Have you ever done "Two Stars and a Wish" with your class when they were peer revising? This is a strategy where one student shares their writing piece and the other student(s) tells two things they enjoyed about the piece and one thing they wish was different about the piece. I love this strategy because it gives the students a concrete way to respond to student writing. However, many times I have not been impressed with outcome of the 'wish' part. Often I found the student comments to be shallow and too general. Also, even though the student would start with two compliments for their peer's writing, they were still uncomfortable giving the wish. Because, let's face it, no matter how we try to disguise it, we are asking the student to point out to their peer what is wrong with their piece.
After reading a chapter in Choice Words by Peter H. Johnson, I started to think about the language of "Two Stars and a Wish" and how we could make peer revision a more positive experience. One thing he discussed was when having a writing conference with a student (teacher to student) to try not to use the word 'but' when giving a suggestion and instead to use the word 'and'. For example:
Do: "You have a great piece here about your birthday party AND if you added dialogue in the introduction it would be stronger."
Don't: "You have a great piece here about your birthday party BUT if you added more dialogue in the introduction it would be stronger."
Can you hear the difference?
Now, back to "Two Stars and a Wish". What if instead of saying tell two good things and one to change, we taught kids to say two good things AND one thing that would make the writing even stronger. This would take out the negative connotation that something was wrong with the piece. Would students be more comfortable giving a suggestion? Would the writer be more willing to revise?