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Experiential Learning & Boy's Literacy

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Sol Elder

on 8 April 2011

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Transcript of Experiential Learning & Boy's Literacy

Boys' Literacy reading writing assessment relevance action connection ...demands meaningful and authentic curriculum to create relevance for boys who are deeply interested in the world outside of school.

...is optimized when a climate of trust enables the teacher to establish a personal connection with students, and enables students to forge solid personal connections with each other
...requires action and thrives in a classroom environment that is designed to accommodate kinesthetic learning opportunities. Assumptions/ Research/ Data 3 fundamental beliefs

1. When we refer to boys, we are referring to a subset of students who share common characteristics; we are talking about many boys, but not all boys.

2. Gender and literacy is a controversial, polarizing topic - why the focus on boys when males so clearly dominate the political and corporate arenas?

...provide strategies that will appeal to boys, but will not disadvantage girls.

3. Discover entry points into reading and writing, taking into account what we know about biological and social aspects of gender, as well as what we know about good teaching

- Access Success! (TDSB) Sex is biologically determined. One is born a male or female.

Gender is a social construction.

There is nothing “innate” or “natural” about femininity or masculinity; there is no one way to be feminine or masculine.

Gender roles are “performed” in a multitude of ways, depending on the intersections of era, class, culture, religion, and upbringing (Bailey; Gallas).

Gender roles are also always in flux, depending on circumstance i.e. a man might act very differently with his male peers than he does with female peers. There are multiple “masculinities” and “femininities.”


- Access Success! (TDSB)
Some ways of being feminine or masculine have more prestige than others.

Boys who do poorly at academics tend to “buy out” and find other ways of demonstrating masculinity e.g. through sports or computer and technological expertise.

However, they might also turn to physical aggression and demonstrations of hegemonic masculinity e.g., the disproportionate connection between young men’s lower-level academic/literacy skills and their designation as “behavioural” problems (Parker; Willis; Best; Mac an Ghaill; Gallas).

“Bad boys” are often given positive peer reinforcement for their behaviour (Rodkin, et al.).



- Access Success! (TDSB) What the “Boy Code” Tells Boys

•Stand on your own two feet. Always be independent, and never ask for help.

•Separate from Mom and everything female (including reading “girl books”)
as quickly as possible, or you will be a “sissy” or “wuss.”

•Never show feelings, except anger. Writing about your own or anyone else’s feelings,
or sharing your own feelings about what you have read, is not a “guy thing.”

•Stay on top and in the spotlight.

•Use macho behaviour, cruelty, bravado, and banter. This is preferable to admitting
that you “don’t get something” or to asking for help in reading or writing.
The idealized role model is usually someone not personally known - —someone from an admired sports team, or from a special area of interest (e.g., a tv or movie star).

The general role model can be someone chosen from the community (e.g., from the fire or police department), or someone who has a particular knowledge or skill that might interest boys (e.g., expertise in computer graphic or music production).

- Access Success! (TDSB) Boys who have not had sufficient male role models for reading, or have had a particularly difficult time being able to read, are more likely to avoid it.

We can motivate boys to raise their literacy levels by using appropriate role models, from either inside or outside the school system.

- Access Success! (TDSB) The types of role models we should consider for students are:

1. their personal role models
- —people they know personally and greatly admire

2. idealized role models—
- people who are at the top of their field in a given area

3. general role models
- —people who have information that would be valued and of interest

- Access Success! (TDSB) The most effective role model is often the personal role model.

The attitude of a boy’s personal role model toward reading can be a significant factor in motivating a boy to raise his literacy level.

Boys often admire a coach or others who are involved in a sport that interests them.

Other personal role models may be a boy’s father, or another male relative, neighbours, teachers, or males involved in activities in which the boy participates.

- Access Success! (TDSB) Boys like to read:

• books that reflect their image of themselves –- what they aspire to
be and to do;

• books that make them laugh and that appeal to their sense of mischief;

• fiction, but preferably fiction that focuses on action more than on emotions;

• books in series, such as the Harry Potter series, which seem to provide boys with a sense of comfort and familiarity;

• science fiction or fantasy (many boys are passionate about these genres);

• newspapers, magazines, comic books, baseball cards, and instruction manuals – materials that are often not available in the classroom.

