Boys and Writing

When boys say they hate to write, there is usually a good reason.  Perhaps they feel inadequate when it comes to expressing their thoughts.  Maybe they’ve been compared to their female classmates, who often find the writing process a bit easier.  And, sadly, maybe they’ve never thought of writing as something fun to do.   If a boy hates writing, it’s important to encourage and inspire them.  Here are some excellent tips to jump start the process!

Start small –

A writing assignment often involves filling a page with words, which is a daunting assignment for many people.  Instead of expecting a lot of writing, start small, instead.  Before expecting a page, ask for a paragraph.  Before expecting a paragraph, ask for a sentence.  Before assigning a sentence, introduced something unexpected.

Grab their attention –

Bring something to the table that will catch the boys’ attention and rouse their curiosity.  They’ll wonder what it has to do with your lesson, and that’s exactly what you want them to do – wonder!  Hands may go up and questions may be asked, but tell them they’ll find out soon enough.  In the meantime, their brains are working overtime to figure out why you’re letting them “play” a bit. 

Encourage conversation –

Invite boys to take a closer look.  Depending on their age and interests, choose something that they will consider unique or fun: Lego models, a rod and reel, a duck or turkey call, an unusual pet, a coonskin cap, a set of antlers are all conversation starters.  Encourage boys to touch, investigate and manipulate the object if possible.  Collections are also fun to look at:  If you have access to rocks, arrowheads, rare coins, sports cards, fossils and such, make a simple display or bring the collection to class.  If a particular item should not be handled, display it only for observation and conversation purposes.  

Play with words –

Have on hand a list of adjectives that describe common objects.  Cut the words apart, drop them in a basket or box and use them for a game of word play.  Boys are asked to draw out one word and read it aloud.  Could it be used to describe the item of interest?  Why or why not?  Tip: Include adjectives that may or may not apply to the object being discussed – words like “colorful, dull, hard, soft, rough, smooth, cold, warm, fuzzy, unique, funny,” and other words.  Get the boys talking!

After a bit, ask them to write a sentence or two that describes the object for someone who may not be familiar with it or have never seen it.  Tip: Writing a good sentence is the first step to writing a paragraph or a page.  If boys find this fairly easy and succeed at this step, they’re well on their way to writing more.

Time to advance –

After a few sessions like this, advance to the next stage of writing.  When your students are no longer daunted at the prospect of writing a few sentences, it’s time to ask them to write a paragraph or two.  As they find this easier, advance to a full page.  Use your imagination to vary the experience each time.

First, you’re going to read aloud a brief article or short story that will grab their attention.  Next, tell them you’re going to set a timer and have them do some “jam writing.”  Tip: Jam writing is the process of speed writing without concern for spelling and punctuation.  The idea is to get down their thoughts, not to turn out a perfect paper.  They are simply going to answer the following questions: Did they hear or learn something new to them?  Was it funny?  Interesting?  Sad?  What might they have done differently?  

Use jam writing for the next assignment, too: You will bring an unusual object to class that was used by our ancestors – one unfamiliar to young boys – and display the item where it can be easily seen.  It could be an old-fashioned brace and bit, a table-top meat grinder, a smoker used by bee keepers, an 8-track tape player or something along these lines.  Let them come closer to observe and study it for a few minutes, but they are not to try to manipulate or use it to discover its purpose. 

Next, have them write about it by answering some questions. What might be the purpose of the object?  Was it used for work or entertainment?  About how old do they think it is?  When the timer goes off, put pencils down.  Now talk about the object and explain its purpose, its approximate age and any other interesting facts about it.  If they wish, allow your boys to read what they thought.  Laugh together or brag on someone who figured it out!

It’s important that parents and teachers encourage young boys to write. It will take a little planning, some creative thinking and a bit of time, but they will discover that writing isn’t so difficult after all.  One or more may go on to become skilled writers and communicators.  Others may never write to earn a living, but they will have the confidence needed for continuing education and/or good communication skills.  Who knows?  Some of them may one day come back by to say thank you!