September 5, 2013

Be a Scribe

OK, I know Thursday is almost over, but I wanted to support my Best Bloggy Bud, Erin at I'm Lovin Lit, with her Thursday Throwdown linky.

As you know, I'm in a different role this year as a Teacher Assistant, so I'm seeing things from a very different perspective. I've already learned how hard it is for me to remember that these are not my classrooms - things will not always be the way I would do them!

I'm with the majority of the same kids for all of my core classes, which means I get to see them in every subject area. I can see the benefit of this, as you elementary school teachers do, because I get to see the entirety of my students' strengths and weaknesses.

One of the weaknesses I see often is a huge reluctance to commit anything to paper. Wether it's writing or drawing, this group of students is very hesitant to put that pencil to paper. I think a large part of it has to do with the high percentage of ESL and SPED students who are lacking confidence in their abilities. We keep encouraging to just try it out so we can learn where to help them.

One of the things I've been doing to help them is offering to be the scribe. "You talk; I'll write," I tell them. And then I make them share their entire thinking process. This has been tremendously helpful in math because I've learned that some of my students are doing exactly the right work but are getting messed up because of their poor handwriting (some due to OT needs) or not lining up their numbers clearly. When they realize this, it's a huge boost in their confidence. For other kids, I've been able to hear where their thinking is wrong, which I wouldn't necessarily know if they were just "showing their work" as required.

When it comes to writing, I always teach my students to write exactly what they would say to their neighbor. Word for word. This is the best piece of advice my mom ever gave me as a writer. You can (and will) always go back and revise your words, but this gives you a great place to start. For the really hesitant students, I make them tell me their responses, and I will quickly jot down what I hear.

Offering to be a scribe has engaged my students who otherwise sit with a blank paper on their desks. I know this isn't a life-altering tip, but working with small groups of students with special needs, I can really see the benefit of this for many students.


  1. It is hard for them to write things. They are so afraid of making mistakes. It helps when they can talk it out first.

  2. I do this a ton when we brainstorm, sometimes its easier to get a discussion going if the pressure is off on them trying to keep up with notes and I am just the note taker.