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Motivating Boy Writers: A Multigenre Approach

Motivating Boy Writers: A Multigenre Approach

Written by Jeremy Hyler
July 25, 2011

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)

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

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