Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. Michelle Zoss

Second Advisor

Dr. Teri Holbrook

Third Advisor

Dr. Toby Emert

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Jodi Kaufmann


This focused ethnography (Knoblauch, 2005; Jeffrey & Troman, 2004) investigated the out-of-school writing experiences of elementary age boys. The theoretical framework combined sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1991, 1998) and self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) to shed light on the social, cultural, and motivational aspects of boys as they wrote. Few researchers have talked with boys about their experiences; this study examined what they wrote, the tools they used, the purposes for their writing, and how they defined writing. Participants were elementary age boys. Multiple data sources and multi-layered cycles of analyses allowed for detailed examination of the boys’ experiences. The data included individual interviews with boys, their parents, along with writing artifacts provided by the boys, and my own reflective research journal. The findings are presented as an ethnodrama. Findings indicated that boys’ heads were “packed” with stories that have to get out in some form. They felt their writing was not valued in school or at times not allowed to be shared because of the content. The boys wrote for public and private audiences: for themselves, their friends, families, and larger possible audiences. They wrote alone and together with other boys and parents to entertain, inform others, and to make changes in the in the world. They did this through stories with humor, violence, facts, and their developing opinions. When the boys wrote together, they developed social networks that supported their out-of-school writing and the competence they had for their writing. Finally, they defined writing as using their imagination and creativity. This study shed light on elementary age boys’ experiences in order to show that boys are indeed writers.