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Getting Boys Excited About Writing: Three Narrative Examples From A Year 4 Class

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Toward the end of last year (2022), Erin Neilson (a senior teacher of a Year 4 class at Selwyn Ridge School, Tauranga) contacted me because she was very excited about writing produced by three of her lads (James, Jedd and Liam).  She described these lads as “boys who always struggled with writing, didn’t like it, thought it was boring, handwriting and spelling were barriers and just didn’t see themselves as writers”.  

What they have produced and shared below has really thrilled them.  They are very proud of themselves and Erin believes that this has been a real “break through moment” for them.

Getting Boys Excited About Writing

Erin was originally inspired by the Australian research finding that many boys, especially under-achieving boys, like to write “action-packed, imaginative and often humorous narratives” and that teachers need to give boys “more freedom for writing about slap-stick humour, fantasy and action-oriented events” (Walker, L. & Bayetto, A., 2021, pp.14-15).  

Hence she and her co-teacher Matua Rod decided that they would give their class a chance to write the narratives that they wanted to write.  They had total freedom to choose their own topics and had the luxury of a whole term to produce texts that they were proud of.  

As Erin explained, “We did things very slowly and only worked on these pieces once or twice a week.  This helped with lots of thinking and planning time and most importantly built up excitement for writing because they were super excited when it came to ‘narrative time again”. 

Erin and Matua Rod scaffolded the narrative writing process in small chunks, so that “the expectation was not overwhelming and was achievable for all”.  They scaffolded a reasonably simple narrative structure (introduction/problem/problem solved/conclusion) and having got students to come up with a great topic and to plan characters, setting, problem and subsequent actions, they spent a week or two on each of the structural components.  This involved the teachers modelling (they were writing their own narratives alongside the kids), the students drafting and lots of one-to-one teacher-student conversations (especially with the reluctant boys) and sharing across the class throughout the term.  

The students also knew from the outset that there would be an audience for their narratives – they would be published on their iPads, shared with their whanau on Seesaw and printed copies would be gathered together into a class book for the school library.

Erin concluded to me that she was especially “super proud of the ‘below’ boys and they were super-proud of themselves….

“I think these pieces are perfect examples of what boys are capable of as writers when they have freedom to write about all the scary, violent and gross stuff and that it is manageable for them”. 

Enjoy reading and listening to James, Jedd and Liam sharing their narratives.


James’ Story

Listen to the story (MP3)

Read the story (PDF) – click to open

Selwyn Ridge James' narrative - click to open PDF
Selwyn Ridge James’ narrative – click to open PDF

Jedd’s Story

Listen to the story (MP3)

Read the story (PDF) – click to open

Selwyn Ridge Jedd's story Click to open PDF
Selwyn Ridge Jedd’s story Click to open PDF

Liam’s Story

Listen to the story (MP3)

Read the story (PDF) – click to open

Selwyn Ridge Liam's story - click to open PDF
Selwyn Ridge Liam’s story – click to open PDF


  1. teena.ross
    | Reply

    Firstly to say I absolutely enjoyed reading these stories written by the three boys. For me as a reader, they all created settings and characters with good descriptions, that I could picture in my head, and they were effective in adding their personal touch to their stories. This has inspired and motivated me to plan for & work with my students so they can create their stories and add their own ‘magic’ too! Thankyou so much for sharing! (Resource Teacher of Deaf, Auckland).

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