Sunday, May 24, 2009

Me Read? No Way! - Welsh Edition

Our friends in Wales have republished, with a Welsh spin, our Ontario Ministry of Education guide to improving boys literacy skills.

I remember when the Ontario version was a focus in our school district a couple of years back. I was very encouraged by the resources however, I think a second edition is needed which expands on the boys writing segments.

Here's the Welsh abridged version. In the full version the localized content reflects Welsh test scores and illustrates the gender gap in literacy achievement in Wales.

Page 10 of the Welsh abridged version addresses technology. Again, this section needs to be re-written and expanded as it only addresses a few strategies.

You may wish to learn more at the Boys Literacy Wales website.

I noticed on the conferences segment of Boys Literacy Wales that Tim Rylands has three presentation dates beginning on June 9th, 2009. Folks from the U.K. will know Tim's work. If you are unfamiliar with Tim's work using the video game MYST as a writing visual environment his website is worth a look see.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Motivation and Engagement of Boys - Australia

Here's a comprehensive study from Australia about motivating and engaging our boy learners. As always, I begin my search for materials by reading the "Language and Literacy Strategies segment".

In this study, the good stuff begins on page 42 and runs until page 49.

I keep returning and re-reading this quote about meaning and multimodal literacy from page 46:

"Meaning is made in ways that are increasingly multimodal – in which written linguistic modes of meaning are part and parcel of visual, audio, and spatial patterns of meaning. Take for instance the multimodal ways in which meanings are made on the World Wide Web, or in video captioning, or in interactive multimedia [e.g. mobile phones], or in desktop publishing, or in the use of written texts in a shopping mall. To find our way around this emerging world of meaning requires a new, multimodal literacy. "

(Cope & Kalantzis, 2000, pp.5–6)

Here are some highlights from section 4.4.4:

The positive impact of an integrated culture of literacy – taking an integrated
approach across the curriculum

• effective writing strategies; for example, ensuring that boys understand the
technical skills of writing and understand the meaning and purposes of writing

• effective cooperative experiences – making reading a socially constructed
activity by giving the students the opportunity to discuss between themselves
the relevance of the text to other texts and to their lives

• the importance of oral language in improving in writing

• the value of explicit teaching of reading and writing – providing clear
objectives, a variety of text types, content that engages the interest of boys and
questions that promote understanding

• the value of teacher feedback – effective assessment and constructive feedback
from teachers

• the need for high but realistic expectations

• the positive impact of the integration of ICT

linking literacy to boys’ experiences and popular culture

multimodal texts and boys’ interests

• the dangers of generalizing content for boys

• boys and critical literacy.

Understanding Boys Underachievement - U.K.

In this Teachers.TV 4 minute clip our friends from the U.K. present how the gender achievement gap in the GSCE [General Certificate of Secondary Education] results effect how boys are prepared for the world of work.

Debra Myhill of the University of Exeter has been researching boys underachievement for years. In the clip she says there is an "increase in classroom achievement as students participation in class increases".

Here is Professor Myhill's list of suggestions for instructing boy learners [and all students]:

1. Have high expectations.
2. Monitor whether your teaching is stereotyped in any way.
3. Engage an active teaching model.
4. Make sure all children are involved.
5. Provide formative assessment so students can adjust and refine along the way.

The clip ends up with 3 suggestions for our boys.

1. Be interested in what they like to read and write.
2. Have the boys in our charge be more meticulous in their writing.
3. Encourage course work completion.

Concept Oriented Reading/Writing Instruction

Another area that C.O.R.I. has been successful in addressing is engaging boys to become readers. With the emphasis on non-fiction text, boys who may not read fiction are realizing that they too can become learners, thinkers, readers and writers.

Here is J. Guthrie's matrix to describe the characteristics of a motivating and engaging classroom.

In the video you'll see a classroom where the study of "Weather" becomes a reading classroom as students engage in non-fiction reading to learn.

21 Factors Towards Successful Boys Writing

Factors identified as promoting performance
by boys in non-fiction writing
- by Caroline Daly

1. Teacher confidence and expectations
2. Lesson planning and organization
3. Explicit teaching about language
4. A range of strategies for writing
5. Topic selection in narrative writing
6. Medium term planning
7. Oracy
8. The importance of literature
9. Planning writing
10. Drafting
11. Writing Framess
12. Active Learning Tasks
13. Discipline
14. Pupil consciousness-raising
15. The use of visual media
16. Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
17. Poetry Writing
18. Target-setting
19. Older pupils as male role models
20. Schools as learning organizations
21. Teachers' knowledge and belief systems about literacy

5 Tips for Teaching Boys to Write

More from Peg Tyre's book. From Chapter 11 Page 156 of "The Trouble with Boys" by Peg Tyre - - a reference to the work of Ralph Fletcher

Identify boys with poor handwriting and find them a keyboard.2. Allow boys plenty of choices when comes to what they want to write.3. Allow boys to use visual cues - - drawings, arrows, and signs.4. Teacher needs to appreciate the way boys write. i.e., boys use kid language not classroom language, stories are goofy, sarcastic, funny.5. Be tolerant of boys' topic choice: violence, mayhem, gore.

