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Engaging Boy Writers
LAUREN VASQUEZ
SPRING 2012
What does it mean to be part of a GROUP?
 “A group exists when two or more people define
themselves as members of it and when its existence
is recognized by at least one other.” (Brown, 1988)
 Recall a time when you were part of a group.
 What was your role?
 How did you support each other?
 What made it positive/negative?
SHARE
 Talk about your group experience.
 How could you apply what you learned in that group
experience to your teaching practice?
 To your teaching of writing?
Origins of My Inquiry
I noticed…
 Boys in my fifth grade class were less excited about
writing than girls.
 Writing volume goals were not being met by the
boys.
 Boys often told me, “ I can’t think of anything to
write about!”
Questions Developed
 How can I more deeply engage boys in the
writing process?
 Why are so many boys resistant to writing?
 What topics would engage them?
 How can they motivate each other?
What do the experts say?

In his book, Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices, Ralph
Fletcher shares many insights about boy writers.
 Boys are scoring behind girls in tests
 We need to learn to understand the world of boys and encourage
them to write what they are passionate about
 Gives boys a CHOICE
 Genres that especially appeal to boys are graphic novels,
cartoons, sports, and humorous writing
A Focused Inquiry is Developed
HOW CAN I MORE
DEEPLY ENGAGE BOYS
IN THE WRITING
PROCESS?
An Overview of the School
 Located in the South Bronx
 588 students in the school (Pre-K to 5th)
 28% black, 69% Hispanic, 1% white, 1% Native
American, 1% Asian
 26% of the students are English Language Learners
 20% are special education students
My Classroom
 5th grade, general education class
 18 students
 7 boys, 11 girls
 Curriculum: Teachers College Reading and Writing Project




Writer’s notebooks
Students go through the writing process
Partners share ideas and provide feedback
Student write nightly in their notebooks on topics of their own
choosing
Who are the boys in my classroom?
 I decided to focus on a group of 5 boys. They are
particularly struggling with engagement in the writing
process.





2 African-American
3 Hispanic
1 has an IEP and receives SETSS
2 are members of the basketball team
1 is a chess player
Getting Started
 I observed that the boys and girls in my classroom are very
different. According to Boys and Girls Learn Differently by
Michael Gurian :

