Restorative Circles

A guide to describe what Restorative Circles are and how they work

Using circles for peer review

But I’m not a good writer myself.  How can I judge anybody else’s writing?  How many times have we heard this during peer editing?  Students’ lack of confidence in their own writing and in the peer editing process can make looking at another peer’s paper intimidating.  And then there is always that group that finishes in fifteen minutes, with the goal to leave early rather than provide critical feedback. 

This next circle breaks up the peer-editing process into chunks so that no reader feels overwhelmed by the content, thereby creating focus.  Students move around to different stations to provide feedback on ONE specific element of their peers’ essay.  When time is called, they move on to another peer’s essay to focus on another element.  This method of peer review provides students with multiple feedback over a limited span of time.  Rather than receiving feedback from one or two peers, the writer receives feedback from seven.

This circle is designed to get feedback on writing without judging it. 

Circle Activity:   
The goal is simply for students to respond as readers of the writing.  They will use Roseanne Bane’s “Seven Levels of Writing Feedback” provided in the link below to get a response.  Providing students with the rubric for the assignment can also be helpful for them to frame their feedback so that they clearly name and speak to criteria listed in the assignment and course objectives.  Students begin by pairing up with one other student.  In the event that there is an uneven number of students, the instructor will also participate in the circle.  This circle also helps students to focus or hone in on one point at a time.   When time is called for each level, peers switch partners.   Instructions for the process and Barr's article are below. 

Level 1—Congratulate

In this round, students congratulate their peer for having their essay ready to share in the group and for their willingness to share. Alternatively, peers can thank them for any aspect of their writing.

Level 2—What stands out

In this round, peers share what they noticed in the writing or what most got their attention.

Level 3—Tell me more

In this round, respondents get to request what they would like to see more of in the writing.  Is there a detail they would like to see elaborated on?

Level 4—Strengths of the writing (Glow parts)

In this round, respondents talk about what works well in the writing.

Level 5—Areas that need improvement (Grow parts)

In this round, respondents talk about areas of the writing that can be improved or needs more attention.

Level 6—Rewrite suggestions

Peers provide suggestions  by posing “What if” questions about the piece.  This is a deeper level of response, since readers re-imagine what happens in the writing. 

Level 7—Grammar

At this final stage of the editing process, peers provide feedback on grammar, spelling, wording, etc. 

After the peer editing process, peers can reflect on the feedback they have been given by answering the questions:

  1. What has been the most helpful feedback you have received on your essay?
  2. What strategies will you use to revise your essay?

Instructions for Peer Review:  Musical Chairs can be found in the Microsoft Word file below. 

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