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Responding to Group Members' Work

Some of you may be experienced with giving and receiving feedback, while others are more new to this process. My goal is that you will offer each other careful, helpful, supportive response.

The most important thing is for the writer to be heard, to experience a sense of sending words out into the universe and getting a response. Another guideline is to give the kind of response you would want if it were your work: a balanced, helpful response from a generally empathetic reader. And my third principle is that the ultimate purpose of response is to move the work further, to help the writer feel energized to return to writing (which is extremely high energy work) and to keep writing. Anything that serves that purpose helps, and anything that ends writing is unproductive.

I have listed several general prompts that I find useful below; use them as needed. Also read the separate posting on “active listening,” and consider that useful approach to response. I also have posted two sets of response prompts that apply to particular genres–look those over too.

Possible General Prompts for Response:

Identify the thing you like best about the piece and explain your reactions.

What do you remember as being outstanding? Why is it outstanding?

What’s in this piece? What absolutely has to remain? Why?

What line or theme is most central?

Do the essential parts get enough attention?

Is there anything you want to hear more about? Why?

What seems to push the writing or hold it back?

What is one question you were left with?

Write a before-and after: “I used to think ___ before I read this piece, but now I think ___.”

Is the outstanding feature important to the whole piece of writing? In what way?

Can the best part go last?

Does any part jar you? Does the piece change course in a way that doesn’t work for you?

Can you suggest an alternative opening or closing?

Is the beginning effective? Does it attract you to read what follows?

List three specific questions that you want answers to as a reader.

Consider how this piece fits its intended genre.

How does the title connect to the piece?

Does the piece satisfy you? Does the ending, in particular, satisfy you? Does it relate sensibly to the beginning?

Was any part of the piece confusing to you? What part and why?

What is the single most important thing the writer can do to improve this piece?


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