Effective Peer Editing

Behold. My first student writing assignment of the school year. These stories have three things going for them. They were all typed, so I do not have to decipher any bad 4th grade cursive. The students completed them at school, so I am fairly certain that this is student work, and I avoided any parent tampering. And finally, they were peer edited, so the spelling and grammar mistakes should be minimal (insert uncontrollable laughter here).

To teachers and students and parents who remember being a student, “peer edit” is usually the code name for socializing during class without anyone noticing. Well, never fear, theroommom is here. I actually have some peer editing strategies that might work for you. Not only can teachers use these in the classroom at any grade level, parents can use these techniques with their children at home without being tempted to over-help the child. Believe me, teachers know when a parent has had a heavy hand in a student’s paper!

What useful tips do you have to improve writing– adult’s or child’s?

Task 1

Have a classmate (or parent) read the essay aloud to the writer. Read EXACTLY what is on the page. If the paragraph does not contain a period, do not pause. If the author wrote “they’re” instead of “there”, read “they are”. If the author wrote “exited” instead of “excited”, pronounce it phonetically. The writer should be able to hear problems with punctuation, misspelled, and misused words. The writer should also hear missing information or disorganized ideas.

Task 2

Highlight the first word of every sentence in the essay and review the highlighted words. Do you have a variety of words or did you begin every sentence with the same word? Is there only one highlighted word in a whole paragraph– or even worse– the whole essay? That means you have forgotten punctuation somewhere. Are the highlighted words the same distance apart throughout the whole piece? That means you may be using only one type of sentence (like all simple sentences) when you should have a variety of sentence types and lengths. You can also have students count the number of highlighted words if you require a certain number of sentences in a paragraph. Five highlighted words should equal five sentences.

Task 3

Circle any helping verbs in the story even if the verb is not being used as a helping verb in that particular sentence. Remove half. This helps to fix passive voice even if you do not understand what passive voice is. I require that my fourth graders memorize the helping verb list some time around October, and it is such a useful tool for many grammar and writing tasks.

Task 4

Read the essay or story backwards one sentence at a time to the writer. The writer should be listening for problems with mechanics, not content. Read one sentence and stop. Check that each sentence has an action, a person/thing doing that action, and is a complete thought. In other words, do you have a complete sentence?

Noteworthy Non-Fiction

            

I will admit that I am not as familiar with juvenile non-fiction as I am with fiction titles. I always have a few students who prefer to read biographies or history books, so I am trying to expand my non-fiction knowledge. I have put together a starter list and am hoping to build it this year. Please let me know what else I can include.

Just a reminder, non-fiction is usually more difficult for children to read than fiction. If your child is reading for pleasure, definitely choose books that are below his/her reading level to keep the comprehension (and enjoyment) high.

While the majority of the titles are intended for a “school aged” audience, there are many that adults will love. I had a father and son read Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World this past school year and both raved about the story.

Biographies: Older Readers– 4th grade through high school

  • Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming
  • Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman
  • A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: the Story of Hannah Breece by Jane Jacobs

Autobiographies: Older Readers– 4th grade through high school

  • Chapters: My Growth as a Writer by Lois Duncan (out of print, copies available through Amazon)
  • Boy by Roald Dahl
  • A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen

History: Older Readers– 4th grade through high school

  • Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World by Jennifer Armstrong
  • Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
  • Blizzard of Glass: The Halifax Explosion of 1917 by Sally M. Walker

Series: Younger Readers– 1st grade through 6th grade (** I included titles that are familiar to me from each of the series, but there are many more from which to choose.)

  • Who Would Win? by Jerry Pallotta
    • Komodo Dragon v. King Cobra
    • Tyrannosaurus Rex v. Velociraptor
  • Step Into Reading (levels 3, 4, and 5) by various authors, Random House Publishers
    • Pompeii… Buried Alive by Edith Davis
    • Moonwalk by Judy Donnelly
    • Abe Lincoln’s Hat by Martha Brenner
  • If You Lived at the Time of … by various authors, Scholastic Books
    • If You Lived at the Time of the American Revolution by Kay Moore
  • Interactive History Adventures (You Choose Books) by various authors, Capstone Press Publishers
    • Colonial America by Allison Lassieur
    • Life as a Viking by Allison Lassieur
  • Who Was … by various authors, Grosset & Dunlap
    • Who Was Walt Disney? by Whitney Stewart
    • Who Was Paul Revere? by Roberta Edwards

Super Book Series and Sensational Sequels

Part of my Harry Potter book collection. Original box set purchased in England. Advanced reader’s copy of Prisoner of Azkaban (no cover art).

I have not done any official research on this or anything, but I am pretty sure Harry Potter kicked off a demand for books with sequels. I know it inspired a whole slew of fantasy-wizard-magic books. In my never ending quest to find the best young person’s book, I feel like the majority of my new reads often have “Book I” printed on the spine.  I also noticed my students tend to reach for books with a sequel more than ever. I actually had a student who read nothing but Hank the Cowdog books all year (there are 59 of them). I tried to encourage a little diversity in his reading, but he was determined to finish the series. I have to admit I was a little impressed that he stuck with it; a series like that can get pretty repetitive. My point is, books with a sequel seem to be more popular than ever.

Which series are the most satisfying to you? Which series didn’t work and should have ended after that great first book? Below are my picks.