Peg Tyre - Interview

Peg Tyre's book is a good read.

I've been skimming through Chapter 11,
Boys and Literacy and have come across Peg's list of outstanding researchers on boys and literacy. Here it is:

Thomas Newkirk - University of New Hampshire
William Brozo - University of South Carolina
Jeffrey Wilhelm - Boise State University
Michael Smith - Rutgers University

Building Relationships with Boy Writers

Ralph Fletcher, in his book Boy Writers and Jeffrey Wilhelm in his book, Reading Don't Fix No Chevys write about building relationships with boy writers.

Jeffrey Wilhelm calls it an implicit social contract [Page 99 - Chevys] which includes several regular features:

1. A teacher should try to get to know me personally.
2. A teacher should care about me as an individual.
3. A teacher should attend to my interests in some way.
4. A teacher should help me learn and work to make sure that I have learned.
5. A teacher should be passionate, committed, work hard, and know her or his stuff.

Wilhelm writes that if a teacher meets even one of these conditions, boys tended to respond positively and learn from and work hard for that teacher.

Similarly in Ralph Fletcher's book, Boys Writing [Page 167] developing relationships are key. Fletcher's quotes,

1. "We're not teaching writing - - we're teaching writers".
2. "Writing is personal."
3. We want every boy to connect with writing in a personal way, to say to himself:
4. Yeah, I can do that. I'm a writer

Nurturing, encouraging and supporting our boy writers begins by forging strong relationships. Fletcher believes that every one of us can connect with our boy students.

And so do I.

Authors who write about Boys and Learning:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Adobe Connect Webinar - Upper Grand DSB

We just finished a live webinar hosted by Brenda Sherry of the Upper Grand D.S.B. on the topic of Motivating Boy Writers.

Brenda hosted an Adobe Connect on-line meet-up where we talked about some of the research on boys writing and looked at a few book titles that you may wish to purchase or check out from the library.

Here are the book titles from the keynote.

Reading Don't Fix No Chevys - M.W. Smith and J.D. Wilhelm
Going with the Flow - M.W. Smith and J.D. Wilhelm
Engaging Readers and Writers with Inquiry - J.D. Wilhelm
Boy Writers - Ralph Fletcher
The Trouble with Boys - Peg Tyre
Boy Smarts - Barry Macdonald

On-line Resources:

1. Caroline Daly's research review of Boys Non-Fiction writing and some related research on how the use of visual media and ICT can assist boys to write non-fiction.

2. Amy Dahm's Text Forms for Writing Matrix

3. Jeff Wilhelm's matrix for developing rich technology enhanced summative tasks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boy Smarts

One of the session participants at my "Motivating Boy Writers" session at the Leading Learning Conference suggested the work of fellow Canadian, Barry MacDonald. His book "Boy Smarts" arrived today.

As is my usual practice, I usually turn to the chapter that grabs me the most. And I'm glad I did.

Chapter 7 is entitled "Improving Boys' Literacy". A couple of pages into this chapter, the author refers to an OFSTED report called, "Yes He Can: Schools Where Boys Write Well". A very good start as I had found this paper last summer during my boys' literacy immersion.

He then goes on to talk about "Multiple Literacies" Here's a quote:

"“boys will benefit if we expand our previous definition of traditional literacy to include
 multiple literacies; visual and technological literacy.... performing arts, storytelling, music and video.” Page 132.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this chapter and the book. I'm sure I'll learn lots. You can read more about Barry MacDonald's book at his website:

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Let's Continue the Conversation

I had the pleasure of speaking to 25 or 30 educators this past weekend at the 5th annual Leading Learning Conference.

As I was setting up for the session, one of the conference organizers entered the room and asked me about my session topic. When I told him that it was about Motivating Boy Writers, his response was, "Oh, I've heard people talking about that one". My response was, "Let's hope the participants will be talking about it more after the presentation".

So this blog is what hopefully is a longer term solution to continuing the conversation.

What struck me most after the session, was that no one left right away. You know how conferences can be. Get out of one session to rush to the next. But no one left. They just sat for a bit before conversations began happening. When I mentioned this to Kathy, who had introduced me before the session began, her response was, "Yes, the topic generated an opportunity for people to reflect". Quite right.

The topic of motivating boy writers has been on many educators minds for a long time. To see the session participants talking about boy writers after the session was very satisfying. A couple of folks came up to talk to me afterward; one, to talk about the connection for kindergarten boy writers and the other to give me his contact information as this was a topic he has an interest in.

So, I'll be posting some of my thoughts and ideas here about how we motivate the boys in our charge to write. I hope you'll join the conversation.