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Boys as Learners

Presentation to Teaching Staff about how we can better support boy learners in our school.

R Baker

on 30 January 2013

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Transcript of Boys as Learners

Make school
curriculum more permeable
to what boys want to read / write as opposed to
rejecting them. Boys in "Crisis" Gender gap The case
against literacy See the Goal vs . Gaol Boys Who is the boy? the exceptions - not everyone is the same
despite exceptions boys reveal a pattern of strengths, weaknesses and quirky behaviour
peoples feelings about gender run deep =explosive handle with care
30 yrs ago boy differences were explained by socialization ... today we see the innate differences
we each have a "gender filter" which can enhance or distort our perceptions, as powerful a filter we have for race or class. pre 20th Century a "good reader"
is a public reader. Our ability to engage students in deeply involved reading and writing is compromised by often unspoken class and gender biases - ones that define the kind of story that can make it into the classroom and the one that must stay outside. (Newkirk, 2002, p. 68) Boys as Learners How can we use what we
know about Boys as Learners
to inform how we teach? Challenges SOLUTION The Gender Filter today, signs of a good reader - isolation in silence, by yourself, private space, makes you a loner, "nothing going on", frustrates non-readers seen as a form of punishment
unnatural for children
central to boys' literacy development are friendship groups (read books recommended by friends, attend to print that can be shared) ---ungregarious literacy has no appeal.
study with friends, working with TV on, or working with music on...anything ! to break the silence! self esteem gap (boys higher bcs they set lower standards particularly in the female practices of reading and writing) (p. 44)
if we discount "natural" biological explanations, we must ask about culturally constructed versions of "masculinity" and what educational practices contribute to the stubborn deficits in reading...and writing. (p. 36)
inequities in teacher attention (neg or pos) is there an advantage to receiving more criticism and reprimands? (Newkirk, 2002, p.31)
boy "priviledge" at the expense of girls What does the boy see? PIRLS : Nova Scotia Results

Reading Achievement by Sex

On average, girls continue to perform better than boys in Nova Scotia, as they do in Canada and in most participating countries. However, the gap between the estimated average score of girls and boys in Nova Scotia has been reduced from a spread of 22 points in 2006 to 13 points in 2011. In two school boards, SRSB and CCRSB, the gap between the estimated average score of girls and boys is 5 points. Why? -neurological


- cognitive
- Right Versus Left Brain
- right brain (spatial) develops early vs. left side is slower (language center)
- Frontal Lobe
- executive decision center gives us the ability to control impulses. Slow in males
- Amygdala (emotions source?) larger in boys and Hippocampus (memory) enlarged earlier in girls
- Structural differences Structural Hearing
- ears of girls are more sensitive at earlier age especially to high freq.
- higher incidence of ear infections
- result; high pitch soft voice will not be heard by boys
- saccades - eye movements to focus and see around us - larger movements in boys
- girls have higher perceptual speed = boys poorer proofreaders

- whiles girls have greater sensitivity, boys need to physically interact to learn.
- fiddling means better able to remember cognitive diffences
Spatial Skills
-stronger in boys

Learning Styles
- visual (iconic learning)
- kinesthetic (interact with learning)

Verbal Skills
- start with neurological differences which are reinforced by societal assumptions (
- reading as feminine
- lack of familiarity with books
- weak reading skills
- poor academic self-concept
- inefficient learning strategies (Sokal, Katz, Chaszewski & Wojcik, 2007; Swalander & Taube 2007) Too much attention pathologizes boys
overemphasizing their propensity for "violence" or deep unhappiness; rescue is the only solution. A better solution is to focus on forms of narrative pleasure to view boys' culture as
viable, alive and worthy of attention. Focus on gaps and differences
boys vs. girls MISMATCHED



