Sunday, November 28, 2010

Barry MacDonald - Implicit Social Contract

"Highly engaging visual ways of communicating thought" ~ Barry MacDonald

In this 90 second clip Barry MacDonald uses the concepts from Jeff Wilhelm's Implicit Social Contract. We all need to be making these types of connections with our boy learners.

First Mr. MacDonald speaks with the boy personally about his "trials and tribulations at school". This is first and foremost in Jeff Wilhelm's description of an implicit social contract, (Page 99) of Reading Don't Fix No Chevys.

Second, Mr. MacDonald zeros in on the personal concerns the boy has, "the boy feels like his intelligence isn't really expressed in his current environment, and has a written output problem" These are individual challenges the boy has. We know this as Mr. MacDonald explains specific examples.

Third, Mr. MacDonald asks the boy about his "discretionary passions", or in lay-persons terms, what the boy does for fun. The boy explains his personal interests include robotics, recording TV with a PVR and creating mash-ups and re-mixes using iMovie and uploading them to YouTube. This is the third important characteristic in Wilhelm's social contract: attend to my interests.

Jeff 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. So there is the challenge.

5 Steps to an Implicit Social Contract
by Jeff Wilhelm

1) To try to get to know our boys personally in a professional teacher/student relationship,
care about them as individuals and
3) attend to their interests. The other two are
4) help them learn and work to make sure that they learn and
5) teachers should be passionate, commited, work hard and know his or her stuff.

I try to at least meet one of the social contract indicators (but hopefully more) each and every time I work with boy learners.

Thank you Mr. MacDonald for sharing this powerful example.

Video Source: TedX - UBC

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Time to Talk with Camera in Hand

Yesterday I worked with a group of 6 squirming, active, interested boys as they are now at the stage of filming their anti-bullying themed public service announcement video.

My involvement with these boys, as a part of a larger group of about 60 middle schoolers has been great. The lesson had a lot going for it for boy writers.

First we started last week by brainstorming and writing scripts. Small chunks, short sentences and they had to "solve it in 6 frames". This solve it in six method is a method of problem - solution that I learned from Marco Torres a few years back. This short clear method of storyboarding makes the task more manageable. (watch the video in this post)

Second, it was hands on and an activity (the filming) where standing up and "acting" is allowed. Yesterday, I took a few moments to show the group how to load and unload a Mini-DV tape into one of our Canon cameras. Each of the boys took a turn to load the tape and then eject it. They got a chance to hold the camera, and get a feel for it before filming began.

As we walked to some of the locations for the filming, I remembered how important "the social" is for our boy learners. They were talking about how and where the scenes would take place. "In the hallway here, then the next scene is in the library", I overheard them say.

Who knows what this experience will bring about for these lads. Perhaps a new pleasure in the writing of a script, or the operation of a camera. Maybe one of the boys will become interested in film, or editing when we begin to import our footage tomorrow.

What I do know is that small groups, chunking and hands on, were the order of the day.

I wonder what I'll learn next time.

Video Credit: From Marco Torres Full Day Presentation at NECC 2006 in San Diego

Friday, November 12, 2010

Today's Session - Resource Links

First of all thank you to the 75 or so folks who attended my session today in the Aurora Room at the Sheraton Parkway as a part of the annual conference in Toronto. I really was surprised to see you all, especially since Dr. Thornburg was speaking at the same time!

I wanted to take a few lines here to provide links to some of the resources I mentioned today so it will be a little easier for you to find them instead of scrolling or searching the blog.

I was asked where to start if one was to read more about boys and writing or boys and literacy. My hands down choice is the book pictured above. Jeff (I call him Jeff) Wilhelm's book, "Reading Don't Fix No Chevys" was where I started. My favourite principal handed me a copy in 2005. Little did I know then that reading about boy writers would become an obsession.

Second, the writing continuum matrix (which was ever so hard to read on the screen). Here is a clean .pdf copy of it for your viewing pleasure. It really has been my bread and butter the last few years. It gets me in the door of more schools and classrooms to support our boy writers than any other document.

A few websites that may be hard to find on some of the research I quoted.

1. Caroline Daly's - Literature search on improving boys' writing
2. Boys' Writing Flyers - Talk, Visual Texts, Purpose and Audience, Feedback on Learning
3. Visualizing Literacy - Building Bridges with Media

Lastly, I was asked for my keynote presentation but after some thought I'll not be posting it for a couple of reasons. The first being the privacy part as I used quite a few student samples and second out of respect for copyright, I'd better keep asking my permissions so I will fall in line with what my friend @thecleversheep would advocate.

