Let’s face it: elementary teachers, who are overwhelmingly female, may not always “get” boy writers and their quirks, strengths, and struggles. Sometimes we may look at boys as defective girls (I confess that I have done this myself), try to notice what unique strengths boys bring to the table.
Your relationship to your male students will improve substantially if you can broaden your sense of humor. Boys revel in humor that's offbeat and subversive. That’s why books like Captain Underpants and TV shows like The Simpson’s are universally adored by boys.
Once upon a time choice was a staple in writing classroom but as I go around the country I’m sad to report that I see less and less real choice in writing classrooms. This is so unfortunate. We all know the power of a “just-write book,” but what about the power of a “just-write topic” for writing? We must allow boys the opportunity to choose what to write about and how to express themselves.
A book like Jon Scieszka's Knucklehead will resonate with boys and give them an image of what their writing could look and sound like.
When a boy’s story gets covered with corrections, he will get overwhelmed and discouraged. Praise is a crucial ingredient in nurturing boy writers. It’s important to find something the student has done well, and point it out to them.
And share your writing with your students. It sounds simple, but it’s so important. This will earn you major street cred! Boys will respect that you’re taking the same risk that they are taking.
Primary age boys lag girls in small motor coordination, which contributes to messy handwriting and puts them at a disadvantage in the classroom. That's a developmental issue, not a character defect! Try not to make handwriting a bone of contention. “If you can read it, and I can read it, it’s good enough.” The world seems to be moving inexorably toward keyboarding, so handwriting should become non-issue in the future.
We should talk to students about the drafting process, showing them craft elements and encouraging them to try those strategies in their writing. But for many boys it’s one (draft) and done. That’s okay. Don’t belabor the drafting process. Most boys have a finite amount of energy for any one writing task. If you watch carefully you may notice that a boy will use the new writing strategy on his next piece of writing.
A teacher friend recently told me this story: