Boys' writing


Boys readingAs Mumsnetters well know, some boys are reluctant writers and unenthusiastic when it comes to reading.

Boys can find it difficult to get going when asked to complete a written task, and some shy away from books and the written word.

If this sounds like your son, he's not alone. Both nationally and internationally, girls are outperforming boys.

Boys who have a poor self-image as a writer can sometimes cover this up with negative behaviour based on a lack of confidence.

Why is writing hard?

Writing is a multidisciplinary task: you have to think of something to say, plan how you're going to say it and then go through the physical process of writing, using a keyboard or by putting pen to paper. So, lots to think about at once: it's no wonder many children struggle.

Why do boys seem to find writing tricky?

  • Young boys use less language in their play than girls – so when it comes to putting pen to paper they have had less practice and may not have as much to say
  • Boys like to be active and writing demands that they sit still for a period of time
  • Boys develop the fine motor skills needed for handwriting more slowly than girls

Boys like:

  • Short 'bite-sized' tasks
  • Being active - drama can be really helpful
  • Knowing what's expected of them, with clear targets
  • Using ICT
  • Using visual prompts eg films, pictures, comics
  • Lots of praise and rewards

How can you help your son with writing?

Don't forget that all aspects of the English primary curriculum are linked. Keen readers absorb language patterns from their reading, which they reproduce in their writing. Talk underpins both reading and writing.

Talking about writing

Talking through a writing task with your son gives him the chance to get his thoughts in order before he starts writing. Having some pictures handy can help, too.

Free writing - journals

Many schools encourage children to keep a writing journal. These are personal logs of anything they wish to write, such as comments about their day or a few thoughts on a subject of interest. No-one has to see the writing and, because it's completely personal and nobody's judging the content, somehow the inner writer can be released.

Warm up for writing

A good warm-up activity helps to get writing going. And it can help your son if you have a go, too. 

  • Pick a topic that interests your son
  • Set a timer for two minutes
  • Then write - this can be in complete sentences or just word association
  • He/you can choose to share what he/you have written (or not)

Carry on reading

Many boys seem to switch off from reading once they've learned how to decode print. This is unfortunate because the most basic way of learning written language is likely to be through reading; children (or adults) learn to develop an awareness of style, broaden their vocabulary and are exposed to a range of language structures.

To encourage your son to keep reading, you could:

  • Search out books on subjects that interest him - there's no such thing as a non-reader, just someone who hasn't found the right book yet
  • Carry on reading to and with your son (whatever his age) - you'll be able to read more complex texts to him than he might manage himself and his interest will be sparked, or take turns reading a page each
  • Discuss the books you read together, in terms of characters and plot
  • Compare written and film versions of a story

Using computers, films and digital media

  • Using a computerMake use of as many visual prompts as you can. Watching short clips of film can stimulate discussion and give your son the basis of something to write about.
  • Writing directly on to the computer can be motivating, as there are no messy crossings out and a neat finished product is guaranteed.
  • Making short films using simple cameras and editing software can help to build confidence. Making a film is creating a media text, which has to be planned, developed and edited, as does a traditional print text. It makes a change and can be very motivating.
  • Read graphic novels and compare them to the original full-length versions.

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Last updated: about 3 years ago