Standard Lesson

Reciprocal Revision: Making Peer Feedback Meaningful

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Approximately three 45-minute class sessions
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How do we get students to truly revise their work? Despite many lessons and emphases on the writing process approach, many students still view revision as simply checking spelling, grammar, and punctuation. This lesson is designed to help middle school students develop more constructive peer feedback on writing through the use of reciprocal teaching strategies. Instructors begin by sharing a work of art with students and discussing the artwork using four reciprocal teaching strategies—predicting, summarizing, clarifying, and questioning. By predicting, summarizing, clarifying, and questioning, students can transact not only with text from authors, but also with text written by their peers. Students then use the reciprocal teaching strategy in small groups to help them revise their written responses about a work of art. These conversational strategies can help make the revision process more constructive and meaningful for students.

From Theory to Practice

  • Students should be given opportunities to converse about their knowledge and ideas while writing to further their writing development.

  • Informal conversation among students while writing influences the number and the quality of revisions that students are willing to make.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computer lab (or a classroom computer connected to a projector and screen) with Internet access
  • Notebook (for each student)





1. If you are not familiar with reciprocal teaching strategies, read the NCREL: Reciprocal Teaching article to familiarize yourself with the basics behind the strategy.

2. Access the following sites to preview and select images that you can use for modeling in Session 1 and the small-group and partner activities in Sessions 2 and 3.

Try to focus on pieces that have more than one person or background activity that will invoke discussion and perhaps disagreement. Two paintings by Pieter Bruegel that work well for this lesson are The Peasant Dance and Peasant Wedding. These paintings include many animated figures in the foreground and background and very little landscape.

3. Bookmark the URL addresses of specific paintings instead of general art sites, as even reputable sites may include subjects that some people may deem inappropriate for students (e.g., nudes). You may choose to bookmark only two or three paintings for the initial lesson; however, if students are more experienced with discussing art, you may bookmark several paintings on each computer and have students choose the ones they prefer to write about.

4. It is helpful to have established discussion rules or boundaries regarding how students can question the opinions of others respectfully. Depending on the classroom environment, teachers will need to establish these rules differently.


Although it is not necessary for students to be well versed in art appreciation, it is helpful for students to have had some previous experience discussing art. Students should not only be able to describe what they observe, but also respond to the artist's technique (e.g., choice of colors, brushstrokes), which contributes to the mood and overall effect of the painting on the viewer. Meet with the art teacher in your school to assess students' experience in this area.

If your students' experience is limited, you may wish to refer to the ReadWriteThink lesson "Artistic Elements: Exploring Art Through Descriptive Writing" by Kerrie L. Powell as a starting point.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Use reciprocal teaching strategies (predicting, summarizing, clarifying, and questioning) during the peer feedback and revision stage of the writing process

  • Offer peer feedback and suggestions on writing in a positive and respectful manner

  • Develop substantive revisions of their writing based on application of the reciprocal teaching strategies and peer feedback

  • Evaluate the quality of their writing after use of the reciprocal teaching strategies by comparing their initial and final drafts and assessing their own progress

Session 1: Modeling

Plan to model the reciprocal questioning process with students, especially if they have no previous experience with these strategies. This session is optional.

1. Prepare a computer viewing or an overhead transparency of the painting Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel.

2. Hold a class discussion of the painting using the four reciprocal teaching strategies.

  • Summarizing. Lead students to summarize what is happening in the painting.

  • Questioning. Guide students to question the artist's choices or the opinions of other students.

  • Clarifying. Help students clarify details in the painting.

  • Predicting. Have students predict why the painter chose this subject or what might happen next if this were a series of paintings as in a picture book narrative.
3. As you proceed through the discussion, make sure to point out which strategy the student commenting is implementing. ("So you want to clarify what the little boy in the corner is doing?") It may also be helpful to ask students to take note of new things about the painting they notice during the conversation with their classmates.

4. Wrap up the class discussion by informing students that they will practice these four strategies individually in the next activity.

Session 2: Small-group activity

1. Divide the class into small groups of three to four students each, and assign each group to a computer in the computer lab. (In a classroom setting with only a few computers, small groups of students can sit together, and you can choose one image to project for all students to view.) Each student should have a notebook.

