Boys and (multi)Literacy:What to Do About Boys Not Wanting to ReadAuthored by: Jordan Laurin (PED 3177A)

There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read. G.K. Chesterton


The purpose of this website is to provide professionals and parents a resource for information on how to understand, educate and prepare boys for a world of literacy. It will begin with an overview of the key terms in terms of how boys learn, materials which are of use to them, and implementations and assessments of these learning strategies. The resources outlined throughout this Wiki are geared towards the development of children's literacy but more specifically towards boys and their lack of motivation towards traditional modes of literacy. The resources and are directed mostly at students in the Grades of 5 through 12.

Key Terms

Multiliteracies refers to technologies of communication that use various codes for the exchange of messages, texts and information. Historically, communications media have included spoken language, writing, print and some visual media like photograph and film. From the 1940's onwards, the innovative new electronic media such as televisions, computers and other digital information technologies have created a much more complex understanding of literacy in the traditional sense.

Technology refers to the knowledge and usage of tools, techniques and systems of organization. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species' ability to control and adapt to their natural environments.

Current Teaching of Literacy

The teaching of literacy is by itself a difficult enough task for a teacher, even the experienced ones. Marilyn Burns provides an excellent example of for how to teach literacy specifically for boys:

Teach with purpose
1. Scaffold the content:
• identify the skills and concepts you want students to learn
• divide the content into manageable chunks
• sequence the chunks
• teach each skill explicitly
• allow time for practice

2. Activate prior knowledge and make the connections visible:
• students need to build knowledge on what they already know and what they are learning in other areas

Help make it a habit
3. Manage the timing:
• students need the time and opportunity to learn, practice and then relearn if necessary

4. Provide the scaffolding and support on a consistent basis:
• use the processes of teacher modeling, student practice and whole class review and discussion that lead to
independent work

Let them talk
5. Encourage collaborative student interaction:
• promote explaining and “teaching” concepts to each other

Read between the lines
6. Develop thinking skills:
• provide opportunities to predict, analyze and demonstrate comprehension using oral language
• help students document and track their thinking

Get the net /Embrace the arts
7. Provide practice that is relevant for the students through :
• retelling in their own words to reinforce concepts (role-playing)
• using technology to display and practice
• creating games to reinforce concepts (improvisation and computer)

Be in their corner
8. Use common language to talk about their learning:
• self-created dictionaries of vocabulary
• word walls to display common terms

The problem with current modes of learning literacy, such as reading novels and writing in note books, is that often male students find little interest in what they see as a girl activities. They develop at a young age (approximately the age of 8 years old) a learned helplessness that girls have what it takes to succeed at literacy and in school in general, and they do not. They then take less interest and eventually do under-perform in comparisons to the female counterparts. They create their own destructive self fulfilling prophecy. There are other factors contributing to the fact that boys dislike school and literacy as outlined by Gary Wilson.

• They want to be outdoors
• They want to be ACTIVE, doing, seeking – not sitting down
• Their concentration wanes- they are bored with schoolwork
• They can't stay on task
• They don't see the need for consistent effort
• They can't be bothered being neat• They want to please their teacher in Grade 1-6 - however after that they want to please their peers
• Reading seems a girly thing or at least not male.

It follows that curriculum developers and teachers need to explore alternative modes of teaching literacy for boys. There are some schools who are all boys schools. They have embraced the competitive nature of boys and they let it develop because they are wanting the boys to be extraordinary. The Pacific Boychoir Academy in Oakland, an all-boys school recently opened and specifically tailored their curriculum to intrigue boys. An example of this is history classes focus on conflicts and action, and teachers might cover four lessons instead of two in a 50-minute period in order to keep students interested.

The Big Picture

The Horizon Report K-12 reports that there are current trends in the world in regards to learning and technology that cannot be ignored. We have moved from content to learning driven in the class. We want our students to move from passive to active learners and to become more collaborative. If we are to move towards the technological future in an effective and safe manner there are a few things that need to be learned by the teachers before they can extend the learning to students. Teachers need to understand the technology and be able to train someone to use that technology. Teachers also need to carefully prepare to ensure curriculum expectations are met in a productive manner. They need to also attentively design the learning activity to match the kids' levels of experience. The following is adapted form Lee and Owens and it discusses the learning design processs for technology in teaching:






Technological Need

Since not every school has the ability to become a gender specific school we must explore another more practical approach. We look then to the technologies they are engaged and respond well too. These tools such as computers, the Internet, cameras, music devices and televisions can all help encourage the reengagement of boys into literacy and more importantly the school environment of learning. Now it may seem that technology will be seen as a gimmick to get boys' interest but in reality it is an educational tool that will help them meet the Ontario Curriculum's overall expectations in Language specifically. The Ontario Curriculum for Language states that its overall expectations in writing for a Grade 8 student are :

  • generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience;
  • draft and revise their writing, using a variety of informational, literary, and graphic forms and stylistic elements appropriate for the purpose and audience;
  • use editing, proofreading, and publishing skills and strategies, and knowledge of language conventions, to correct errors, refine expression, and present their work effectively;
  • reflect on and identify their strengths as writers, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful at different stages in the writing process.

Lesson Plans

The following are two examples of how to integrate technology and literacy for boys. The first example is taken from Wendy Russell on how to create a story map using powerpoint. The important thing here to notice is that she adds some features to the story map which will enhance the story map as well as the learning of more technological techniques.

Part 1- Create Story Maps Using Powerpoint (This PowerPoint tutorial will show you how to use a radial diagram to show the relationships between the components of the Story Map Legend)

Part 2- Create and Hyperlink Additional Pages of the Story (This PowerPoint tutorial will show you how to add clip art and action buttons to hyperlinks to the various topic slides)

Part 3- Importing Media into PowerPoint (This quick Powerpoint video will show you how to add clip art, pictures or other media into PowerPoint)

For those who which to enhance and develop their skills in PowerPoint and to enhance the appearance of the Story Map you can also add coloured backgrounds, change font styles and colours, add a design template, or add music, sounds or narration.

Since the Ministry of Education began to incorporate Media Literacy, the expectations of the curriculum can be explored more enthusiastically by boys. Here are a few activities Ron DeBoer suggest to incorporate television and curriculum requirements:

1. Analyze the first 7 or 8 minutes of various talk shows and compare the formalas used--an opening monologue, a "side-kick, musical entertainment, banter between host(ess) and audience/band leader.

2. If you have internet access, bookmark some websites you would feel safe for your students to visit; give them some guidelines to make some observations--colour, font style, ease of navigation.

3. Create a basic talk show on video.

Online Resources

Ontario Curriculum Documents:

Ontario Curriculum -

Assessment and Evaluation of Curriculum -

Media Hosting:

Youtube - - Video hosting

TeacherTube - - Video hosting

MSN Messenger - - communication suite

Group Environments:

Ning - - Collaborative environment and social network

WikisinEducation - - Wikis

Blogger - - Blogs

Wordpress - - Blogs

Photos and Videos and Editing:

Flickr - - Photo archives

Splashup - - Photo editing

Jaycut - - Video editing


Google Map -

Google Street view - - Choose “Map”

Google Earth - - Map visualization software.

Social Studies:

Gapminder World – - Explore statistical data


SmARThistory - - A community sharing art works and critics.

Social networking:

Facebook - - Social network

MySpace - - Social network

Twitter - - Microblogging


Skype - - Audio communication