Again, thank you for the overwhelming response to my session today and please, by all means, join in on the conversation in the comments area. I'd love to hear about your triumphs and challenges with your boy writers and it will give us a chance to continue the conversation.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pink or Blue

I received this tweet from Mary-Beth Hertz this week. Once I've read the article I'll respond.

Should be an interesting conversation. Check back in a couple of days and join in!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Making Connections

I was very pleased to meet dozens of educators yesterday at my Motivating Boy Writers poster session at the International Society for Technology in Education conference in Denver, Colorado.

What struck me most in reflecting on yesterday's session was that the many teachers I talked with nodded knowingly when we talked about those few boys in our classes who are reluctant writers. As we talked further about boy writers, it seemed to me that connections were being made to the few boys "back home" for which writing is a challenge.

Another thing that struck me is the surprise folks had as they were walking by the session and read the title. Perhaps they had missed the session description in the planner as there are so many to choose from, but many stopped and repeated the title, "Motivating Boy Writers", and then said something like, "Well I have three boys at home and I know how difficult it is for them to write".

Also, fellow Ontario educational technology teacher, Jason Eygenraam, said it well when he tweeted after the session, "They talk about reluctant readers, but he's talking reluctant writers". I guess that is true. There are a lot of resources on motivating boy readers and I'm very pleased to have made the writing part of the equation one of my passions. I do realize that the two go hand-in-hand, but the many research articles I have read over the last two years speak specifically to writing for boys. So, thanks Jason for pointing that out.

There were many folks yesterday who handed me a business card or talked about making some kind of connection in the future. I am grateful for this as making connections are so important to keep this area of interest alive.

I hope those that did make a personal connection, will get in touch so we can keep the conversation going.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Poster Session Today at 11:00 a.m.

If you are attending the conference this year, drop by my poster session, "Motivating Boy Writers: Using Audio and Visual Media to Engage and Motivate" later this morning from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I'd very much like to have a conversation with you about boy writers.

Lobby A - Table P26

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Digital Persuasive Storytelling

Watch this Adobe Connect screencast to learn about a project which was created as a learning object during the Innoteach project.

Engagement and motivation during the writing process was very important in this cross-curricular project.

Just click on the image to view the screencast.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Boys' Voices

Watch as Avon Maitland elementary school teacher Trevor Hammer passionately describes his Boys' Voices project.

I had the opportunity to sit next to Trevor recently at a Learning Connections meeting but seeing his students in action provided me with a window into his classroom.

Video: Just click on the image and you'll be directed to Vimeo.

Monday, April 26, 2010

David Pena - Writer and Musician

Watch as high school social studies teacher Marco Antonio Torres explains how his former student, David Pena, discovers that re-writing John Williams music can lead to great things.

You can watch the full video of Mr. Pena creating his music at the SFETT website from 2003.

NMC video clip: Creative Commons 2.5 License.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Visualizing Literacy: Building Bridges with Media

Without a doubt the best article I have read in quite some time.

Author David L. Bruce, who is now at the University of Buffalo, completed a study of four low achieving boy writers. His research was published in the July 2008 issue of Reading and Writing Quarterly.

The research method used in the article is described and the best parts are the transcripts of his discussions and anecdotes from the boys directly. The boys share with the author their methods of writing using film, audio and media.

Perhaps your school district has a subscription service in order for you to read this 20 page article. Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions I am unable to link or post to the entire article.

Again, this is the best article I have read on motivating and engaging boy writers in quite a while.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Talk Drama and Writing - Social and Emotional Growth

I have found another gem in my professional reading collection.

Sheree North, Teacher-Librarian at The Sterling Hall School in Toronto, writes about drama's role in developing social and emotional growth for boys.

As always, there is added value in her article as she includes explanations about how talk and journal writing contribute to social and emotional growth as part of the process. Read the full article.


"...drama allows students to initiate meaningful talk, to explore the social functions of language" Page 60

"...for boys graphics, visuals, dramatic self-expression all have positive effects on boys" Page 60

Booth 2005

"...getting a boy into keeping a journal is a wonderful thing, we must help our boys make a story of their lives" Page 63

Gurian 1997

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Writing Through Visual Literacy and Drama

Drama, ICT, poetry and visual literacy.

