Monday, August 30, 2010

Scribing about scribing

As Plato did for Socrates, as my students hope to do for our class, we are embarking on a well worn venture of scribing. Each year, I ask my senior class to scribe our class periods together in hopes of making a living history of their senior year of high school. I always tell them at their 20 year high school reunion for them to be able to look back and see all they did and discussed as seniors. This year, I am not teaching seniors (see previous upset blog re: Spelling Vocab) and wanted to still continue with the valuable practice of scribing.

I have had my second semester Honors class scribe before, but with their every seeming tendency to out do the previous year by talking to authors, I have lost the practice. There is only so much time! Or is there?

As I discussed scribing with my all boys class, and two Honors classes, they all seemed to value the idea of a scribe. They realized what a benefit it would be to their learning since it could contain the homework, discussions and notes from class, links to valuable resources, and maybe, just maybe, a little humor from class that day. As we talked about what each post should contain, we came up with an oral list of expectations regarding a scribe post. (Note to self: next time record this and write them down)

Scribe Expectations- from Smith’s recall
· Should contain the date
· Should contain the homework
· Should contain what happened in class: detailed enough but not boring
· Should contain notes and discussion information
· Should contain links to anything that was referenced
· Should have a “feel” of the class and classroom
· Humorous
· Well written and proofread
After signing up the kids with posting privileges, deciding the scribe schedule, debriefing after the first few scribes have been posted, reviewing expectations, learning how to scribe, post, hyperlink, embed, etc…, I am still not seeing what I hope to see in the scribes.

For example, here is a post from my all boys’ class:
Today we went over the correct prompt for a blog on PLN’s: Author, Title, What matters? Why? Link Summarize, Conections (self world) Conclusion. Example Topic: “A vision of Students today” by Dr Michael Wesch, Technology Rules people’s lives because technology is entertaining.PLN1. We then got time to Blog if some people forgot. We need to do PLN2 “what matters” on your CLASS blog for homework due Monday/Tuesday. Put any pictures for “what matters” in a folder/on a jump drive. Create collage. Post on Blog.

Notice how there aren’t any links, it is one giant ramble, and no additional information is provided. What this post tells me is that my class is boring, it is jumbled together, there is no explanation of the homework or what we did in class, and my class is boring.

I am not trying to be degrading to myself through this post, but I remember Alan November saying this summer at ISTE, that scribes are a great source of feedback for the teacher. It can tell you exactly what your students are taking away. I have never thought of scribes like that, but more as a tool for my students to help each other out. I guess I need to rethink what my boys are taking away each day. And, why are their posts so limited in content and depth? Why aren’t they helping each other learn?

My Honors kids haven’t completed any outstanding scribes either. Take a look at these two examples:
Today in English 9 honors we came into class, worked for 5 minutes to finish up our projects and then started to present. The first group to go was the group on King James. They made a movie about a guy needing help on a Macbeth research project. He seeks help from a king he found in Burger King who retells his life story. The next group to go was witch craft. They made a power point and showed a video clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. They brought up volunteers to be accused of being a witch and tried them for being witches. Most of them died. I counted two survivors out of ten. After them came husbands and wives. They too had volunteers come up and act out different types of skits. The group after them was tragic heros who also had people come up and act out a skit. We did not get through all of the of the groups so we will finish up on Monday. Over the weekend we need to read and annotate the first 3 chapters of Lord of the Flies. Also we need to blog about those chapters on the Class Blog.

First matter of the day, each student was handed an SAT vocabulary book and was told to write their names in the front cover. You are going to be required to memorize 15 words a week. Flip books to page 16. Complete lesson 1 until page 24 but do not do the writing portion. Make responses legible and neat. They are due Friday but do not take more than 15 minutes to complete. Wednesday is word day where you are quizzed on the words you learn and Fridays are the word tests. LOF annotation and blog also due Friday. All students are required to watch a video on Shakespeare as shown below the presentation notes. Take the Elizabethan presentation quiz on the computer and print it out. Sheet was passed around to sign the SAT books out. Globe Theater group came up first and presented their Prezi with small quizzes for the audience. They also asked class members to come up and give summaries of the facts they presented. Very creative presentation. Feudal System group went up and assigned every student a social position (i.e. serf, night, king). Members of the groups explained portions of their role of the social class they were assigned.

