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Are we socialising boys to be poor writers?

(105 Posts)
Campaspe Thu 21-May-15 10:22:18

Found this blog piece and thought it very interesting and insightful.

What do others think?

senua Fri 22-May-15 08:46:08

This tacit approval of general buffoonery transfers into the writing. If you think and act like a clown in a giant nappy, you are going to write like one too.

I don't think that this is true. I have been watching The Island with Bear Grylls and found it interesting. It struck me last week, as the men came to the end of their stay, how different their reaction was to the women's. Yes, the men acted with 'general buffoonery' but you could see that it was an instinctive pride in their bodies and amazement at what they could achieve. They were, literally, comfortable in their bodies in a way that I don't think that women can be. They were buzzing with a joyous vitality and celebrated with an evening of silliness (rounders, tug'o'war etc).
However this physicality didn't stop them from being reflective and deeply emotional.

Lack of normal play, and instead spending too much time playing computer games and football; activities which require NO TALKING WHATSOEVER.

Since when was football not "normal play" and done in silence? Any sport like this is good for team-work, communication and co-operation (OK, they are usually pretty selfish but the team don't take well to it and give them grief - the message gets through eventually) and usually enhances imaginative story-telling (where they get centre-stage, scoring the winning goal in the FA/World Cup).

I think the major problem with reading and writing is that it involves sitting still - and (sweeping generalisation) boys aren't good at that.

tyto Fri 22-May-15 17:09:41

I don't think that the author of that blog enjoys teaching boys or writing.

kesstrel Fri 22-May-15 17:32:15

I don't get that message at all. He is concerned that some boys struggle, and is putting forward a theory for why that is, and what could possibly be done about it. I have read the rest of the blog, and it is clearly written by a caring teacher who enjoys teaching and who is good at it.

Clavinova Fri 22-May-15 18:14:06

Perhaps it's got something to do with the 9 million copies of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books sold in the UK to boys aged 8-11? Selfish main character, slang, poor grammar etc. I wouldn't let my two boys read these books and they write beautifully. Far better to encourage reluctant primary school readers with something like the Beast Quest/Sea Quest books in my opinion; if they only read Wimpy Kid books (or similar) it's bound to be reflected in their writing.

IvyBean Fri 22-May-15 19:32:39

Utter rubbish Clavinova.

My boys devoured the Wimpy Kid books, they kick started the book addiction of one.

Both my boys sat level 6 tests in everything and one had the G&T label bestowed on him for both literacy and ICT.

They have devoured anything and everything over the years.I love the way one of mine can be reading youth novels one minute and The Book Thief the next.

I think boys aren't reading enough,are engaging in too much trash on screens( there is plenty of good) and I don't think some schools do enough to engage them as writers early on. I think too much emphasis is put on handwriting and presentation in the early years.One of mine( the better writer now ) was written off due to being a messy leftie more content with being outside. The pupils happy to sit sedately producing reams of perfect looking writing( like his brother) can be praised and celebrated more.It must put others off.I'd rather have a couple of quality crafted sentences than a page of fluff that looks lovely.

lljkk Sat 23-May-15 08:01:56

(Man, my eyes went all funny after switching between the white on black to black on white pages of MN)

I dunno, I can think of 50 things about DC that don't fit his theories. Just a few:

Boys playing computer games or football aren't quiet. They natter to each other constantly about the game.

My girl is just as much a pampered spoilt selfish pig (who plays screen games & takes risks) as her brothers & she's an amazing writer.

Actually, my least articulate and least coherent writing boy is the only one who I ever actively discouraged from taking risks, he was such a terrible klutz.


Soveryupset Sat 23-May-15 12:37:39

I found this article extremely patronising.

Having raised two boys and two girls (and yes parented them in the same way), I would say that the biggest issue with some boys is maturity. It's nothing to do with ability or parenting, just that some boys develop at a slower pace than girls and appear to become stigmatised by schools at a very young age because of it.

This can affect fine motor skills, writing, social relationships and also verbal and non verbal communication - nothing to do with being selfish or pampered, what a horrible thing to say!

The fact we have a large number of successful male writers, including fiction, non-fiction and journalism is surely proof that the perceived issue is only one limited to a certain age group!

Soveryupset Sat 23-May-15 12:39:03

PS I remember reading Roald Dahl's teacher's comments, which included "unimaginative writing" and very unflattering comments about his inability to write!!!

kesstrel Sat 23-May-15 19:50:38

The Quirky Teacher has clarified their thoughts in another blog post. Some extracts, which address some of the comments made above:

The reason I pondered and then wrote about it was because I cared (and still care) about the education of young males in primary schools. My main concern was that a subset of boys are afforded even lower societal expectations than other boys or girls in general, and that this meant that they were not being ‘trained’ as it were to adopt more mature attitudes and behaviours, and this fed into poor thinking and writing skills…

just because I said all the writers who were affected were male, does not mean that all the male writers were, or are, affected….

Back to the poor writing, I still maintain that football and computer games do not involve the sort of conversation that expands vocabulary and extends the range of sentences types/idioms etc that help with writing in a fluent, cohesive way... My concern ties in with the poor writing skills problem because many boys are spending most of their spare time sat in front of a screen, and, regardless of whether they are using a headset to communicate with game-players known and unknown, they are not spending time with friends and family engaged in normal conversation. This situation is not ‘socialisation'; it is ‘social isolation’. Again, if you cannot engage another human in mutually satisfying conversation (because your brain has not developed or been ‘trained’ properly), how can you engage your reader with your writing?

lljkk Sat 23-May-15 20:56:20

Did traditional games like skipping rope, marbles & cow tipping ever really involve higher language skills? Kids who don't have great language skills gravitate towards activities that don't involve high ability language skills. Shock gasp horror.


mrz Sat 23-May-15 21:37:38

I don't think it's any thing new that some children struggle to come up with ideas for writing.

