Talk For Boys


The chatta ‘Talk for Boys’ resource provides guidance for practitioners who want to know what works for boys in early years settings. It provides examples of effective practice and encourages practitioners to reflect on boys interests, ask questions and find solutions. By drawing upon the experience and expertise of early years practitioners, ‘Talk for Boys’ ensures accelerated speech and language skills for boys (and girls too). 

chatta offers a solution to break the cycle of disengaged, reluctant boy learners.

Why do we need to focus on boys?

Boys are falling behind in literacy. Save the Children (2016) launched a powerful new report laying bare the potentially devastating and lifelong consequences for boys in England who start school significantly trailing girls in basic early language skills.

The report highlights that last year alone, 80,000 boys in England started reception class struggling to speak a full sentence or follow simple instructions. Based on newly commissioned research from the University of Bristol, ‘The Lost Boys: How boys are falling behind in their early years’ finds that being behind on the first day of school is often an indicator that these boys will stay behind, potentially for life!

In addition the Statutory Framework For the Early Years Foundation Stage, September 2014 states that “Every child deserves the best possible start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their potential. Children develop quickly in the early years and a child’s experiences between birth and age five have a major impact on their future life chances.”

Understanding Boys’ Interest

The University of Bristol prepared the report which makes a series of recommendations aimed at addressing the gap for many boys. In the report it concluded:

  • High quality teaching in the early years should remain a priority area for investment. 
  • All children growing up in socially disadvantaged circumstances should have access to a rich language and literacy environment in preschool settings that will actively foster their language development.

It is therefore vital that practitioners tune into boys interests by providing learning opportunities which engage and support them to build on the things they have experienced and to create new and interesting challenges. As the Statutory Framework For the Early Years Foundation Stage, September 2014 states “A secure foundation through learning and development opportunities which are planned around the needs and interests of each individual child and are assessed and reviewed regularly.”

Settings can enable our children to become better communicators by creating the right conditions for boys’ learning:

  • Planning experiences that focus on boys’ interests and values their strengths.
  • Utilising boys’ fascinations and learning preferences as a starting point for planning.
  • Providing an environment which provides opportunities for exploration and curiosity.
  • Using chatta’s unique approach to capture experiences which focus on boys’ interests and link these to different types of talk.

Boys’ interests, choices and approaches to self initiated play can be different from girls. These interests and choices should be valued and supported so that boys have different and specific opportunities for learning and development. Boys need to be engaged in activities that are meaningful to them.

This can be achieved by documenting the choices boys and girls make such as:

  • How do boys and girls use the equipment/resources in the setting? 
  • Does the environment capture the imagination of the boys?
  • Do boys prefer the outdoor or indoor environment?
  • How long are they engaged in different activities (pupil/adult led)?

Observe boys in the setting, listening to the children and discuss with parents and carers to start to build up a picture of their interests and strengths. Once these have been identified, this deeper understanding of boys interests can be used to inform planning and how to improve the learning experiences for them in Early Years.

Using chatta with Boys

Once a clear understanding of boys’ interests has been established practitioners will need to make the connections between their interests, talk and chatta.

The chatta approach should be used to support enrichment tasks based on boys’ interests and support the free flow play environment within the early years setting. By capturing images of the children’s interests, the chatta app should be used as a reflection tool following these activities. This is an opportunity for adults to model language and the child to orally rehearse new language, share ideas and recall the activities. By creating chatta ‘chats’ boys engagement levels will be boosted by the use of technology and allow the connections between their interests and talk to be made in an effective, coherent way.

Talk is transient and is often difficult to assess and evaluate as it takes place. However, by using the chatta app practitioners can focus on learning. Each ‘chat’ can be captured and reviewed at a later time, allowing children to explore relationships between what they know and what they do not know. This will in turn increase their understanding, ability to retain information and empower them as individuals. Each saved activity can be used to assist when assessing the children against the areas of learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage.

 Practitioner’s will need to ensure that they are interacting with children at an appropriate level. The chatta Setting Guide is full of useful information about language development milestones.

Talk for Boys’ Projects

The ‘Talk for Boys’ projects and activities have been written to appeal to boys’ interests based on extensive research working alongside both practitioners and boys in early years settings. The projects and activities are of course not exclusive to boys as many of these projects will also appeal to girls.

Each project has been designed to provide practitioners with ideas, which can easily be adapted, amended or even changed completely to a different topic or theme based on boys’ interests and strengths. For example, the Superheroes project uses Spiderman as the stimulus but this could easily be changed to Batman.


‘Talk For Boys’ resources and training will be launching at BETT on January 25th. The chatta team will be available to explain and demonstrate the chatta ‘Talk For Boys‘ along with Special Educational Needs and New Language.