Character Confessions: Peer Critique of Narratives | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M2B:U3:L2

Character Confessions: Peer Critique of Narratives

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can write narrative texts about real or imagined experiences using relevant details and event sequences that make sense. (W.8.3)
  • I can produce clear and coherent writing that is appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (W.8.4)
  • With support from peers and adults, I can use the writing process to ensure that purpose and audience have been addressed. (W.8.5)

Supporting Targets

  • I can add transitional words and phrases to connect ideas in a writing piece.
  • I can use the rubric to provide feedback to my peers.

Ongoing Assessment

  • Character confessional narrative draft with revisions and transitions


AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Reviewing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

     B.  Connections between the Character Confessional Narrative and A Midsummer Night's Dream T-chart (18 minutes)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Peer Critique of Narrative Drafts (15 minutes)

     B.  Transition Words and Phrases (8 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

     A.  Previewing Homework (2 minutes)

4.  Homework

     A.  Revise your narrative using feedback from the peer critique and include the use of transition words and phrases.

  • Students will need their essay drafts from Lesson 1 homework.
  • The T-chart that students fill out at the beginning of this lesson is in preparation for their end of unit assessment in the next lesson.
  • In this lesson, students peer-critique the character confession narrative of a peer against the Character Confessional Narrative anchor chart. To ensure that this is carried out productively without hurting anyone's feelings, set clear expectations by reviewing the peer critique guidelines beforehand.
  • In advance: Prepare and post a chart with the peer critique guidelines, or be ready to distribute a copy of the guidelines for students to keep in their folders (see supporting materials).
  • Post: Learning targets; Character Confessional Narrative anchor chart.


transitional words, embellished


  • Equity sticks
  • Connections between the Character Confessional Narrative and A Midsummer Night's Dream T-chart (one per student and one to display)
  • Document camera
  • Connections and embellishments model response (one per student and one to display)
  • Peer Critique Guidelines (one per student or one for display; see Teaching Notes)
  • Character Confessional Narrative anchor chart (from Unit 2, Lesson 17)
  • Stars and Steps recording form (one per student)
  • Transition model for character confessional narrative (one per student)
  • Writing Transitions excerpt (one per students and one for display)


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reviewing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

  • Invite the students to read along silently as you read the learning targets aloud:

*   "I can add transitional words and phrases to connect ideas in a writing piece."

*   "I can use the rubric to provide feedback to my peers."

  • Ask:

*   "What are examples of transitional words and phrases in writing?"

  • Use equity sticks to call on students to share their responses.
  • On the board, collect these examples in a list.
  • Creating a public access list gives all students choices to use in their writing and can alleviate feeling stuck.

B. Connections between the Character Confessional Narrative and A Midsummer Night's Dream T-chart (18 minutes)

  • Invite students to discuss in their Character group:

*   "How are the scenes you use in your character confessional like the same scenes in the play? How are they different? Why are they different?"

  • Distribute the Connections between the Character Confessional Narrative and A Midsummer Night's Dream T-chart and display a copy on the document camera. Remind students that on a T-chart, the two columns represent the similarities and differences between the play and essay to enable comparisons.
  • Model how to fill out the chart using the model essay:

*   "The opening paragraph, when Puck is introducing himself, uses the greeting of the fairy just like in Act II, Scene 1 of the play, so I will write this information in the column asking about how the scene connects to the essay."

*   "I've embellished, or added special and interesting details from my imagination to this scene by removing the fairy from it altogether and letting all these tricks of Puck's be told in his own voice as if he is thinking about them. I'll write about this embellishment in the second column."

  • Invite students to notice other connections and embellishments. Then distribute and display the connections and embellishments model response. Invite students to read over the model response independently.
  • Next, have them reread the response and annotate each paragraph for the gist.

*   Ask: "What is the gist of the first paragraph?" Cold call on students to respond.

*   Ask: "What question might this first paragraph be answering?"

  • Listen for students to say something like: "How is the character confessional narrative a response to the play?"
  • Repeat with the next two paragraphs and listen for answers like: "How does the narrative connect with the play? Why?" for the second paragraph, and "How does it provide embellishments to the play? Why?" for the third paragraph.

Explain to students that they will be answering similar questions for their end of unit assessment, and they will have a chance to study how their narrative connects to and embellishes the play in today's lesson.

  • Ask groups to discuss:

*   "How does your narrative connect to the play? How is it similar?"

*   "How does your narrative embellish, or enhance or add additional details to the play? How it is different?"

  • Invite students to fill out their own T-charts based on their discussion.
  • Graphic organizers and recording forms engage students more actively and provide scaffolding that is especially critical for students with lower levels of language proficiency and/or learning.
  • When reviewing graphic organizers or recording forms, consider using a document camera to display them for students who struggle with auditory processing.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Peer Critique of Narrative Drafts (15 minutes)

  • Explain that peer critiquing must be done carefully because we want to be helpful to our peers so they can use our suggestions to improve their work. We don't want to make them feel bad. Post or distribute the Peer Critique Guidelines:

1. Be kind: Always treat others with dignity and respect. This means we never use words or tones that are hurtful, including sarcasm.

