Teacher Inquiry Teaching Writing

Peer Editing: Choose Your Own Adventure


Gary Pope creates a lesson plan to support kids in creating their own “Choose Your Own Adventure Books” using digital technology.

Originally published on January 25, 2011


Computer skills are usually taught in isolation, with the focus being on the computer itself.  This project moves the computer to the background used only as a tool for a larger purpose.  The creation of the stories was the focus.  The skills needed to complete the task take on a more applicable and tangible role, as the students know that final judgement is in the hands of their audience, 5th and 6th graders.

I teach a computer class and I am tired of students creating/modifying generic text or gibberish.  This assignment creates student buy-in as they create text in which they have an investment. This project utilizes peer review of text to become fluent in some advanced features of Microsoft Word.  Students are engaged in creating, organizing and preparing the story for view by a larger audience.

In a nutshell (Objectives)

Students will…

  1. Become familiar with the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a model.
  2. Create their own story (familiar with genre they create an outline, flow chart).
  3. Use peer editing to refine the story (using “Tracking Changes”, Comments”, and “Versions”)
  4. Prepare the story for final distribution (Web Site, Word, PowerPoint, Etc.)

Outcome (Product)

A “Choose Your Own Adventure” story in one of many forms.

  • A Website
  • An internally linked Word Document
  • A linked Powerpoint document
  • A paper book

Outcome (Knowledge)

Understand how to peer edit with Microsoft Word.

  • Track Changes
  • Comments
  • Versions

My Results

This project solidified for the students that computer skills are a means to and end.  Now with the “ends” being the focus for the rest of the semester as we moved from project to project, the skills have a purpose.  Now the tedium of learning skills is replaced with the motivation to learn what is needed to complete the assignments.

Using advanced Features of MS Word for Peer Editing

My students used Microsoft Word for Peer Editing. They used the following features:

  1. Track Changes
  3. Save Versions

There are a variety of programs available to do this. The editing is done in several passes, a few “pages” at a time. The quasi-discrete nature of the CYOA genre lend itself perfectly to many revision cycles in a period. A student could give feedback to others and incorporate feedback from others several times in a period.

The general idea:

  1. Students switched to a different computer and review/edit using track changes. They inserted comments like, “Got confused here”…”Awkward”. Allowed about 10-15 minutes for the students to do the review. They then switched back, the owner “accept” or “reject” the changes. We would do this a few times period or as necessary.
  2. There would also be blocks of time for writing, and revising, when no reviews were going on.
  3. After the revisions where “complete” the final step of creating the final product started (Web Site, PowerPoint, or Word) (A note here: The students did not get to choose the program for the final product. It was dictated by me and it depended on the class (i.e. Web Design) and the course level.)

Preparation for the Creation of a Choose Your Own Adventure Story

Get the students familiar with the genre

  1. Read the books (Either online or they are also back in print)
  2. Online versions
  3. Smart phone Apps (U-Ventures, Magnetism Studios)

Guidelines for the assignment

  1. The reader must be able to make at least three choices before an ending.
  2. The story is told in second person
  3. The story must comply with the genre (simple, direct, plot twists, and
    written for 9-12 year olds)
  4. Descriptions of death, violence, and the like need to be age appropriate.

Create an outline

The purpose of the outline is two-fold.  One to get the students used to the idea that these types of stories are discrete events that are linked together.  The second purpose is to make editing chunks of a reasonable size for quick peer review, a few paragraphs at most.

Choose Your Own Adventure Book as Directed Graph” by Sean Michael Ragan