Word perfect

14th March 2008 at 00:00
Get boys interested in literacy with these imaginative books

Literacy and Gender: Researching Texts, Contexts and Readers. Gemma Moss. Routledge, pound;24.99.

Literacy and Gender is very much an academic book. The series of research projects that underpin it was funded by the Economic Social Research Council. Gemma Moss describes her book as using "a range of ethnographic research tools to identify the social processes that shape both boys' and girls' development as readers and the choices they make about their reading".

No matter what your views are on the difference in girls' and boys' achievements in reading, this book gives you an insight into some classroom practices. Throughout the book you can see dialogue between children while reading, after reading or just being interviewed about reading, as well as discussions with teaching staff and parents.

The use of real-life situations makes this an interesting book for student teachers. It isn't a light read and you need to focus to take in all the information and ideas that are being put across.

The data collection focuses on the seven to nine age range and hence will be more relevant to primary school teachers.

In the conclusion, the author tells us we may need to tackle "social hierarchies children build for themselves along gender lines". This reminds us as practitioners that it is crucial to address the barriers children may put up that stop themselves and others learning.

- Laonie Butler will soon return to teaching at Teesside Preparatory High School in Stockton on Tees.

Boys and Writing

Steve Bowkett

Network Continuum

pound;6.99

This guide is one of the Pocket PAL series.

It aims to help readers open the link between our thoughts and feelings and the written word. Areas covered are planning, devising the plot, descriptive writing, creating convincing characters, writing games to help the flow of ideas, writing styles and reviewing time.

It covers each area by way of example and discussion of strategies.

The way that these guides are written means that they are easy to follow, with each technique discussed being presented on the left hand page and practical applications shown on the facing page.

What disappointed me with this particular book in the series is that I felt it didn't really do what the title suggested.

I had expected to find some innovative strategies for encouraging boys to write, a notoriously difficult thing to do at the best of times.

While the blurb on the back does stipulate that "the ideas and practical activities work equally well with girls", I felt that this was about writing in general in any event, instead of targeting support for boys.

Ideas in the book include providing a picture for children to answer questions about and offering sentences that children had to link into a story. Such ideas would not, in my opinion, be boy-specific.

Admittedly, you may choose a picture that boys could more easily relate to, but surely that is just a question of using your common sense. They are simply techniques used by all teachers, whoever their pupils happen to be, regardless of gender.

So, if you are hoping for some bright ideas for the boys in your class, you may be disappointed.

However, if you are looking for a quick and easy summary of writing techniques generally, this would be a good starting point, particularly for key stage 2 and upwards.

Other books in the Pocket PAL series include Creating Enquiring Minds, Successful Provision for Able and Talented Children and Learning Styles and Personalised Teaching.

Stephanie Tyler teaches at Heatherside Infant School in Fleet, Hampshire.

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