I do meet boys who haven't anything to talk about other than mine craft or call of duty ... so we shouldn't be surprised when they haven't anything to write about.

We need to talk to our kids and continue to read bed time stories even though they can read themselves.

For what it's worth I would rather a child read "diary of a wimpy kid" than didn't read at all.

Bonsoir Sun 24-May-15 07:01:55

I don't think that the relatively poorer performance of boys at writing at the end of primary has anything to do with incorrect "socialisation".

10/11 year old girls do often have better verbal skills than boys. This shows up in many ways, including in unpleasant, bitchy, controlling playground behaviour (where boys just fight it out and forget about it).

kesstrel Sun 24-May-15 07:09:58

"Did traditional games like skipping rope, marbles & cow tipping ever really involve higher language skills?"

Has anyone suggested they did? "Normal play" encompasses a wide range of activities, from imaginative "pretend" games to board games. My friend's 10 year old son, whose time on the computer is strictly limited, does a lot of imaginative, elaborate role-playing pretend activities with his friends, to give one example.

"Kids who don't have great language skills gravitate towards activities that don't involve high ability language skills. Shock gasp horror."

Kids who aren't able to read tend to gravitate towards activities that don't involve reading. Does that mean that there is no point in teaching them to read, and encouraging them to do so? Similarly, it is surely desirable that kids who don't have great language skills be encouraged to engage in activities that will improve those skills. If spending lots of their time playing on their own on computer games is getting in the way of this, then perhaps we should be limiting computer time.

mrz Sun 24-May-15 07:16:20

We seem to buck the trend as once again boys feature heavily among our best writers in Y6 (3 most able writers are boys)

kesstrel Sun 24-May-15 07:32:49

Mrz, that's fantastic. Do you think it has anything to do with the phonics programme you use, getting boys confident in reading and writing from very early on?

Bonoir, agree with you about maturity being more likely explanation than socialisation by parents. But possibly also, boys who are always the least mature in the class (summer born) end up by Year 5 with a sense of "not going to try" entrenched by previous 5 years of schooling?

mrz Sun 24-May-15 07:48:57

While phonics is very important I think the most important factor for our pupils is whole class quality novels. We don't use extracts and we study the books in detail.

However our best writers have lots of advantages that can't be attributed to school alone. They come from homes where talk is encouraged, they have wider life experiences (often sport) and they have shared stories from a young age.

sandgrown Sun 24-May-15 07:49:39

My 13 year old is very articulate and can read anything ( we read to him from a very early age) but his actual handwriting is atrocious! We have tried to explain it is no good working hard if nobody can read it. I think he finds handwriting too slow and being on a computer a the time does not help.

TheWordFactory Sun 24-May-15 08:05:25

kesstrel I think one of the important things for summer borns is for everyone else not to write them off.

If their writing is immature but in line with their own personal maturity then that's absolutely fine. They're not actually 'behind'.

Their achievements shouldn't be lumped in with DC who are struggling for other reasons which may not even include their age (relative to the class), though that be one factor of course.

I made myself a comeplete PITA by reminding everyone (teachers and other parents) of this fact with regards to my premature summer born twins wink. And you know what? They caught up. In fact they overtook. Maybe it would have happened anyway? But I wasn't gong to take the chance.

mrz I think language rich households/lives have a huge impact on DC. Writing is communication (unless it's a diary or shopping list). And I'm not sure school should be or can be the main driver of learning how to communicate.

mrz Sun 24-May-15 08:05:27

Perhaps that's another factor ... our pupils have beautiful handwriting

mrz Sun 24-May-15 08:06:31

I think we do children a disservice if we have lower expectations for one group.

IvyBean Sun 24-May-15 08:12:38

My DC are in quite a big high achieving group for literacy in year 6 which contain a lot of boys who also love computer games.

No whole class novels and the phonic provision they had way back was shite.

They do read a huge amount individually and I know computer time is hugely restricted in time and content.They do like some games but all are age appropriate. Interestingly they hate football as do many of their friends.Often after they're booted off screens if nobody else is out playing they read- a lot.

That said they've always read a lot.It's interesting as one was never in the higher group for writing until about a year ago when his spelling,punctuation,h/w etc fell into place.It was never poor but wasn't good iykwim. It feels like having everything sorted he now feels free to focus more on his actual writing technique iykwim.

I think we expect a lot from kids in the early years.Holding and using a pencil competently,spelling,punctuation,grammar and that is all alongside structure and content. I think some boys mature slower and get turned off writing by the huge task to produce what teachers want. I think more girls are happy to and do produce the above quicker so by year 5/6 are steaming ahead.Obviously there must be exceptions to the rule( I have another girl and boy who are both exceptions) but overall I suspect this is the case.

I also think by year 6 having read a huge amount of books,having them in their hands and absorbing the punctuation,imagery,ideas etc must help so reading should be key.

I don't know what you can do though.You can't force parents to boot their kids off screens and to spend money on books instead. Schools can only do so much.I do wonder if gov health adverts highlighting the benefits of reading and recommended screen times would help.

mrz Sun 24-May-15 08:14:00

Unfortunately for many children school is the only driver for communication.

TheWordFactory Sun 24-May-15 08:15:43

I know mrz but I think it's asking far too much of teachers to bridge the gap. You guys aren't magicians.

mrz Sun 24-May-15 08:18:21

If we don't bridge the gap what happens to the pupils?

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