You are here

Motivating Boy Writers: A Multigenre Approach

Turned off, checked out, and disengaged are ways Ralph Fletcher has described Boy Writers in his book Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices.  Teachers are more than likely shaking their heads in agreement. Being a 7th/8th grade Language Arts Teacher, I have struggled with motivating boys who have the capacity to be brilliant writers. Three years ago I infused a multi-genre project into my classroom in response to the need of a research paper being done by my 8th graders. Based on the boy response in my classroom, I knew I had to do something to get them engaged and excited about research.

Camille A. Allen and Tom Romano both have wonderful books for the multi-genre approach. In addition, Ralph Fletcher's book on Boy Writers is an excellent resource to help get useful information about how to motivate boys.  You can find pictures of their books at the top of this page.

Over the three years I have done this research project with my students I have put my own twist on this research project. I have used helpful information from both Camille Allen and Tom Romano. Recently I incorporated digital tools into the research project and it excelled with the boys as well as my girls. Though there are many digital tools that can be utilized in any classroom, I will share a few with you that had particular interest to my boys.  Digital tools such as Google Docs, Glogster, Toondoo, Storybird, Zotero, and Easybib have expanded the boy's knowledge of digital media, and they took a vested interest in their writing and produced quality pieces to be graded within in the project.


Students have approximately three weeks to complete their research project. I am specifically thrilled about how the Common Core Standards specifically states students should participate in a research project in 7th & 8th grade (7.W.7 and 8.W.7) www.corestandards.org.

One of the biggest reasons this project is such a huge success with not just the boys, but the girls too is because the students get to choose their own topic (These topics do have to be approved by me prior to students beginning their research).  

I grade the students out of sixty(60) points, ten(10)points for each piece including the works cited/bibliography page. I use a rubric to grade their work that outlines the requirements they need to fulfill.  The rubric is given to them at the beginning of their project.

Once students have conferenced with me and I feel the students are asking engaging questions about their topic, they are allowed to go and do research.  They have one week to get their research done! I introduce Zotero prior to the students beginning their research so they have a space to safe their information they have gathered.  I require my students to gather fifteen different sources

Once students have secured enough recources and they have looked through their information they are required to produce five(5) different genres of writing to show me and their classmates what they have learned about their topic.  Students choose a wide variety of genres from power points, Eulogies, recipies, and Glogs.  I have highlighted some genres that were appealing to the boys.

When the two weeks are over, the students have to produce a works cited/bibliography page and just prior to them making their works cited/bibliography I introduce Easybib to them, which is displayed on the fifth page.  

At the conclusion of the research project the students pick one genre that they want to showcase to the rest of the class and we do a showcase walk to view what everyone has done.

"A boy writer must be engaged.  This is a nonnegotiable.  He must feel invested in the writing he is working on.  We ignore this basic truth at our peril!"

                                                  -Ralph Fletcher

Discussions About This Resource

jeremyhyler's picture

Please provide any feedback you may have on this resource.  Thank you!

dogtrax's picture


You might consider one more Page in your Book here, in which you wrap up your ideas and thinking, and maybe give us a little insight into what you will be doing next. I sort of felt like I needed a little more to get me thinking beyond the specific projects that you outlined. Just a thought.



jeremyhyler's picture


Thank you for the feedback! I really am taking your suggestion to heart and will add a wrap-up. I think it will be beneficial also to inform people they could incorporate their own digital tools into the project. Wrap-up coming soon.

ebduddles's picture

"If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." 

— Stephen King

Stephen King's book "On Writing", was one of the most influential books I've found about writing. The advice that stayed with me is the write what you know, i.e. write what you read. I have found that this is applicable regardless of grade or gender. What I'm basically saying is that one of the best ways to get a reluctant/unmotivated writer to 1) start writing and 2) possibly, just maybe really start to enjoy the process, is to first get them interested and engaged in reading. Sometimes books with strong male protagonists are hard to find, but here are a few that I would recommend.

Books I have read that I personally recommend...

Pendragon by D.J. McHale

Holes by Louis Sachar

Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien

Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman

Touching Spirit Bear by Mikaelsen

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian


There are plenty of other books that I haven't read that come highly recommended and of course there are plenty of books that have female protagonists that boys will really get into (e.g. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins). 

To keep to the spirit of Digital Is...here are some great online resources! You mentioned you were familiar with Google Docs, Glogster, Toondoo, Storybird, Zotero, and Easybib so some of these might be familiar. I hope this is useful!

For more ideas about good boy books, check out http://www.goodreads.com/list/tag/boy

This tool allows you to take notes right on the webpage http://www.diigo.com/

All kinds of ways to play with Flickr pictures http://mashable.com/2007/08/04/flickr-toolbox/

Make your own mini movies with pictures and video clips http://animoto.com/

Type in a text and tell a story with one or two characters http://www.xtranormal.com/

This tool is great for making flowcharts, floorplans, or graphic organizers http://www.gliffy.com/gliffy/#

A fusion of Glogster and Gliffy http://popplet.com/

Everything from a photo-editor to a DJ http://www.aviary.com/

(one of my favorites) an interactive 3D shelf of boxes, similar to Glogster http://museumbox.e2bn.org/

Make your own videogame! (requires Mac 0S X 10.5) http://www.atmosphir.com/

A quick and easy way to start your own wikipage http://www.wikispaces.com/

A new and innovative way to hold a conversation with images, text, and videos http://voicethread.com/

A Facebook inspired site that includes tools such as attendance, grade-books, and quizzes https://www.schoology.com/home.php

There's plenty more out there, but these are some of the best!

jeremyhyler's picture

Thank you for your post! Boys are tough to get through. I don't necessarily agree with your statement about engaging boys in reading first before they write. I have young men in my classroom year after year that may want to read, but not write. I have also had boys want to write, but not read.

Ralph Fletcher does a great job talking about motivating boys by understanding their interests, among other things.

I am very familiar with a lot of the tools you mentioned in your discussion. However, I didn't want to overwhelm the audience by giving them too much.

Again, thank you for your input!

dogtrax's picture

Hi Jeremy

I knew you were working on something cool ... It is
fascinating and frustrating to try to engage some boys (not all) in the act of
writing. It often comes down to the time I can spend to get to know them
better, as individuals, and then find a connection between what they
are passionate about (and with sixth grade boys, they are reluctant to
share those passions at times, for fear of social pressures) and engage
them in exploration. A lot of it can fall to the dynamics of the class, too, and who are seen as the "leaders" of pop culture.

I think technology helps some boys with writing but not
all. And then once they are engaged in the techology, I find much of my
teaching is around "keep focus on what you are trying to say" with
writing or digital composition. I hate to split hairs on gender, but
this wandering with technology does seem to happen more with boys than with

Great piece.



jeremyhyler's picture

Boys and literacy is tricky. Getting to know the boys in your classroom is half the battle. I find it hard sometimes to get boys to open up. I have some new strategies I am going to try this year. I am going to start off the year with starting a lunch time book/writing club that will meet once a week for just boys. I am hoping for some positive feedback. If anyone has any suggestions let me know.