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In my first month of teaching sixth grade, my students and I accomplished a lot. We...

  • designed and performed an experiment to find out if toothpaste actually makes your mouth cleaner;

  • learned to write some characters in cuneiform, an early form of writing used by the ancient Mesopotamians

  • wrote, rehearsed, performed, and filmed screenplays of pivotal moments from the novel we were reading;

  • engaged in a whole class debate on the question, 'Are pronouns our friends or our enemies?'


I taught in a middle school in which the sixth grade teachers taught every subject, including Ancient World History, so we did a lot in a day!


However, when I met with my students' parents and guardians during back to school night, very few of them knew about any of the activities we'd done. I was surprised--and, I admit, a little disappointed. I asked, 'Do you ask your children what they did in school each day?' Most parents said they did, but that the answers they received could more or less be summarized as, 'Nothing much.'


I was determined to change this. My students had been particularly interested in cuneiform, the very early form of written language in Mesopotamia, and the role of the scribe, the person responsible for writing down so much of the civilization's history. So I challenged them to do for our class what the ancient scribes did for their society: keep track of the things we valued.


And so Scribe's Record was born. My students and I spent some time debating how to capture what we did each day, and how much to capture, recognizing that some days would be more exciting or memorable than others, and some activities or ideas would be more important to one student than to others. We decided to end each day by brainstorming a list of the things we'd done and ideas we'd discussed that day. When time allowed, students would have the opportunity to advocate for a particular item--i.e. present reasoning for why getting locked outside of the building after the fire drill was more exciting/important to remember than taking our math test. Then (with or without the advocacy step), students would vote on the top three activities or ideas they wanted to remember for the day.


I sent a letter home to families explaining Scribe's Record and suggesting, 'Please ask your child what the class chose to put on the Scribe's Record each day?' Not only did students and their families start talking about what they'd done in school, students started focusing more thoughtfully on their work and synthesizing their learning in order to pare their days down to three important activities or ideas.

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