The intent of this three-part blog series is to share with you six simple changes I made to increase engagement and better meet the needs of boy writers.
“How can I get the boys in my class more interested and engaged in writing?” That was the question I was most often asked while working as an instructional coach and writing specialist. My usual response was a list of time-honored practices that served all writers, not necessarily strategies that met the specific needs of boys. Although I knew the practices to be valuable; I knew the answer I gave was not the answer they were seeking. I knew, because I was also searching: searching for ways to reach more boys during writer’s workshop, ways for them to find value in their ideas, ways for them to own the page. Just like the teachers I worked with, I was looking for of an answer to that very same question.
My search finally came to an end when I attended a Ralph Fletcher workshop on boy writers. Fletcher’s workshop covered the information in his book titled, Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices. In his book, Fletcher documents his many observations about boy writers from his years of experience as an author and staff developer. He also includes research from the ground-breaking work of Thomas Newkirk, author of Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture.
After reading the work from Fletcher, Newkirk and others, I began sharing what I learned with other teachers. It wasn’t long before I witnessed a definite change in the way boys were approaching their writing. They were writing with enthusiasm and purpose. They were engaged, on task, and focused. Just when I thought I couldn’t get much more excited about the changes the boys were exhibiting, a group of them approached me and asked if they could write instead of going out to recess. Write instead of Recess? I knew without a doubt the answer to that question… YES!