Interestingly, when they read these materials, many boys do not consider themselves to be reading at all, precisely because these materials are not valued at school. (Moloney, 2002)

- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE Michael Smith and Jeffrey Wilhelm suggest providing boys with texts that:

• are “storied”, using a narrative approach that focuses more on plot and action than on description;

• are visual, such as movies and cartoons, providing a multimedia experience;

• are musical, providing the opportunity to develop literacy skills through an exploration of lyrics and discussions about musical tastes, the role of music in students’ lives, and so on;

• provide “exportable knowledge” – that is, information boys can use in conversation, such as headlines, box scores, jokes, “cool parts” of books or movies;

- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE Michael Smith and Jeffrey Wilhelm suggest providing boys with texts that:

• sustain engagement, such as series books or collections that allow readers to “see what’s up” with characters they have come to care about;

• show multiple perspectives, exploring topics from a variety of points of view;

• are novel or unexpected in a school setting, such as satire;

• are edgy or controversial – worth arguing and caring about;

• contain powerful or positive ideas that have political, moral, or “life-expanding” appeal;

• are funny, appealing to boys’ taste for humour. (Smith and Wilhelm, 2002, pp. 150–157)

- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE Create a link between reading and writing

There is often a correlation between the range and quality of a student’s reading and the student’s development as a writer.

Reading broadly gives students rich models to draw on when crafting their own writing.

Following are some ways to help all students, but especially boys, make connections between reading and writing that will enhance the development of the full range of their literacy skills.

- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE Ways to create a link between reading and writing

• Explicitly discuss models of good writing in detail, pointing out elements such as sentence structure, paragraphing, and vocabulary, so that students become aware of the choices that the writer has made.

• Emphasize how the writer’s choices reflect the intended purpose of the text, and how the text affects the reader.

• Maintain a balance between the development of skills such as spelling and grammar and the exploration of content, meaning, and effect.

• Identify different genres and text types that students will encounter in particular subject areas and provide reading and writing opportunities in those subjects, using the appropriate genres and types. (OFSTED, 2003, pp. 9–19)


- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE Poor literacy skills can have a profound effect on performance in other subjects, as well as on students’ success throughout
their lives.

An increasing volume of evidence indicates that gender is a significant factor in both choice of reading materials and reading achievement for boys and girls.

Boys typically score lower than girls on standardized tests in the language arts.

Boys are more likely than girls to be placed in special education programs.

Boys are less likely than girls to go to university.

Dropout rates are higher for boys than for girls.

Using writing frames to improve boys’ writing

Writing frames are outlines or templates that give students a structure for communicating what they want to say.

They provide a skeletal outline, with suggested sentence starters, connective words, and sentence modifiers, around which students structure their ideas.

Writing frames help students become familiar with a range of generic structures and ensure some success in writing, which helps to improve students’ self-esteem and motivation.

- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE Using writing frames to improve boys’ writing


Robin Marlin summarizes the findings of a case study on the use of writing frames to improve boys’ writing as follows:

• Seeing a teacher model the use of writing frames or templates and using writing frames themselves helped students understand narrative structure.

• Breaking text down to its skeletal outline helped students understand how writers develop a story.

• Writing frames were most useful to students of average ability, but they also helped lower-achieving students, especially when those students used the frames in groups, with a teacher’s guidance.

• Writing frames built structure into the narrative writing task, improving boys’ writing performance. (Marlin, n.d.)



- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE

An Explanation Frame


I want to explain why . . .

There are several reasons for this. The chief reason is . . .

Another reason is . . .

A further reason is . . .

So now you can see why . . .


(Wray and Lewis, n.d., p.11)


- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE Visualization strategies can enhance boys’ motivation to write, as well as their engagement in and enjoyment of writing e.g. note-taking chart organizer

Boys often enjoy creating art in conjunction with writing activities. Painting or drawing can give boys a greater sense of creative freedom and result in more detailed descriptions and stories.

- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE The importance of talk

Evidence now supports the importance of oral language as a foundation, and an ongoing support, for the development of reading and writing skills.

Dorothy S. Strickland and Timothy Shanahan (2004, p. 76) argue that the development of oral language skills is facilitated when children have many opportunities to use language in interactions with adults and with one another.

Oral language skills are strengthened when children:

• interact with others, both one-on-one and in groups;
• engage in frequent, extended conversations with adults;
• listen and respond to stories read and told to them.

These activities enable children to describe events, build background knowledge, and enhance their vocabulary.


- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE The importance of talk

Strickland and Shanahan suggest that young students should also be provided with opportunities for the following kinds of activities to support their developing oral language skills:

• creating sounds by singing and through other forms of music making

• listening and responding to music, stories, and discussions

• listening for various purposes – for enjoyment, to follow directions, to
engage in dialogue with others, to identify patterns in language

• engaging in oral language activities that are linguistically, cognitively, and
verbally stimulating


- What, Me Read? No Way! MOE Oral language is the foundation
for literacy development. 21st century skills a recent UN declaration stated that “…a renewed and expanded vision of literacy is essential for success…that it embraces a wide range of dimensions of personal and social life and development – and that is a lifelong learning process.” our students will see a dramatic, almost revolutionary shift in literacies during their lifetime as learners Employ writing templates -– a springboard for writing, an efficient shortcut that demystifies the writing process

• Templates, writing frames, scaffolds offer boys the structures required to produce each part of various writing products

• As boys’ confidence develops with every successful attempt using templates to produce different kinds of writing, they gradually decrease their dependence on templates, and this increases their internal motivation to write

• Using writing structures for nonfiction writing increases writing quality and length
Write less to get more -– scribing for some boys helps them by allowing them to use their oral literacy skills to get their ideas out

•Builds boys’ confidence to see their words written down

•Resist the tendency to have boys write during significant experiences i.e. almost all field trips


-Boy Smarts, Barry MacDonald http://www.p21.org/route21/index.php
Reach out to reluctance

first step in helping readers who struggle - ensure that they experience some form of success to boost confidence levels

• Build on prior knowledge, language and vocabulary

• Focus on themes and content that are meaningful to boys’ lives

• Begin with materials boys themselves choose and seek to understand boys’ choices through engaging in meaningful dialogue

- Boy Smarts, Barry MacDonald Reading begins with talking, rich and varied topics of discussion

Dialogue and social interaction supports the development of literacy


- Boy Smarts, Barry MacDonald Boys, esp. reluctant readers, may enjoy listening to someone read a book they wouldn’t read themselves

• Level of difficulty and length not a deterrent when being read to

• A great story that engages the imagination holds interest and attention

Tremendous benefit to hearing new words, sophisticated sentence structure – helps boys internalize deep structures of language, rhythms, cadence, inflection

- Boy Smarts, Barry MacDonald Bring the outside in – knowledge of the outside world is a badge of status and power for many boys

To facilitate the development of boys’ literacy in school, we need to tap into – and help boys better understand – the media, cultural, and practical interests that they bring with them from the outside world

Boys’ interest is peaked when asked to write about who will win the upcoming UFC championship fight or what influences a car’s performance more – horsepower or pound-feet of torque

“Figuring things out, fixing things, and making things, all connect to boys’ desire for realism” – Smith and Wilhelm, Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys

- Boy Smarts, Barry MacDonald Avoid misreading violence - seeing violence does not automatically make a boy become violent

Boys understand gradients of nuance and boundaries of appropriateness of violent language

Teasing and violent language and/ or actions a way to connect socially and bond with other boys, considering the social constraints against displays of affection Offer show time –- provide a safe environment for boys to use forms of drama to express their ideas and experiment with new roles or behaviours

