Have you ever been part of a writing group that gave vague, sloppy, useless advice? Or a group that was so negative you felt your motivation deflating like an old balloon? In my classes, I have students meet in groups of three, four, or five to read short papers out loud and give each other feedback. Here is the procedure I recommend:
1. Make sure everyone has a paper copy of the paper.
2. Someone who is not the author reads the paper out loud.
3. Those who are listening to the paper follow along, marking up the paper with these simple symbols: a straight line under anything that sounds strong, clear, and interesting; a wavy line under anything that sounds muddy, awkward or incorrect; a question mark in the margin for something confusing; an exclamation point for something emphatically good; a smiley face for something fun or funny. Use other short symbols to indicate how things are striking you as you listen. Don't correct usage or typos. The author follows along, too, and marks up their own paper.
4. When the paper is finished, there is a three minute silence. During the silence, everyone (including the author) writes a two part comment: first, "The best things about this paper are...." and second, "This will be a better paper if you...." Recommend specific actions that the author can take.
5. After the silence, the author is the first to speak, asking specific questions to help them in revision.
6. At the end of the conversation, everyone returns their marked-up copy to the author to take home and guide revision.
For more materials to support writing groups, see http://www.dianaglyer.com/resources/resources-for-writing-groups/