traci's lists of ten

Traci's 40th List of Ten:
Ten Peer Review Questions for Fables

Posted to NCTE-Talk on 06/30/00.

I use fables and folk tales a lot with my students. Here's a very basic peer review sheet that I developed. Some of the questions are fairly generic, but I've found that the questions specifically geared toward fables (like #1 and #2) and the ones on punctuation and paragraphing do help improve students' papers.

You can customize the questions by pointing students to specific punctuation and paragraphing rules and examples in your textbook. Further, if ten questions is too many for your students to handle in one session, break them up or use only the questions that are appropriate.

In square brackets following each question, I've included notes for writers to use when they get their papers and the peer comments back. When I'm working in a word processor, I use a different font or borders and shading to separate the comments to the writer from the peer review questions. You could put the instructions to the writer on a different handout or overhead as well. I like keeping them on the sheet with the peer feedback because it keeps all the information on one sheet of paper and it tells the peer reviewer how the writer will use the feedback.

  1. Does the paper have the basics of a fable?

    yes no —animal characters?
    yes no —moral?
    yes no —dialogue where appropriate?
    yes no —chronological organization?

    [To the writer: If any of the items on this checklist are marked NO, you need to revise so that a reader will mark them YES. Remember that these are the basic requirements of a fable. Without them, your paper won't fulfill the assignment.]

  2. How does the story lead to the conclusion? How does it lead to the moral?

    [To the writer: Remember that the events in the story need to lead logically to the conclusion, and your conclusion is stated in your moral. If your reader cannot explain how the events relate to your moral, you need to revise to make the connections clearer.]

  3. Where are the details the best? Where could more details be added?

    [To the writer: This one should be obvious. Look at the place in your fable that your reader has said is the best. What makes it good? Go to the places where details can be added and revise so that those sections have the same qualities as the passage marked as the best.]

  4. What clues are given to show the fable's organization?

    [To the writer: Your paper should use transitions to help your readers understand the order of events. You can use words such as next, later, that afternoon, and so on to show the reader what happens first, what happens second, and what happens third. Make sure that any transitions you use are necessary.]

  5. Does the paper follow the rules of punctuation for dialogue? Periods and commas go inside the ending quotation marks. Question marks go inside if the quotation is a question. Underline all the ending punctuation for dialogue to show that you've checked it. Circle any punctuation that seems questionable. Summarize your findings here.

    [To the writer: Go through your paper and look for the underlined punctuation marks. Double-check your reader's analysis. If any punctuation is circled, check the text to see if it needs correction.]

  6. Does the paper follow the rules of paragraphing for dialogue? Begin a new paragraph every time there's a different speaker. The new paragraphs are a clue to the reader that someone else is speaking. Put a check mark in front of each paragraph of dialogue to show you've checked the paper. If you find a change in speakers that isn't indicated by a new paragraph, make an X where you think the new paragraph should begin. Summarize your findings here. [To the writer: Go through your paper and look for check marks. Double-check your reader's analysis. If any places are marked with an X, check the text to see if it needs correction.]

  7. Check the dialogue to be sure that the speaker is clear or is indicated. Here, list the speaker and the verb that is used in the table below.

    Speaker Stated? Implied? Unsure? Verb Used

    Here's an example for this passage:

          The cow said, "But surely you aren't going to run away? This is a good place to live"
          "Yes," added the Pig, "We have a nice place to live and all the food we want."
          "And we never have to worry about pesky foxes here," she said.
          "But I don't like that goose," argued the duck.
    Speaker Stated? Implied? Unsure? Verb Used
    cow stated said
    pig stated added
    cow? unsure said
    duck stated argued

    [To the writer: When you get your paper back, if there are places where the speaker is listed as "unsure," you need to revise to make the speaker clear. Read over the list of verbs and look for variety in word choice (that is, make sure you've not used the same word over and over).]

  8. Rewrite the moral at least three ways. Your goal isn't just to get out a thesaurus and change the words. It's to help the author tighten the moral and to help make it wittier or sharper. After you've added your three morals, explain which moral you like the best -- the original or one of your rewrites? Be sure to say why.

    [To the writer: By definition, the moral to your fable points out the lesson or principle that the story illustrates. A good moral does a bit more though. It is a sharp, clear sentence. It should be concise and to the point. At the same time, however, it can be very witty and pointed -- you might even use a pun to play with the words that you're using.]

  9. What is best about this paper, and why? Explain what you found as this paper's best accomplishment.

    [To the writer: This question should help you assess your paper. Did your reader note something that you thought you did well? Can you build on what your reader has said? For instance, if your reader said that you used a lot of good, visual description in the opening, can you find places later in the paper where you can add more visual description?]

  10. What suggestions do you have for the writer?

    [To the writer: Listen to your reader, and consider the comments well. Would making the changes that your reader suggests improve your paper? What would you need to do to follow the reader's suggestions? If you're not sure about following the suggestions, talk with the person who read your paper and ask for more details. If necessary, ask another person to read your paper and get a second opinion.]

Originally Posted on February 01, 2002.