Writing is one of the most complex tasks we ask kids to do. It involves almost every aspect of executive function, and a significant amount of motor coordination, as well. When we expect kids to plan, prioritize, think critically, sequence, organize – and hold the pen, shape the letters or type at the same time – their brains can wear out quickly.
Scribing is a terrific accommodation to support kids who struggle with planning and writing — and a wide range of other school-related challenges, including “dysgraphia,” a learning disability that affects the ability to write. It even helps a lot for a child whose chief challenge is anxiety.
You would not use this strategy when the point of the assignment is actually handwriting of course. But for most schoolwork, providing motor support (i.e. writing for them) can free up a child’s brain to do the real thinking that an assignment requires, so they don’t get stuck in the mechanics of writing. It helps them get the thoughts out of their heads.
For younger kids, it might be about writing for them while they tell a story, or even writing down vocabulary sentences as they recite them to you. For older kids, it could involve writing for them while they think through their homework assignments for the evening, or letting them dictate to you when they are writing an essay or a paper.
When you are a scribe, you really need to put on your “court-reporter” hat and avoid the tendency to do the homework for your child. Its okay to suggest a word or ask if they might want to say something in a different way; but for the most part, try to keep yourself out of the content of your child’s work. Your job as a scribe is to record your child’s efforts, so that she can pay attention to the job of learning.