The part of the brain known as Wernicke’s area (language and thought) is
usually more active in girls
 I began to think about how I could work on developing
language and thought with the boys in my classroom.
 I decided to see what ideas the boys had about writing.
Surveying the Boys
 I created a survey to find out the boys’ interests.
 I posed the following questions:
 What kinds of things do you like to write about?
 How often do you write at home?
 Where do you write at home?
 Which of these activities do you do? How many minutes per
day do you spend on each? (Instant messaging, email,
blogging)
 Who is one of your favorite authors? Why do you like him/her?
 What words come to mind when you think of your writer’s
notebook?
(Questions adapted from Ralph Fletcher’s book, Boy Writers)
SURVEY RESULTS:
What comes to mind when you think of your writer’s notebook?
 “It’s full of soul and adventure.”
 “Homework.”
 “A pencil and paper and someone
writing.”
 “I want to do math.”
SURVEY RESULTS:
What kinds of things do you like to write about?
Comics
Stories
Raps
Poems
SURVEY RESULTS:
Who is one of your favorite authors? Why do you like him/her?
The boys overwhelming all responded with the same
answer…
“Diary of a Boy Writer” Takes Shape
 We created a Boys Writing Club in the class
 The boys talked about how much they love the humor, real-life
scenarios, and drawings from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”
 We imagined ways to use “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” as a mentor text for
our own writing
 I created new writing notebooks for the club to use
Club Basics
 The club met a few times each week.
 They set goals and decided on different genres they
wanted to try out.
 They would check in with each other during the week
and offer encouragement and motivation.
“Friendships between boys usually develop out of shared interest in a game or
an activity. Girls’ friendships are face-t0-face, two or three girls talking with
one another. Boys’ friendships are shoulder-to-shoulder, a group of boys
looking out at some common interest.” (Why Gender Matters, Leonard Sax)
What writing emerged as the
boys motivated each other?
A LIST created
by the Boys
Writing Club
The boys
brainstormed
genres they
enjoyed writing
and created a
GO TO list
Incorporating
ART in the
notebook
This student loved
the way Jeff Kinney
used drawings next
to his words. He
began to express
himself with words
and pictures.
Author as
Mentor: Trying
out Graphic
Fiction
This student began to
tell his stories in
boxes and use
drawings as well. He
began to write with a
better sequence using
these boxes.
Letter Writing
This student took his
love for Diary of a
Wimpy Kid and created
a postage stamp. This is
his letter to the
Postmaster General
explaining why it should
be chosen as a new
stamp.
He writes, “People that
start reading the book
will not want to stop
reading it because it’s
very good and it is for all
ages.”
An unexpected
favorite genre: FAIRY
TALE
“Once upon a time there
was a little boy that had
super powers. His super
powers are super special.
His super powers are super
speedy flying and climbing
on walls. ”
This writing came from a
student that is particularly
disruptive in class and
prides himself on being a
tough guy. He found a way
to incorporate his
personality into this genre.
According to Judy Hayn, professor of education at
Loyola University Chicago, “Boys want stories with
male protagonists that are exciting. They see life as a
battle.”
The boys began to engage with
writing and each other in new
and different ways.
*A SAMPLE CONFERENCE BETWEEN TWO OF
THE BOYS. THEY ARE DISCUSSING A TOPIC
OF HIGH INTEREST AND THEY ARE WRITING
OUT LOUD TO EACH OTHER.
*A TRANSCRIPT OF THE BOYS TALKING
ABOUT THEIR WRITING. NOTICE THE WAY
THEY CONTINUE TO BRING THE
CONVERSATION BACK TO THEIR REAL LIFE
EXPERIENCES.
Peer Conference about Writing Topics
Transcript of a Discussion
The boys met and talked about using Jeff Kinney as a
mentor author in their own writing.
Samuel: What I like about Diary of a Wimpy Kid book is that they’re interesting and it
could actually happen to you and they’re funny and all that.
Craig: I want to write realistic fiction stories like that.
Tom: We could make a list in the back of our notebooks of what we want to write.
Teacher: What are some things he does as a writer that you think are kind of cool?
Tim: He puts it funny.
Tom: He tells about his life. The book is stories about his life and how does his life go on.
Craig: About him and his best friend.
Tom: And his family. And how his life goes.
Samuel: Writing like this could make it more fun for us.
Monitoring our Progress
 The boys enjoyed their writing club, but it was hard to
keep up the enthusiasm.
 They began to lose interest in only talking with each
other.
 One thing I noticed is that the boys’ only audience was
each other.
New Questions Grew
 How
can we open up our work to a larger
audience?
 How will the club respond to sharing their
work with others?
 Will the quality of their work increase if
they have a wider audience?
Shining a Spotlight on the Boys:
Boy Writers Go on Tour
 The boys tried out writing for an intended
audience a group of 3rd grade boys
 They met as a group to brainstorm genres they
thought the 3rd graders would be interested in
reading
 The boys prepared writing they wanted to share with
the 3rd graders
In his book, Boy Writers, Ralph Fletcher makes the following recommendation: “Make
sure boys have real and varied audiences for their writing. Sharing and celebrating
should not be a rare occurrence but a regular event in the classroom.”
Sharing with a New Audience
This is an excerpt from a session when the 5th graders
shared some of their writing with a group of 3rd graders.
Tom: I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have two good fairy
tales and I don’t know which one to pick.
(Tom shares his fairy tale about donkeys)
Tom: Listen closely, there’s a lesson in this story.
Teacher: Did you guys hear the lesson?
Craig: Not to bully. That was the most obvious lesson.
How did you feel about sharing
your writing with a new audience?
 It’s very fun and it’s very cool.
 We get to show other people what we wrote and that
makes me happy.
 It makes me think harder about more stuff to write about.
 We can write interesting stories and share lessons.
Final Thoughts from the BOYS
 At the end of our work together, I surveyed the boys
again.



How do you feel about writing?
When you think of writing what comes to mind?
What are your thoughts about being part of a Boys Writing
club?
The Boys Speak
 It feels so good to know that I can write about anything.
 Writing is so fun and interesting.
 Sometimes I feel happy about writing but others
times I don’t.
 I feel writing is fun because you’re writing
something that’s about you.
Best Practices
 Let’s share some of our thinking…

How do you use clubs in your classroom? What have been the
benefits? What were the struggles?

What suggestions do you have for making AUDIENCE a bigger
part of the writing and thought process for our students?
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