Peer Critique and Revising: Formal English | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G6:M4:U3:L6

Peer Critique and Revising: Formal English

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. (W.6.1)
  • I can maintain a formal style in my writing. (W.6.1d)
  • I can identify when standard English is and isn't used. (L.6.1e)
  • I can convert language into standard English. (L.6.1e)

Supporting Targets

  • I can recognize the differences between formal and informal English.
  • I can give and receive feedback on formal and informal English in a position paper.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Identifying and revising formal English and transitions


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A. Unpacking Learning Targets (2 minutes)

     B. Connecting with Transitions (8 minutes)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Mini Lesson: Recognizing Formal vs. Informal English (10 minutes)

     B.  Peer Critique: Identifying and Revising for Formal vs. Informal English and Transition Words (20 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Message Translation Using Slang, Casual, and Formal Language (5 minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  Read your independent reading book for 30 minutes. Complete the Reading Tracker and Reviewer's Notes.

  • At this point, students have completed the first drafts of their position papers. As students prepare to review and revise their writing, they now focus on using formal English and transition words in their position papers.
  • Students need their position paper drafts for this lesson. However, teacher feedback on the drafts is not required until Lesson 7. If some students already have feedback and others don't, be sure to tell students that they do not need teacher feedback to revise in this lesson. They will all have teacher feedback to use in the following lesson.
  • This lesson is an opportunity for students to review and revise their use of formal English and use of transition words to meet the criteria of the Position Paper Argument Rubric.
  • Students review what transitions are and are introduced to a variety of transitional words and phrases they can use to introduce their reasons, connect ideas, and organize information logically.
  • Students compare informal and formal English to recognize the difference and distinguish what is appropriate for expressing their information in their position paper.
  • They revise their first drafts to meet the criteria for formal English and appropriate transitions. Peers provide feedback on one another's writing in these areas using a revision checklist.
  • If students used computers in Lessons 4 and 5 to write their first draft, allow them to use computers to revise.
  • Post: Learning targets.


transitions, formal English, informal English, author, editor


  • Transitions anchor chart (from Lesson 4)
  • Transitions--Words That Connect Ideas reference sheet (one per student)
  • Domain-Specific Vocabulary and Transitions graphic organizer (from Lesson 3)
  • Document camera
  • Slang, Casual, Formal Messages (one for display)
  • Revision Checklist (one per student and one for display)
  • Formal or Informal--Can You Guess? (one per student)
  • Position Paper Criteria Checklist (one per student, in research folder; one for display)
  • Position Paper Argument Rubric (from Lesson 1; students' own copies)
  • Different color of pencil for revisions



A. Unpacking Learning Targets (2 minutes)

  • Invite students to read today's learning targets with you:

* "I can recognize the differences between formal and informal English."

* "I can give and receive feedback on formal and informal English in a position paper."

  • Ask students to Think-Pair-Share:

* "What does formal English mean?"

* "What does informal English mean?"

* "When is it appropriate to use formal English?"

  • Call on students. Suggest they try sharing their responses in either informal or formal English.
  • Explain that as they begin to review and revise the drafts of their position papers, the language they use plays an important role in conveying their argument and position well to their readers. Learning what informal and formal English is and using it effectively will help achieve that goal. Learning and using transitions to connect is also important.

B. Connecting with Transitions (8 minutes)

  • Remind students that transition words and phrases are important for introducing a paragraph and putting information in a logical order that helps your information make sense to the reader.
  • Tell students that by knowing a variety of transitions, writers can connect the ideas in their paragraphs in a way that is more interesting to readers.
  • Direct students' attention to the Transitions anchor chart that they started in Lesson 4. Share some of the connecting words and phrases they used to write the first drafts of their body paragraphs.
  • Tell students they will now look at other transitions to see if they can find other ways to say the same things.
  • Distribute the Transitions--Words That Connect Ideas reference sheet.
  • Direct students to also retrieve their Domain-Specific Vocabulary and Transitions graphic organizer from 
    Lesson 3.
  • Invite students to read the four headings on the Transitions--Words That Connect Ideas reference sheet: First, Second, Third or Final, and Conclusion. Explain that the transitions under the First, Second, and Third or Final headings are examples that might be appropriate to begin their body paragraphs. The transitions used under the Conclusion heading are appropriate for the end of an essay. Some work well for starting the clincher, or last sentence.
  • Tell students to look at the "First" transitions to see if any of the examples would work for the beginning of their first body paragraph. Call on students to share how one of the examples could be used to introduce their first reason.
  • Ask students to look at the "First" list again to select an example that could be stated a little differently to introduce their first reason. For instance, "One example that stands out" could be changed to state, "One reason that stands out." Call on students to share an example they could change and use as an appropriate introduction for their first body paragraph.
  • Tell students to look at the transitions listed under the other three headings on their own and choose one from each list they feel could be used to introduce their reasons in their second and third body paragraphs. Invite students to pair up and share transitions that grabbed their attention and might strengthen their body and concluding paragraphs.
  • Ask students to list new transitions on their Domain-Specific Vocabulary and Transitions graphic organizer. Let them know they will have a chance to change and improve transitions when they revise for vocabulary in the next lesson. 