2. Be specific: Focus on particular strengths and weaknesses, rather than making general comments like "It's good" or "I like it." Provide insight into why it is good or what, specifically, you like about it.

3. Be helpful: The goal is to positively contribute to the individual or the group, not to simply be heard. Echoing the thoughts of others or cleverly pointing out details that are irrelevant wastes time.

4. Participate: Peer critique is a process to support each other, and your feedback is valued.

  • Distinguish peer critique from proofreading. It is fine if they catch errors in each other's work, but the goal is to make the thinking in the writing as strong as possible.
  • Tell students that they will present feedback in the form of stars and steps. They will give two "stars" and two "steps." When looking at their partner's work, they are going to be using the criteria on the Character Confessional Narrativeanchor chart.
  • Briefly model how to give two "kind, specific, helpful" stars. Be sure to connect your comments directly to the criteria on the anchor chart. For example:

*   "The scenes you have chosen to support your narrative make a lot of sense in explaining your character's motivations."

*   "Have you answered the guiding question about why you try to control others? Have you thought about including some humor or gentle irony anywhere?"

  • Emphasize that it is especially important to be kind when giving steps. Asking a question of the writer is often a good way to do this. For example: "I wonder if...?" or "Have you thought about...?"
  • Invite students to consider a question they would like their peer to consider when critiquing their work. Give them an example:

*   "How can I make sure my reader can create a mental picture when reading with sensory language?"

  • Ask students to write their questions at the top of their scripts.
  • Distribute the Stars and Steps recording form for character confessional narrative peer critique. Explain that today students will record the stars and steps for their partner on this sheet so that their partner can remember the feedback he or she receives. They are to write the name of their partner at the top of their paper.
  • Invite students to pair up within character-alike groups. Invite pairs to swap narratives and spend 3 minutes reading them in silence.
  • Ask students to record stars and steps for their partner on the recording form. This form is designed to help them remember the feedback they want to give to their partner from the peer critique.
  • Circulate to assist those who may struggle with recording their feedback to ensure students are following the peer critique guidelines, and to reinforce expectations.
  • Ask students to return the essay and Stars and Steps recording form to their partner and to explain the stars and steps they recorded. Give them an opportunity to question their partner if they don't understand the stars and steps they have been given.
  • Peer critiques simulate the experiences students will have in the workplace and help build a culture of achievement in your classroom.
  • Asking students to provide feedback a peer based on explicit criteria benefits both students in clarifying the meaning of the learning target.

B. Transitions Words and Phrases (8 minutes)

  • Remind students that a feature of good writing is to help ideas flow from one to the other with transitional words and phrases so that the reader can effectively "see" what is happening.
  • Tell students that now that they have their ideas on paper and scenes selected that help their character "confess," they need to revise the flow of the narrative by adding transitional words and/or phrases so that it flows smoothly from one idea to the next.
  • Using a document camera, display the transition model for character confessional narrative. Invite students to read it with you. Ask them to discuss in their groups:

*   "How has one idea been connected to the next? Which transitional words or phrases have been used?"

  • Select volunteers to share their responses. Listen for students to explain that the narrator says, "A few weeks later ..." at the beginning of Scene 2 to show the passing of time between the two scenes. Share with students that some of the transition words and phrases used in this essay are less formal and reflect more of a conversational tone.
  • Display and distribute the Writing Transitions excerpt. Read the introductory paragraph aloud and invite students to read along silently. Read through the headings of each of the six transitional devices (to add, compare, show exception, show time, emphasize, or show sequence) and explain that the groups can spend some time reading the suggested words and phrases in these categories when they begin working. These transition words and phrases are more formal and may be used in the narrative along with more conversational transition words and phrases.
  • Invite students to revise their narratives to include transitional words and phrases at the beginning and the end so that the narrative flows smoothly.
  • Circulate to offer support as necessary. Ask:

*   "How does this scene connect with the previous scene? Which transitional words and phrases have you used?"

  • Providing models of expected work supports all learners, but especially challenged learners.
  • Providing examples of transitional words and phrases gives students a selection to choose from, ensuring that all are able to add appropriate transitional words and phrases to connect the scenes of their essay. Examples also provide guidance for students to think of their own ideas.

Closing & Assessments


A. Previewing Homework (2 minutes)

  • Tell students that for homework they will revise their narratives using the Stars and Steps protocol from the peer critique and their knowledge of transition words and phrases. 


  • Revise your narrative using feedback from the peer critique and include the use of transition words and phrases.

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