Here are some tips for making comments about the work of your peers both during and outside of class.
1. Remember that our class is meant to be a safe space. This means not only during class time, but when you engage in class-related discussions and activities outside of class.
2. Always begin with a positive comment. Every piece of writing has something good about it. Start there.
3. Always show the utmost respect for your peers both as writers and as individuals.
4. Don't be afraid to make suggestions for changes. Comments like this, when constructive, can be much more helpful than compliments, because they push the writer to move beyond the status quo.
5. Be brief. Stick to one positive and one suggestion for change when commenting in class. Remember that other people have to comment, and other people also have to read.
6. Be concrete. When criticizing (both positive and suggestions), it's important to state exactly what you mean and point to the specific part you are talking about it. "I like it" is not nearly as helpful as "You do a really good job helping the reader visualize the sunset over the city."
7. Don't minimize the value of your opinion. You are not only a fellow writer, you are a reader, one of the people we write for.
8. Don't exaggerate the importance of your opinion, either. Ultimately, the piece belongs to the author, and he/she decides which suggestions to take and which to leave.
9. When necessary, move on. After you make your point, if the writer or your classmates disagree, you can re-explain yourself if necessary, but after that, let it go. You may be right; you may be wrong, but in the long run, that doesn't necessarily matter.
10. Don't make the mistake of thinking the teacher's comments are worth more than yours or your peers'. The teacher may have more writing experience, but ultimately, he/she is just another reader. The teacher will like some of your work and dislike others; a good teacher will grade on the effot you put into the piece, not personal taste.