Motivating Children to Write: Why Not Try Writing Toolboxes?

Are you sometimes faced with children who just don’t like writing very much?

I have to say I’m meeting what seems to be increasing numbers of primary aged children, who tell me that writing is ‘Sooo Boring!’ (usually with them wearing a strange facial expression at the same time)

Have you ever tried Writing Boxes – either in your classroom or as a ‘special’ resource for doing writing at home?

The idea is a very simple one but can be really effective. Get a very ordinary toolbox.

The whole point is that they look ‘purposeful’ and nothing like something you would find in a classroom.

Boys are particularly attracted to the fact that they make writing look like ‘men’s work’. I know – a potentially sexist remark – but something I have found to be the case for some boys.

They are relatively cheap and easily available.


Something like this:  3589855-plastic-toolbox-on-white-background       Fill the box (or boxes) with an enticing array of stationery. Make sure they are in enticing colours: post it notes, paper clips, coloured pens and pencils, bright notebooks, paper and envelopes, postcards etc. You don’t have to spend a great deal to have the desired effect.

In a classroom situation there are many ways to organize their use and make them ‘desirable’


For example -  the boxes could be used:

  • On a rotation basis to complete a homework task – ‘It is  your turn to have the special writing box today’
  • As a home / school link project – a targeted group of children could each take the boxes home (or use in school) until they have completed a particular piece of writing.
  • to provide a focus on particular literacy skill e.g. letter writing
  • to practise particular skills – planning a story, presentational skills
  • as a reward – although you need to be careful what you are rewarding – it could be counterproductive if you only ever give the children who write without complaint the boxes.
  • to provide children with enjoyable free writing experiences that they might not encounter very frequently. Some children don’t have access to such materials at home and a box of goodies like this can seem (sadly) like a real treat.


You may want to add things to the box depending on the activity:

  • a game
  • an MP3 recorder  (reporter),
  • guidance notes – e.g.  how to proof read,
  • How to design a  border
  • story starters
  • spelling lists
  • art materials.
  •  ‘check  cards’ – on a particular text type:


e.g Information writing  

  • Design a leaflet for our school fair.
  • Remember it needs pictures
  • Plan the layout before you start
  • Think about the persuasive words you need to make people come to the fair
  • Think about different coloured paper or other things that will make it stand out


It is the ‘specialness’ that you attach to the box, the fact that its use is limited and available for ‘real writers’ to borrow and use. That is the key ingredient for success.   Make ‘em want it!!


There are over 800 ideas to help children become more motivated and achieve positive results in literacy and numeracy in The Thinking Child Network  -  it's free to join and browse a selection of activities


writing sample


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