Proofreading Lesson Plan: Peer Editing When Done Correctly Provides Valuable Feedback for Young Writers

I received this letter the other day:

Dear Teacher:

I was your student several years ago. I struggled in school. I had high hopes of becoming a great basketball coach some day. I had these great ideas in my head, but when I wrote them down, nobody understood them. My teammates and coaches would look at me, unable to comprehend what I was trying to write. I decided to quit. Then, fate intervened. You taught this great lesson on proofreading that involved peer revision. It helped me realize the problem wasn’t my ideas; it was how I punctuated everything. I have a great career now, thanks to you. In fact, some consider me the Duke of coaching.


Coach K

I don’t remember a Coach K, but this letter sure did make me feel good. So good, in fact, I’m going to share the proofreading lesson plan with you.

Proofreading Lesson Plan Discussion

Discuss the following items before beginning peer revision:

  • Too often, proofreading is a neglected part of the writing process. It shouldn’t be (Glare at your students to show them how hard core of a proofreader you are).
  • Even the most brilliant of writers make errors (Point to yourself when you say the word brilliant and then make a mistake on the board).
  • It’s difficult to proofread our own work because we are not objective (deny having made a mistake ever).
  • Finding an objective individual will help us find mistakes. A classmate, another writer, or a trusted reader make good proofreaders (whatever you do, don’t mention yourself as a trusted proofreader; otherwise, you’ll have 27 students wanting you to proofread their essay 14 seconds before your next class).

Peer Revision Procedures

This proofreading activity is best for the final copy draft. For rough draft editing and assessment, follow the link.

  1. Explain that the purpose of the exercise is to correct errors in spelling, mechanics, and grammar, not problems with organization. It’s too late to fix major problems.
  2. Explain that the proofreader’s responsibility is to point out minor problems, not fix them.
  3. Instruct proofreaders to mark the paper even if they’re not 100 per cent sure there’s an error. The author can check it later.
  4. Handout a transparency and a paper clip for each page of the final draft. Have students clip the transparency to the front of their paper.
  5. Divide students into groups of 4 four, giving each member of the group a different colored marker (this allows the author to identify who to beat up after class).

Proofreading Lesson Plan: Group Revision

  1. Instruct students to pass their final copy to the person at their right.
  2. Instruct editors to check commas. You may want to review comma rules and write the editing marks for commas on the board.
  3. When all commas have been checked, pass the papers again, this time checking for spelling. You may wish to write the editing marks for spelling on the board. Instruct students to start at the end of the paper and read up or to read every other line. This helps them focus on individual words.
  4. Because of spell check, it may be helpful to focus on commonly misused homonyms (to, two, too, they’re, their, there–for example).
  5. Continue passing papers and checking specific aspects: period use, subject-verb agreement, etc.
  6. When the author’s paper is returned, it is his or her responsibility to make the necessary corrections.

*This proofreading lesson plan was inspired by Mini Lessons for Revision by Susan Geye, 1997, Absey & Co. Spring, TX.

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This post is part of the series: Editing

Writing is a process. Editing is the final step in that process. Don’t blow weeks of hard work by editing poorly.
  1. Lesson Plan: Improve Writing by Learning How to Edit an Essay
  2. Lesson Plan: Proofreading with Peer Editing
  3. Proofreading Activity: Group Experts
  4. How to Revise an Essay: A High School Writing Lesson Plan