use of a dictionary/thesaurus (as needed)
- punctuation (e.g., comma, ellipsis, apostrophe, semicolon, colon)

Teacher Background
An appreciation of science fiction and a delight in the writing process

Resource Websites

http://webster.commnet.edu/writing/symbols.htm (Common Proofreading Symbols, a list of the proofreading marks)



In this lesson students will be exchanging their stories with three or more of their classmates. Please emphasize that pointing out problems with another’s story is not criticism in a negative sense but is a helpful gesture. Each peer editor will look for mistakes in only one area. It is suggested that one day be devoted to each of the edits.

1. Ask the first peer editor to read over the story answering the following on the first peer editing sheet:

  • How clear is the plot and are the events in a logical order?
  • Is the setting described well with sensory details?
  • Are the major characters developed?
  • Are the minor characters moving the plot along or giving important information about one of the major characters?
  • Is there a definite theme? Is it optimistic about the future?

2. A second peer editor then needs to read over the story marking any suspected problems with spelling, punctuation, grammar, and capitalization. It is not the peer editor’s job to correct these mistakes, but merely to point them out. If your students know the editor’s marks this is an appropriate time to use them.

3. The third peer editor now needs to look at the story and make sure that the clean form of energy production is well integrated into the plot and explained with much scientific detail. There also needs to be a flashback in which the characters remember the unhealthy conditions of the bad old days and recollect the final straw that was the impetus for a change in public policy that brought about the implementation of a new form of energy production. Lastly, ask the student editor to read through the story to see if she or he is able to improve the stylistic sophistication of the writing. For example, do the transitions help the story flow more naturalistically, and are the sentence types varied to convey subtle messages about the pace of the story in different places? The excitement of a scene can be enhanced by short sentences. Descriptive passages often sound better with long, complex sentences. Even in the description of a character, the type of sentence employed can be very revealing about personality in a subtle way.

At the end of each day’s peer editing session leave ten or so minutes for the students to get together to go over the comments which were made and to ask questions of the editor and you.

Embedded Assessment
The peer editing sheets are a good indication of how closely and critically the student editor is reading and analyzing the story that he or she is reviewing. Time spent on tasks is another indicator of the lesson being taken seriously.

None is necessary for this lesson.

Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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