Read, Read, Read
The quote below is the reason for encouraging boys to read what they love. Every week, I ask my students to look at the reading they enjoy and name the wow factor. What is it specifically that makes you want to curl up in a corner with a book and get lost in it? Sometimes the answer is simply, “I liked the way he wrote the action,” and we try to nail it down further. Does the author use descriptive action words or lots of setting changes? If the action is so easy to visualize, why?
Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.--William Faulkner
I recently shared Katherine Bomer’s book Hidden Gems with a group of colleagues. It focuses on responding to student writing, noticing and naming what each and every student does brilliantly and beautifully in writing. Too often when we read boys’ writing, we become swallowed up by a sea of punctuation errors and ever-shifting tenses. It can be difficult to resist the urge to just fix it with our red pen. Bomer challenges teachers, and in turn parents, to avoid being “hunters of errors” in reading our boys’ writing. If we can manage to get rid of the voice in our head squawking, “Fragment!” or worst of all, “Awkward!” we can look for something he can build from that he has done in the piece already. Boys don’t get true motivation and energy for writing from the fear of getting a bad comment or grade. It comes from his having something to say and developing his own way of saying it. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, advises the use of specific praise when working with young people, and I have found this to be particularly true of working with boys. Process or strategy praise fosters motivation for writing. Praising what they have already done well tells boys what they should continue to do in the future. If we want them to continue to write, Bomer makes a plea for adults to notice the surprises, brilliance, and unique tone of even the most plain or meandering piece of writing. If we can interact more in this way with the writing we see each day, perhaps we can motivate our boys to write more. As adults who want our boys to think of themselves as writers, let's give it a try!
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