towards the
inventiveness of
successful programming
for boys. Allan Gregg interviews author Michael Gurian TVO, October 2006 (Fletcher, 2006) Jean Piaget and Rousseau believed that knowledge in words was not comprehension.
Michel Montaigne, with an exquisite understanding of the role of physical activity in learning, reminds his readers that Plato saw games, races, sports, dancing and making music as far more central to educational development than learning from books.
Rousseau ; negative affects from confinement on children
Piaget ; physical exploration by the hands is central to later intellectual development. Literacy as crowd management
books = source of schoolwork -- reading, recitation, answering questions in writing, copying and testing...they are the apparatus of regulation.
"written seat work is used to occupy potentially unruly students" (Nystrand, 1997)
schooling is disciplining the body; sit properly, raise hands, pay attention, work steadily (this executive function control comes easier to the girls, who are then rewarded by (90%) female teachers. (Newkirk, 2002, p. 62)
a "good reader" is not only fluent but has mastered the "natural" willfulness of childhood. Reclaiming Pleasure
success/pleasure builds repetition
unless we can persuade students that reading is a form of deep, sustained pleasure, they will not choose to read; and because they will not choose to read, they will not develop the skills to make them good readers.
writing doesn't have to be a uniquely mental activity Essentialism "Just the facts ma'am." For every 100 girls that are conceived 115 boys are conceived.
For every 100 girls enrolled in high school there are 100 boys enrolled.
For every 100 girls who graduate from high school 96 boys graduate
For every 100 girls expelled from public elementary and secondary schools 335 boys are expelled.
For every 100 women enrolled in college there are 77 men enrolled.
For every 100 girls diagnosed with a learning disability 276 boys are diagnosed with a learning disability.
For every 100 females ages 15 to 19 that commit suicide 549 males in the same range kill themselves.
For every 100 girls ages 15 to 17 in correctional facilities there are 837 boys behind bars For every 100 girls .... boys typically score lower on standardized tests in language arts: Largest gap: writing **
in elementary schools boys received 2/3 of the D's and F's*
boys are 60% more likely to be retained between the ages of 5 and 12. *
3 to 5 percent of children are diagnosed with ADHD, 80% of these are boys.*
boys are more likely than girls to be place in special education programs 4:1 *
with the exception of sports teams boys receive fewer awards for participation in leadership building activities. **
girls outnumber boys in gifted programs, honour roll, and scholarships. **
fewer boys go to university. September 2004 33% of 1st year Canadian students were male. ** http://www.boysproject.net/statistics.html * Brozo, William B., Zambo, Debby Bright Beginnings for Boys, 2009
** MacDonald, Barry Boy Smarts Mentoring Boys for Success at School, 2005
I reference these books and they in turn refer to research too exhaustive to list in this presentation. How is he doing? bOyS as a group tend to appreciate structure rules so they can relax into the task before them
thrive on action, movement, adventure
enjoy wonderful spatial and mechanical challenges
are quick to forgive transgressions
are energized by competition
respect authority
are impulsive and ready for action
focus on end targets and goals
communicate in a direct manner MacDonald, Barry Boy Smarts 2005, p. 18 Two MISREADINGS of boys (Newkirk, 2002)
1. Dismissive and defensive attitude towards boys popular culture; to feed a false sense of nostalgia for the better, purer more wholesome entertainment of our own youth - which was the subject of our own parents' disapproval.

2. Literal reading of males' reaction to the media; they are depicted as incapable of mediating or filtering or resisting the messages sent by the visual media.
e.g. "dry tinder" ready to burst into flames, "TV as a drug", pollution.

"Literalism" assumes a direct and unambiguous line of causation between the representation of aggressive action and the desire to act that way. p.15 Researchers must pay attention to the "TEXT EVENT" and not simply to the text... their narratives are read as endorsing individualism, aggression, and the violent resolution of disputes. Yet the writing of these "violent" stories may have involved playful collaboration among clusters of friends. Newkirk, 2002 p.18

Writing is a social event for boys.
"Most girls write for the teacher; boys write to entertain other boys. 80 percent of my respondents said that they thought this was true". Fletcher, 2009 p. 113 "violence" "the boy code" prevents open displays of affection
bonding occurs through teasing and sometimes almost violent actions
roughness is not ideal, but we must not misread it as sociopaethic -
don't overreact to violence that takes place in the realm of imagination. The Boy Code
1) Be tough and strong
2) Don't show your emotions; and
3) Don't be a girl. Pollack, William Real Boys, 2001 MacDonald, Barry Boy Smarts, 2005 "Boys are apt to write action stories filled with danger and violence, in which the characters go through an exciting experience together and triumph over difficult obstacles. For boys, violent writing provides an important way of bonding and expressing friendship. "
ex: Beautiful Fights. Fletcher, Ralph Boy Writers 2006 p. 52-53 3 Arguments for allowing boys more latitude to incorporate violence in their writing. A wider zone of engagement - the boys will be more invested in their writing and in the workshop as a whole when they see they can bring their passions into it.

through written language they can safely grapple with power and danger, issues that make up a big part of a boy's internal world.

Social capital - violent writing is classroom currency that can be "spent" and used to bond with friends. Fletcher, Ralph Boy Writers, Reclaiming Their Voices, 2006 p. 54 A Big Enough Room - Newkirk, 2002
if a school fails to be self-critical about what counts and what does not as a valid literacy activity, boys will continue to internalize the construction of literacy as feminized. Broadening the acceptable literacy spectrum will benefit all students especially those drawn to "low status" popular narratives; television, movies, comics, humor, sports pages, and plot-driven fiction. a meditation on resistance Thinkers have thought for a long time!
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