Young Readers (1st grade to 4th grade)

  • Magic Treehouse by Osborne (on the verge of the repetitive thing but that can be a good thing for emerging readers)
  • Boxcar Children by Warner (up through book 19, author changes after that and falls victim to repetitiveness– see note above)
  • Henry Huggins by Cleary
  • Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing and Fudge by Blume
  • Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist by LaFevers
  • The Sherlock Files by Barrett

Older Readers (4th grade and up)

  • Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis
  • Ranger’s Apprentice by Flanagan
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Riordan
  • The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Kessler (have not read the newly released 4th book yet)
  • Mistmantle Chronicles by McAllister
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Barry
  • Conspiracy 365 by Lord (must be read in order)
  • The White Mountains (Tripods) trilogy by Christopher
  • Wrinkle in Time by L’Engle
  • 43 Old Cemetery Road by Klise
  • The Magic Thief by Prineas
  • The Magickeepers by Kirov

Not exactly a series, but there are companions

  • Rosie and Crooked Little Heart by Lamott
  • Lemonade Wars and Lemonade Crime by Davies
  • The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger by Lowry
  • Hoot, Flush, Scat, and Chomp by Hiaasen

Sequels are in the works, and I am anxiously awaiting more

  • Museum of Thieves by Tanner
  • The False Prince by Nielsen
  • The Books of Elsewhere by West

Series that should have stopped after the first or second book (in my opinion)

  • Mysterious Benedict Society by Stewart
  • Secret Series by Bosch
  • Series of Unfortunate Events by Snicket (Can these kids ever catch a break?)
  • Junie B. Jones by Park (Kindergarten was great; first grade was obnoxious.)
  • The Gideon Trilogy by Buckley-Archer (long and slow)

Classic Summer Reading

There is great juvenile literature published every year. With so many choices, it is easy to forget older publications.  However, some of my favorite children book recommendations today are the ones that I read over and over again as a child. If you are looking for some new-but-old summer reading choices, take a look at the list below. Whether you are school aged or an adult, these are great reads (or re-reads) for the summer. All of the books were originally published over twenty years ago. Many of the titles may be ones you remember reading while growing up, but there might be something unfamiliar. What was your favorite childhood chapter book? Please add a comment with your favorite!

** I tried to avoid duplicating titles I have on the “Read-Alike” and “Style-Alike” posts, so be sure to check out those articles too. I also included a suggested grade range.

Historical Fiction

  • All-of-a-Kind Family by Taylor (3rd/4th grade)
  • Celia Garth by Bristow (6th grade and up)
  • I am Rosemarie by Moskin (5th grade and up)
  • Island of the Blue Dolpins by O’Dell (5th grade and up)
  • Snow Treasure by McSwigan (4th grade and up)
  • When the Legends Die by Borland (7th grade and up)
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Speare (6th grade and up)

Animal

  • The Cricket in Times Square by Selden (3rd/4th grade)
  • The Incredible Journey by Burnford (5th/6th grade)
  • Julie of the Wolves by George (4th grade and up)
  • Kavik the Wolf Dog by Morey (4th grade and up)
  • Stone Fox by Gardiner (3rd/4th grade)
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Rawls (6th/7th grade)
  • The Yearling by Rawlings (6th grade and up– difficult language, dialect)

Fantasy

  • The Borrowers by Norton (5th grade and up)
  • Castle in the Attic by Winthrop (3rd grade and up)
  • Gift of Magic by Duncan (5th grade and up)
  • Half Magic by Eager (3rd/4th grade)
  • Indian in the Cupboard by Banks (4th grade and up)
  • The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Edwards (4th grade and up)
  • Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by MacDonald (1st to 3rd grade)

Realistic Fiction

  • The Hundred Dresses by Estes (3rd/4th grade)
  • The Saturdays by Enright (4th/5th grade)
  • The Secret Garden by Burnett (4th grade and up)
  • A Summer to Die by Lowry (6th grade and up)
  • Wheel on the School by DeJong (5th grade and up)

Adventure

  • The Boxcar Children by Warner (1st to 3rd grade)
  • My Side of the Mountain by George (4th grade and up)
  • Original Nancy Drew Mysteries by Keene (3rd grade and up)

Author Letters

There is nothing like getting personal author letters to peak interest in a book.  Many of my students wrote to various favorite book authors and received replies this year.  Overall, we had about a 50% success rate and learned a few things along the way. (To download the lesson plan for free, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store.)

author letters

Newer authors have websites with an e-mail address and are more likely to send a personal reply.  We e-mailed Annie Barrows, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Kate Klimo, Jody Feldman, Jonathan Auxier, Tracy Barrett, Erica Kirov, and a few others.  In most cases, we received replies within three days.  The replies were unique and specifically responded to the letter written by the students.  Some authors even gave new book suggestions, which built excitement among the students to pick up an unfamiliar book.

author letters

Other authors provide a snail mail address on their website. These replies take longer– sometimes up to three months, so be patient. Kate Klise wrote us back twice and each letter contained different content.

Mega authors like J.K. Rowling are overloaded with letters and are less likely to reply to fanmail. But Rowling and other popular authors like Sharon Creech will send a generic reply if you include a self-addressed stamped envelope with your letter.

If you can’t find contact information on the author website, locate a mailing address for the author’s publishing company.  Mail a letter to the author c/o the publisher.  Publishers will forward all mail to the author.  We mailed a letter to John Christopher via his publisher.  We did not realize that the author had passed away, and his daughter actually replied to our letter several months later!

No matter how you try to contact an author, it will encourage a child to reach for that next book and establish a personal connection with a writer. To read more tips for contacting book authors, check out THIS POST by author Annabelle Fisher.