“It’s so important for boys to find a topic that interests them before they pick up a pen and start writing. I wasn’t particularly interested in writing at school, I only started to enjoy it later on, but I was hampered by being fantastically slow.” – Simon Mayo
A few years ago I taught a very boy heavy Year 2 class. As the weeks went by it become evident that I had a lot of switched on boys who hated, and I mean loathed, writing! Their eyes would roll and I would hear a harmonious groan as I uttered the words…’get out your writing books’.
After this negative response, I researched and changed how I approached writing in the classroom. It became evident that the strategies I began to use, helped not only the reluctant boys to improve their writing, but the rest of the class also.
This blog article will outline a few different ideas and strategies that worked for me. Of course, each class is different, however I feel obliged to share these ideas with my fellow teaching companions.
1. Talk about writing
I found having an open discussion about what it is they disliked about writing to be a huge eye opener.
Most of them said they found it hard to think of ideas and would often feel worried and anxious about getting the task done before play time. This fear before a writing task is completely normal – it’s writer’s block that even the best authors talk about. On top of this, they have the added time constraints that teachers place on their students.
I wanted to encourage daily writing and help move them past their writer’s fear. Also, I explained that it is ‘normal’ to feel anxious about writing, and we began to work out strategies, find templates and slowly created the right level of support needed for each student in the class. Including the children in this process gave them greater drive to want to improve their own writing.
2. Is writing comfortable?
I found the boys that had great ideas but only ended up with one sentence at the end of a one hour writing block, struggled with handwriting and had a poor pencil grip. We experimented with different pencil grips, triangular shaped pencils and practiced handwriting daily to improve this. Check out our 10 Handy Handwriting Tips Blog for more ideas.
Creating a comfortable writing environment was also beneficial to some boys in my class. Some preferred to sit on bean bags to write, whilst others felt more comfortable sitting at a round table with a teacher or teacher aide for support. To me, it didn’t bother me how they were sitting, just that they were comfortable and writing!
3. Comic strips
The boys in my class were into comic books at the time. We were in the beginning stages of a narrative writing unit and they were struggling with what to write, who to write about and then there was the narrative structure to think about. I used comic strips to begin the writing process. The boys loved it, they planned out a comic strip and then used the comic strip as a plan for their full narrative. The end results were amazing! The girls enjoyed it just as much.
Here are some of our resources that may work in your classroom:
4. Writing prompts
The initial fear of knowing what to write can be a big hurdle for boys, and children in general, to overcome. Some children need a little push in the right direction. Providing them with some writing ideas/prompts can help them to get creative.
Here are some of our resources that are great for providing that extra support:
5. Create story boxes
I created ‘story boxes’ using items I knew the boys were interested in. Superheros were a favourite at the time. Using our classroom theme packs you can print, laminate and cut out pictures and word wall cards to help inspire your students’ writing ideas.
Other topics that worked for me were cars, dinosaurs, sports and action movies. I also encouraged children to create their very own story box that they filled with things from home that were special to them.
5. Are they bored?
A couple of the boys in my class hated writing because they found it boring. The topics we were asking them to write about did not interest them so they didn’t feel compelled to write.
Providing a variety of options and topics allowed the students to pick a topic that interested them. This is where the story boxes from home allowed the boys to write about hobbies and interests they enjoyed writing about.
The boys were proud of their work and a lot more willing to share the ideas and writing with the rest of the class.
6. 10-minute daily quick write
One strategy I found helped the boys overcome that anxious writer’s block was the ’10-minute quick write’.
I would set a timer and then engage the students to write continuously for 10 minutes without editing, deleting, crossing out or stopping. If they got stuck, they just wrote about what they are thinking.
The writing was not marked, it was simply an exercise to help students intentionally move past that fear of coming up with ideas. Check out our online Random Sentence Starter selector. A great morning activity to get your students writing daily.
7. Use technology in the classroom
Another hurdle that became evident was the number of things they had to think about while writing. What the story was going to be about, what characters were going to be in the story, who was the main character, what was the problem and the solution, spelling, handwriting, punctuation, don’t forget your adjectives…so many different things for their little minds to handle.
I found allowing them to record their ideas on recording devices or iPads and allowing them to type their ideas and plan their stories on a computer, eliminated the handwriting concern from the scenario. It allowed them to focus on the quality of the story and content, rather than the neatness of their handwriting.
I hope this blog article has inspired some of you to get creative when it comes to encouraging those reluctant writers in the classroom. It’s easy to say ‘Jonny just doesn’t like writing’ and expecting that. There are so many different strategies, resources and ideas out there…just work out the ones that work for Jonny.