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Boys need action to help them read

Action-packed lessons with crime novels as classroom texts can help boys' reading and writing skills.

This "action-man" approach can counter boys' assumptions that English is for girls and that the typical poet is an effeminate man with his head in the clouds.

Such strategies are among a wide range proposed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority after more than two years of research.

The resulting report, Can Do Better, concludes that while boys do appear to be consistently lagging behind girls, a wide range of approaches can be used to coax them into enjoying English more, and learning more as a result.

The working party found that boys preferred running around and doing things to sitting down and writing and had many ingrained prejudices against much of the literature used in lessons.

The report notes: "An investigation into attitudes to poetry at key stages 2 and 3 revealed interesting - if depressing - news. Boys in Year 4 thought that the stereotypical poet was male, but one they saw as an effete eccentric, not an attractive role model.

"One boy drew a picture of a poet receiving inspiration from the clouds while a cat looking on says 'silly man'."

The report said, however, that there were many positive aspects of boys' interests which could be focused on. Boys were keen to discuss subjects such as space exploration, for example, and enjoyed the performance aspects of public speaking and drama.

Many boys also enjoyed reading non-fiction, particularly when it tied into practical activities which they could do.

Case studies suggested that by playing on these interests, boys' reading and writing skills could be developed.

Young males' reluctance to consider issues such as feelings, and their aversion to listening to others' opinions, could also be tackled.

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