Sage and Scribe Practice Activities

Sage and Scribe (also called Sage-N-Scribe) is a fun practice structure that I first learned about from Kagan. Kagan’s Cooperative Learning Structures are designed to increase engagement and collaboration for all students.

How it Works:
– Kids work in pairs.
– The pair gets a problem set and uses the following roles:
The sage: Reads the problem out loud and explains how to solve the problem step-by-step.
The scribe: Records the sage’s solution.
– If the scribe disagrees with the sage, the scribe can ask questions and coach the sage.
– Kids alternate roles for each problem.

Tips: In my experience this structure works best when…

– Kids have already developed a conceptual understanding and are ready to develop procedural fluency
– The problem set is scaffolded to gradually get more challenging (thin-sliced).
– Kids use markers and get to work on big sheets of newsprint paper or on big whiteboards. Sharing one big page and writing with large letters aids collaboration. (I like to buy newsprint paper at U-Haul.)

A snapshot of 8th graders doing Sage and Scribe on newsprint paper!

– Kids work in pairs. If there is an odd number of students, I either ask if anyone is in the mood to work alone or make a group of 3 that has two scribes and one sage so that everyone still takes active role for each problem.
– The teacher models the roles when first introducing kids to the structure.
– The teacher spends the first 5 minutes walking around and enforcing the structure: There will likely be kids who try to take turns solving the problems independently without talking. “You’re missing the point!” I like to tell them, “Explaining how to solve the problem out loud, in words, will help you internalize the process and remember the steps. Who is the Sage for this one? Let me listen in while you describe how to solve it!”

Here are some Sage and Scribe problem sets I’ve created and used with middle school kids:

6th Grade:

Fraction Division: Compute quotients (Each pair gets a half sheet. Created to give students practice with the algorithm – multiplying the dividend by the reciprocal of the divisor.)

7th Grade:

Created as practice for Illustrative Mathematics Unit 4:

Unit Rates with Fractions (7.RP.A.1)

Multi-step Percent Problems (7.RP.A.3)

8th Grade:

Unit 4 Review: Solving Equations and Systems of Equations Note: This one is organized by levels and covers multiple learning targets. **Some of these problems are from the IM curriculum.

As an aside, I haven’t re-read any Kagan books recently, but I did revisit the book Total Participation Techniques and highly recommend it! It similarly offers structures to get all kids engaged but emphasizes rigorous, higher order thinking. Hoping to write more about ideas from that book soon!

Always happy to hear from readers!