Tuesday, 16 November 2010

An invitation to schools

Boys Can Write

This project is about finding unusual, creative ways to motivate boys to write.

Boys can find some of the technical aspects of writing dry and boring, and this can turn them off writing completely.  Boys learn more effectively when they see a purpose to the learning and when they are having fun. They often prefer practical, hands on learning and many respond well to art.  Include art, drama, active learning in their writing lessons and they won’t even notice they’re learning to write as well!  Of course, the key techniques have to be taught but boys, and girls too, will learn more effectively if they are inspired and motivated. Using the arts is one way of making this happen.” 
Primary School Head Teacher,

Arts organization arthur+martha can offer many ideas for taking a sideways step around problems with writing. By using exercises that are played like games, anxiety can be defused. We’ve collected many techniques that are used by contemporary artists and writers. Some, like concrete poetry, cut-ups and Oulipo strategies are rarely taught in school, which gives them the advantage of freshness. They are playful, but are also subtle tools for self-expression.

The Boys Can Write project isn’t tied to any curriculum or syllabus, it is designed to aid children find delight in writing. It is especially for boys who have hit that cold, blank wall of the page.

arthur+martha can offer schools:
  • taster sessions
  • a program of art/writing workshops in the classroom
  • homework ideas and exhibitions
  • parent and children ‘drop in’ open days
  • ‘how to’ sessions for teachers
Journal entry as concrete poem

Taster Sessions

We can offer one of our taster sessions to schools, run in half or full days. Working with themes suggested by the school or us, with outcomes such as creation of a group or individual shaped poem, the setting of a story, a descriptive piece of writing, all ideas will mix art or design and writing. Work can be completed on the day or can be developed by the class teacher in further sessions.

Program of art/writing workshops in the classroom

These workshops would go into the techniques and themes in more depth, allowing a program to be developed with the class teacher and head, matching the needs of the pupils and school.

Homework ideas

arthur+martha can work with class teachers to create a series of creative ideas for homework, specific to the needs of the class. Work can be motivated with exhibition on-line at our portfolio site "http://www.flickr.com  or by creating exhibitions in venues away from school. arthur+martha have previously held exhibition in art galleries, hospitals, schools, train stations, the Houses of Parliament.

Parent and child ‘drop in’ sessions

arthur+martha can offer the school a ‘drop in/open day’ session, out of school time. These will give parents and children an opportunity to try a range of exciting art/writing techniques, and to discuss any concerns or ideas directly with arthur+martha.

Parents also will benefit from an opportunity to go on their own creative journey, encouraging their confidence, to get inspired to do the art and poetry with their children, and network with other parents.

‘How to’ sessions for teachers

Because we employ unusual writing techniques, it can be helpful for teachers to have a dedicated skill-raising session, to inspire future lessons.

Evaluation and development

Previously, arthur+martha worked with researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University, to study the impact that creating art has on older people’s health and wellbeing. The evaluation produced positive and helpful findings.

We are keen to study the impact any work with Boys Can Write has on literacy in schools.  Therefore as part of this project we will explore ways of capturing information in appropriate ways. In addition we will investigate working with professional bodies to complete a more formal study.


We have worked with hundreds of young people, many illiterate, some in danger of exclusion, with special needs, trauma, or vulnerable in numerous ways. By making writing playful, we’ve helped them explore their own ideas of beauty, anger, humour, sadness and hope. Our blog site is illustrated with examples from past and present arthur+martha projects, as well as an ongoing diary of experiments documented by Lois and her son Joe.

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