This Boys' Writing Project from Lancashire County, based on evidence informed decision making "was designed to look at different teaching and learning approaches that would appeal to boys as much as girls."

The planning, lessons and illustrative samples are included in the study. As well, on page 29, the Literacy Unit Plan is included. Also, page 46 is the question and answers to the Writing Attitude Questionnaire which was given.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ISTE 2010 - Program Now Available

The program planner is now available for ISTE 2010 in Denver, Colorado.

If you are attending the conference this year, drop by my poster session, "Motivating Boy Writers: Using Audio and Visual to Engage and Motivate" sometime on Monday June 28th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. I'd very much like to have a conversation with you about boy writers.

Only a short 4 months away.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Nazaury Delgado's work was showcased in the Sunday edition of the New York Times this past weekend.

These remarkable creations were not a part of the high school art curriculum or assigned work. Mr. Delgado created them on his own.

"While the art academy assignments had left him uninspired, the flexibility of Photoshop empowered Mr. Delgado."

As teachers, how often do we come across situations like this? Sometimes students' talents lie undiscovered or unnoticed until awakened or shared openly. Can you imagine encouraging all students to discover hidden or previously undiscovered talents?

The article describes how Mr. Delgado's teachers supported him, took a personal interest in him and helped him get into college: very inspiring.

Photo Credit: Mr. Naz Delgado
NYT Article: Jennifer 8. Lee

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

23 Top Tips for Boys Writing - Research

Building on the very successful "Me Read, No Way" document, the Province of Ontario released, "Me Read? And How!"

Provided for you below are 23 strategies and ideas to assist our boy writers.

I've included page references for each strategy so you can read more about them in the full document.

1. Boys who were allowed to choose writing topics showed increased motivation and engagement. Page 10

2. Boys are helped by experiencing examples of different text forms. This helped boys in non-fiction writing. Page 15

3. A "guys-only" writing workshop was initiated for a small number of boys. They came away very motivated to write as a result. Page 16

4. Boys planned their writing using graphic organizers both individually and in pairs. Page 17

5. When boys were given assignments with step-by-step instructions, clear expectations and a formula to follow, assignments were completed. Page 23

6. Boys were introduced to the "APE" (answer, prove, extend) strategy to help them to write at a higher level. Page 23

7. Boys saw the importance of an authentic audience and a real purpose when they produced a "Boys Writing for Boys!" newsletter. Page 23

8. Talk is an important scaffold for boys writing activities. Talk builds social interaction, and deepens understanding and is a precursor to writing. Pages 32 and 33.

9. Allow boys to share their thinking through talk prior to a written assignment. It will improve their ability to communicate. Page 34

10. Boys use of the debate to discuss authentic and relevant issues transferred into their non-fiction persuasive writing. Page 35

11. Boys welcome having male role models as writers. Page 39

12. Boys choice of topics for writing allows for ownership. Page 47

13. Schools can tap into the real-life connection by creating blogs for the students to use for class writing. Page 48.

14. Boys prefer to write about real-life and hands-on experiences. Page 49.

15. Boys' writing improved during activities that were highly motivating and grounded in the real world, coupled with direct instruction about the writing form and supported with the use of visuals such as anchor charts, word walls, and graphic organizers. Page 49.

16. Boys like to write about exaggerations, humour, silly writing, rap songs, procedural writing, short scenes. Page 51.

17. ICT in the form of computers, blogs, wikis and digital voice recorders have been used with boys to reinforce writing skills. Page 53.

18. Boys with special needs thrive when given the opportunity to work with assistive technologies: graphic organizers, dictation software. Write and edit in-class compositions electronically allowed them to receive immediate feedback. Page 53.

19. Teachers observed that when the number of paper and pencil tasks was decreased, students were more engaged during the writing activities. Page 55.

20. Boys who design and play video games develop sophisticated operational, cultural and critical literacy skills. Page 57.

21. Boys requested boy friendly topics, a clear outline of what is expected, a shorter writing process and fewer things to fix when they are finished. Page 66.

22. An emphasis on non-fiction writing (Reeves, 2000) Page 79.

23. Boys' teachers placed a heavier emphasis on oral assessment and performance-based assessment, such as drama activities rather than traditional assessments based on writing. Page 82.