Globe Theater
• Globe theater built in 1599 with help of William Shakespeare
• Burned downed once
• No costumes and used bags of pig blood for death scenes
• Actors died/ injured in stunts
• Plays held in “Inn Yards” before theaters
• Many special effects and grand entrances
• Plays took place in afternoon and lasted around two hours
• Theaters used for many weird purposes and flags represented types of plays

The Feudal System
• King and queen pass out fifes to all nobles.
• King passed down to first born son in every generation
• Nobles gave land to nights and peasants.
• Laws restricted the wearing of certain clothes
• Clergy almost equal to nobles
• Clergy were spiritual leaders and were bonded to a church and they were much like priests.
• Knights were part of army and wore large portions of armor
• Hired by nobles for protections of land
• Serfs make up 90% of the population and were poor.
• Serfs lived poorly and farmed land for their higher ranking nobles
Discovery Video

Once again, my basic take away is BORING. So, what needs to change? I think I need to revisit the expectations and see what the kids think about the scribing. I know one student asked a follow up question about a piece of software I used in class because it wasn’t on the post- that is progress. I also had another student create his own duct tape picture version of Shakespeare to post with his entry. I know there are good parts of what we are doing, it just isn’t yet where I want them to be. How can I help them get there?


Brian Mull said...

Very well stated. It's fantastic that you can take a look at yourself and see what the students see through their words. Doing that takes a lot of bravery. Telling the world about it - ten times more.

I thought you might be interested in listening to Alan's recent interview with Darren Kuropatwa. Darren discusses how his students' scribe posts evolved as well as other ways he engages students in the classroom.

annes said...


Thanks for the feedback and the links. Darren Kuropatwa actually used my kids as an example in an article he wrote the first year I did scribing with my seniors.

I will make sure to listen in to the interviews. I appreciate the links

dkuropatwa said...

Hi Anne! Long time no speak. ;-)

I understand how you feel about these early scribe posts being poor reflections of your classes but I have to tell you, from my point of view, you've got some great stuff to work with here.

In my experience early scribes always look like this.

I tried to start every class by first projecting the previous night's scribe on the board and giving it a star and a wish; one thing I liked about it and one thing I wished it had included. Over time, this gently pushed the kids to greater heights.

In the scribe you shared from the all boys class I'd probably praise the student for very succinctly laying out the facts of what happened in class and add "I wish you had also told us what you learned in that class because I'm not getting that from what you've written." I would emphasize that the scribe posts as a whole should "Tell the narrative of our learning journey through the course: what we learned, what struck us as surprising, what we liked but also what we disliked, what we agreed with but also what we disagreed with, what questions should have been asked in class that weren't? Have you got any answers? Provoke us."

The example from your honours class is really quite good. Lots of detail with an overview of what was shared in each presentation but there are two things missing from it:

(1) Were these good presentations? What made them good (or not)? Regardless of how good they were what might have been done to make them better; more engaging, entertaining, educational? What should future presenters take away from this about what to include and what not to include in their presentations?

(2) Again, what's missing for me is the narrative of not just what happened but how it impacted the scribe and the class. It reads like a business report; I'd rather read something from the editorial section of the newspaper or maybe from the food or entertainment critic. Do you know what I mean?

I'd suggest you not worry about links and images in scribe posts just yet. It'll come.

When I started doing this with my classes I began to feel a push back on me as the teacher to provide them with some kind of fodder for their scribe posts. This lead to me suggesting, as something interesting came up in class or a point I really wanted them to recall: "This is good stuff for our scribe tonight."

Reading my students' scribe posts often made me wonder, like you in this post, how I might change what I do in class so they begin to see it differently too. Mind you, at this early phase of the game, they are still growing into scribing and their posts aren't yet likely to be a true reflection of what or how you're teaching. ;-)

Anyway, I hope I haven't offended and these ramblings of mine are helpful in some small way.


annes said...


Thanks so much for taking the time to write out such great questions and feedback.

Scribing with my freshmen is more challenging than I thought. I appreciate you pointing out the successes they have accomplished. I think it is challenging when I have a vision in my mind, and their work isn't matching that vision, to see what is still shining through.

I used the idea of projecting the previous night's scribes to the class to use as discussion starters. It seemed like the kids didn't have much to say about them. I think this is because they don't know what scribing looks like- this is something they have never encountered before.

Like you indicated, it will all come with time. I might be pushing too hard now, and just need to keep reflecting and debriefing in order to help them grow.

Thanks Darren!