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Mini Lesson: Recognizing Formal vs. Informal English (10 minutes)

  • Remind students that formal English is language that is appropriate for important or official writing or speaking. It is not casual language (informal English).
  • Explain that formal language is geared to the audience, the people you want to communicate with. The language you use affects how the listener or reader perceives or sees you.
  • Use a document camera to display the Slang, Casual, Formal Messages document and guide students through it.
  • The following are possible text, email and letter messages:

* "whuz up, bud"

* "Hey, buddy! Just checking to see what you're up to."

* "Dear Son, You have been in my thoughts. I'm wondering what activities you are involved with. Please write or call."

  • Invite students to Think-Pair-Share:

* "Decide which message would most likely be sent as a text message, an email message, or as a formal message."

* "Decide which message would be considered slang, casual, or formal English."

  • Call on partners to share their decisions. Then ask students to consider what relationship or connection the writer might have with the receiver or audience. Listen for responses that suggest friendly, comfortable, casual, proper, rigid. Remind students that language used can affect how the receiver relates to you.
  • Encourage students to consider how the use of formal language in their position papers affects the reader's perception or viewpoint of their position.
  • Distribute the Revision Checklist. Use the document camera to display the checklist as you introduce it.
  • Tell students that they will use this checklist as they read and revise their position papers. However, before using it to check their own papers, they will practice using parts of it on two short passages about Rachel Carson, the scientist and author of Silent Spring, the woman featured in two of their research articles.
  • Distribute Formal or Informal--Can You Guess?
  • Students continue to work with partners to read both of the passages and decide which passage is formal and which is informal. Then they reread and refer to the Revision Checklist to find criteria to confirm their decision.
  • Refocus students as a group. Call on partners to share:

* "Which paragraph was formal, and which was informal?"

* "What did you notice that helped you make that decision?"

* "What criteria were used to write the passage in a formal way?"

  • Listen for responses that include: "use domain-specific words (not casual or slang)," "use facts and details," and "quote Rachel Carson."
  • Ask students what transitions were used to begin the paragraphs and to put the information in order. Responses should include: "In the 1940s," "By 1960," "Over time," "It was then," "After a while," and "Then."
  • Point out that referring to dates and time is a way to transition or show a shift in what's happening over time.
  • Add those transitions to the Transitions anchor chart. 
  • Video and audio examples such as video clips from familiar kids movies, speeches and protests could enhance students understanding of informal and formal English.

B. Peer Critique: Identifying and Revising for Formal vs. Informal English and Transition Words 
(20 minutes)

  • Tell students they will now have the opportunity to reread the first drafts of their position papers. Explain that the work they just did with transitions and informal and formal English will help them notice ways to make changes with transitions and formal English to strengthen their paper.
  • Ask students to retrieve the Position Paper Criteria Checklist from their research folders. Use the document camera to display the Position Paper Criteria Checklistas you introduce it.
  • Point out that there is a checklist for two reviewers. Ask students what role they are. Explain that author and editor are academic terms that are appropriate for the position paper work they are doing. Ask students what else they notice about those words. Listen for students to say both words have the same ending or suffix, "or." Explain that "or" is often used at the end of a word that describes the professional role of a person. Ask for other examples with that ending. Possible responses could be doctor, professor, and actor.
  • Explain that in Lesson 1 they looked at the same four revision categories on the Position Paper Argument Rubric.
  • Tell students that when they read, critique, and revise their own paper and a peer's paper, they will look for criteria listed in the last two categories, "Coherence, Organization, and Style" and "Writing Conventions."
  • Call on a student volunteer to read the criteria listed under ""Coherence, Organization, and Style" and "Writing Conventions." Tell students that criteria include formal English and transition words. Remind students to look for at least two domain-specific words in each paragraph.
  • Explain that whenever they look for ways to improve writing, they should make writing convention corrections such as spelling and capitalization.
  • Tell students that authors should read their drafts first and then complete the checklist indicating criteria that are strong and criteria that should be revised. Authors should also make those revisions on their drafts using a different colored pencil than the one with which they wrote their first draft.
  • When authors finish their revisions, they should exchange their drafts with their peer editors. Editors will read and critique using the checklist. Editors do not make changes on the draft. However, editors are encouraged to lightly circle words needing spelling corrections.
  • Remind students that this is quiet work time for concentrating on their revisions and providing quality editing to their peers.
  • Circulate and provide support. Ask probing questions about their use of transitions, formal English, and writing conventions.
  • During this Work Time, you may want to pull a small group of students who would benefit from direct editing feedback and instruction.

Closing & Assessments


A. Message Translation Using Slang, Casual, and Formal Language (5 minutes)

  • Invite students to sit in triads.
  • Tell students that after comparing informal and formal English, looking at a variety of transitions, and using those skills to make revisions to their drafts, they will now have an opportunity to create their own informal and formal messages.
  • Explain that when we interact with people in different settings, we use different ways to greet people and say goodbye, sometimes informally, sometimes formally.
  • Ask triad partners to:

* "Create an informal way and a formal way to greet someone."

* "Create an informal way and a formal way to say goodbye."

* "Decide what setting the greetings and goodbyes would be appropriate most for."

  • As triad partners, have students demonstrate how to express their informal and formal messages.
  • Encourage students to use transitions as they move through their demonstrations. 


  • Read your independent reading book for 30 minutes. Complete the Reading Tracker and Reviewer's Notes.

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