2. Direct students to access the online art from preset bookmarks (see Preparation, 3). For the initial lesson, it may be easiest to start with only one or two paintings so that you will be familiar with the art being discussed in the students' writing.

3. Ask students to write a brief response to the art without talking to their peers. You may offer the following guiding questions, as necessary, to help students with their responses:

  • What is the first thing you notice in the painting?

  • Can you describe or summarize what is happening in the painting?

  • What mood has the artist established in the painting? What details in the painting contribute to the mood?

  • What are some questions that you have about the painting?
It is helpful to set a time limit of no more than 15 minutes to ensure that students remain quiet and focused while viewing the art and writing their initial responses.

4. When initial responses are complete, invite one student in each group to describe and comment on the art aloud.

5. Encourage the other students in the group to interrupt the description by using the four reciprocal teaching strategies modeled in Session 1.

  • Summarizing. Do you agree with the reader's interpretation of the painting? Do you like the painting? Give specific reasons why.

  • Questioning. What questions do you have about the painting or the reader's interpretation?

  • Clarifying. Can you help the reader clarify any questions he or she has about the painting? Did you notice details in the painting that the reader missed?

  • Predicting. Can you predict why the artist chose this subject? How do your predictions compare with others in your group?
You may wish to provide a guide sheet for students to help them recall the four strategies and how they can be used in the questioning process. Provide 5 to 10 minutes for students to discuss the art in their small groups.

6. After all students in the group have had a chance to contribute to the discussion, have students spend the remaining time expanding and revising their initial responses using the information from their group discussions as a guide.

7. Ask students to come prepared for the next class session with both their initial and revised responses.

Session 3: Partner activity

1. Discuss and debrief the writing process used during Session 2 when viewing the online art (i.e., initial draft, peer feedback using reciprocal teaching strategies, revision). What did students find interesting about this exercise? Was it helpful or not helpful? Were their second attempts at responding to the art more descriptive and better developed than their first attempts? Why or why not?

2. Ask students to select a partner who was not initially in their group, but who has viewed the same piece of art. It is helpful to enable students to view the online art again while completing these activities.

3. Direct one student at a time to read aloud his or her response to the art. As with the previous group discussion, encourage the partner to interrupt during the reading to ask questions, clarify statements, make predictions, and summarize opinions.

4. Direct the student reading to take notes on suggestions or comments offered by his or her partner. Any new information or differing viewpoints may be especially helpful to a later revision.

5. Have the students switch roles and repeat the process so that each student receives peer feedback on his or her response to the art.

6. Debrief the process again with students, focusing on the idea that revision is "re-seeing" a piece of writing. Ask students to create a third and final draft of their responses to the art, using the most recent peer conversation as another way to "see" their paper and the painting in a new way.


  • After using the art activity as a teaching experience, students could be encouraged to use the reciprocal teaching strategies to offer and receive peer feedback on other writing, especially during writing workshop.

  • As an alternative to working with partners, students could work in groups of three, with one student reading aloud his or her writing, one student providing feedback using the reciprocal teaching strategies, and a third student taking notes for the author of the piece. For more information on how this strategy might work, refer to the following article from the National Writing Project Reading Practices as Revision Strategies: The Gossipy Reading Model.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Final drafts of student responses are evaluated in comparison with their initial responses to determine the depth of revision and the student's ability to incorporate peer feedback into the revision process in a meaningful and substantive way. The Student Evaluation of Written Art Responses worksheet provides students with a rubric for evaluating their work at the initial and final stages. You can ask students to evaluate their initial drafts before the first revision or evaluate both the initial and final drafts at the end of the sequence.

  • Self-evaluation from students on the quality of their final drafts (after peer feedback and application of the reciprocal teaching strategies) can reveal students' perceptions of their success with the strategy. The Student Reflections handout provides students an opportunity to reflect on the use of peer feedback during the writing process.

  • Notes from the group and partner discussion sessions provide a record of each group's discussions and students' abilities to apply each of the reciprocal teaching strategies to peer writing.

  • Teacher's anecdotal notes from the sessions provide insight into students' use of the process and a comparison to students' perceptions of the process. Notes will also document the handling of constructive and respective criticisms between students as established in advance for your classroom (see Preparation, 4).

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