Boys become characters from stories, role drama is not scripted

Helps animate, engage, and prime students for subsequent writing activity Teach multiple literacies

most boys prefer nonfiction, and will benefit if we expand our definition of traditional literacy to include multiple literacies

visual and technological literacy such as using wikis, blogging, and podcasting

performing arts literacy such as storytelling, music and video

boys k – 4 in the library choose books by the appeal of the topic depicted on the cover: books about risk-taking, weird or unusual facts, overcoming danger, sports esp. hockey and skateboarding, sharks, volcanoes, monster trucks

boys love humour and to have fun

boys liked books with sports or action heroes focused more on action than on emotion


Grouping and educating boys as if they were a ‘homogenous’ category does them serious injustice.

not all boys are failing standardized tests, doing less well than girls, or ‘hate’ to read.

“Which boys?” (are/are not learning) - avoid a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to instruction.

Spence (2008) reminds us all that, “Too often, we deal with generalities without recognizing the diversity in our students” (p. 9).
However, the research report Raising Boys’ Achievements states that:

“there are typical patterns of behaviour to which many boys conform...

...there are broad similarities within subgroups which allow valid generalizations to be made...

...if similar groups of boys are compared with similar groups of girls, there is evidence of lower levels of attainment by boys” (Younger and Warrington 2005a, p. 19).
Martino (2003) also suggests that boys may be engaging in literate practices outside school that are not reflected in their poor literacy test results, and that “the boys may be advantaged with electronic forms of literate practice useful in the changing postindustrial labour market” (p. 23).

- Boys’ Literacy Attainment: Research and Related Practice (Centre for Literacy at Nipissing University report prepared for MOE)
Tapscott, in his new book, Grown up Digital (2009), strengthens this argument:

Net Geners who have grown up digital have learned how to read images, like pictures, graphs, and icons. They may be more visual than their parents are (Sternberg and Preiss 2005).

A study of Net Gen college students showed that they learned much better from visual images than from text-based ones.

Students of a Library 1010 class at California State University (Hayward) tended to ignore lengthy step-by-step text instructions for their homework assignments, until the instructors switched their teaching methods to incorporate more images. The results were dramatic: students' scores increased by 11 to 16 percent. (Roos 2008). (2009, p.106).

- Boys’ Literacy Attainment: Research and Related Practice (Centre for Literacy at Nipissing University report prepared for MOE) The Power of Non-Fiction Writing - Douglas Reeves Learning For Tomorrow's World - Richard Worzel Reflection How will I increase relevance, connection, and action in my subject area practice, to benefit male learners? How will I help male learners develop 21st century literacy skills in my subject area practice? Minds On Boys' Literacy is like _________ because... 2003 OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education, UK) report, Yes He Can: Schools Where Boys Write Well, identified 3 main factors associated with boys’ success in writing:

o A culture in the school and classroom where intellectual, cultural, and aesthetic accomplishment by boys as well as girls is valued

o Value placed on diversity of style and approach, succinctness as much as elaboration, and logical thought as much as expressiveness

o Emphasis placed on both boys and girls reading widely for pleasure so that they absorb a range of models for their own writing

-Boy Smarts, Barry MacDonald Experiential Learning programs offer ample opportunities for action-oriented, kinesthetic learning

co-op, job shadowing, job twinning, and work experience students learn while stationed in a real-world work placement out in the community

students in a course from one or more of the ten broad-based tech areas learn by doing hands-on work in a project-oriented curriculum

business studies students execute marketing strategies to support actual business plans in their school and broader community Exit Card Classroom assessment that supports student
learning occurs when teachers:

establish learning goals and track individual student progress towards those goals;

use differentiated instruction methods to meet diverse student needs;

use varied approaches to assessing student achievement;

provide feedback on student performance and adapt instruction to meet identified needs;

actively involve students in the learning and assessment processes. What the “Boy Code” Tells Boys

•Sex is conquest.

•Bullying and teasing is just “normal” boy behaviour.

•Never give in.

•Never really listen.

•Don’t show fear.

•Don’t “rat” or let anyone else know when another boy does something harmful.

•Win at any cost. Violence, force, strength, and competition are the true measure of a man. Solomon Elder
Instructional Leader NE Experiential Learning,TDSB
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