The Excel Academy

Teaching & Learning Blog #1: Motivating Boys

Boys winning the race to GCSEs?

“Why do we have to do this?”

“How much do I have to write?”

“How many questions do I have to do?”

“Does it have to be in full sentences or can I bullet point it?”


Sound familiar?

Whilst it’s unfair to stereotype, if you’ve ever taught classes predominantly made up of boys, it is highly likely that you’ve heard these many times!


How we handle these questions – which can be a little frustrating at times – can actually have a huge impact on the mind-set of those we are trying to make the most difference to. These questions show that students are focusing on completion of a task rather than embedding learning – who can win the race to the end of the task? Boys need to know that there is a purpose and that their work is valued. Making real-life connections, especially to the interests of boys, is very powerful in engaging them in learning.


Which brings us onto some of Excel’s tried and tested strategies for motivating boys (and probably a lot of the girls too!). What’s very clear following my email, is that staff are very committed to giving our boys the very best possible chance, with lots of you emailing successful strategies – thank you!


Competition is the resounding favourite! Boys, generally, love competition and so quick fire low stakes quizzes are a common strategy across the school. Members of the English department have created multiple choice quizzes on Kahoot, with students using the iPads to complete them. In Maths, staff use interactive quizzes on the SmartBoard such as Tile Match, Connect 4 and Beat the Clock, putting students up against each other as individuals, or in teams of 3 to 4 students. Quizzes in the format of Who wants to be a Millionaire? and team relay quizzes are also very popular. Quizzes can also be created on SMHW.


A lot of very simple ideas also seem to be very effective. Several staff members use writing on the table/flip chart paper/large roll of paper, and writing in different coloured pens and find them a great success. The novelty of writing on the table instantly builds a buzz in the classroom as the students feel as though they’re doing something they shouldn’t…and we all secretly love to bend the rules, don’t we?! I have used rolls of lining paper from B&Q (also available in other quality DIY stores!) to create a graffiti wall. This can be a huge timeline that all students contribute to, or random ideas that can be used to refer back to. I have used this to create a wall of quotes for low ability year 7 students to include in their writing. Humanities staff have used Playdoh to encourage students to represent their learning in creative ways. When put in pairs or small groups, this is also very effective in promoting oracy as students have to share their ideas, making justifications.


Structure is absolutely essential for boys. Keeping boys busy on short, timed tasks using crib sheets, has been very successful in PE, and the boys get a great sense of achievement of ticking off as they complete the tasks. Linking learning to current affairs, such as the potential impact of the allegations against Ronaldo, on sponsorship and his reputation, has also engaged the boys positively in discussion. Discussion and debate are popular techniques across the academy with staff looking for more opportunities to discuss/explain/justify, and reduce unnecessary writing.


Stop motion videos, explored in Science, look great not only for boys, but for all students. This isn’t something I’ve tried yet but will definitely be having a go at it sometime – I’ll be pestering Science staff to show me how to do it!


A number of my sets are boy heavy so it’s a topic I’ve researched and explored in detail. However, the biggest factor in motivating boys in my experience is letting them know that you believe in them and their ability to succeed.

“Once a boy believes he can be successful, he’ll almost always live up to it”

– Andrew Fuller, The Brain Based Learning Manual.

If you require a paper copy of any of the pages / documents published on this website, please click here and complete the form stating which page(s) / document(s) you require along with your name and address.