In a third grade classroom two students modeled a peer conference. They used the Notice, Question, Polish model: Notice what the author did successfully; Ask a question (to clarify, to add information, etc.); Polish (word choice, sentence variety, etc.).
The writers had been drafting an opinion piece. “Hey, Little Ant” was the inspiration for one writer’s opinion: Don’t step on ants; it’s not right! She read her piece and shared it on the visualizer. Her partner noticed the hook and her use of strong opinion words. She asked, “What more can you tell us about how ants cooperate and share their food?” She suggested that the writer might try adding more description to the ant’s struggle to lug the food back to the colony to help the reader feel sorry for the ant.
An “aha” moment occurred when the other writers in the class offered their comments. The class had been working on sentence variety, but some writers continued with the Subject-Verb structure. One student pointed out how that the piece on the visualizer had “good sentence variety.” When the teacher asked him to expand on that comment, he pointed out that there was a good mix of long and short sentences and that two sentences began with prepositional phrases and one began with an adverb (it was actually a complex sentence which began with an adverbial clause, but that was a conversation for another day!).
A piece of student writing (and a draft at that) became a mentor text for sentence variety.