How to Teach Boys

How to Recognise and Value the Learning Styles between Genders

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Coming from a household of all girls, we never had our parents telling us to do our homework as we just got it done!  As girls, we are born organised and making sure everything is done on time!  As I was growing up, I always heard that boys and girls are different … and I never thought anything of it until I was blessed with two boys!

Then I realized that there is a difference in the way boys learn and girls learn.  I came across this book “How to Understand and Improve Boys’ Learning” by Mike Fleetham.   The article below gives us as parents and teachers a clear understanding on how we can ensure to value boys strengths.  Hope you enjoy this insight as much as I did!

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  Typical Male Characteristics                                     How to Teach Boys

Boys have weaker neural connections in their temporal lobes than girls, which means they are less skilled at listening, especially to the tone of voice.
Pair girls with boys during listening tasks, and break frequently to ask pairs to tell each other in turn what’s just been said.
Because the hippocampus works differently in boys’ brains, they need more time to memorise things.  The hippocampus favours list making – titles, headings, subheadings, and so detailed lists help boys to remember key points.
Challenge boys to encourage a lesson into a set number of bulleted points.  Build in time for boys to tell each other what they‘ve learned. Take a few moment to ask the kids to write down what happened in the last lesson before starting a new lesson.
Girls’ frontal lobes are more active than boys’. Frontal lobes help a person to self-regulate.  This means that boys are more likely than girls to make impulsive, risky decisions.
Create pressure with choices involving a time limit.  Provide boys with opportunities to take risks and make quick decisions.  For example, give them 30 seconds to draw or write a summary of a key point.
Two key language areas of the brain – Broca’s and Wernicke’s develop later in boys.  The male brain therefore uses fewer neural pathways for word production and expressing experience and emotions.
Explore writing emotional recipes!  Ask them to create a recipe for the best football match ever or create a recipe for various emotions.
Boys have a larger and more active amygdala – a part of the brain’s limbic system that registers emotional stimuli – than girls.  They will react more quickly and aggressively to perceived or real threats.
Provide clear rules, safe cool-off areas and relaxation routines for boys.  Teach them how to recognised and manage their anger and aggression through meditation, breathing routines and visualisation.  Mindfulness Room and .B Stop and Breathe at GCS!
Boys don’t learn as much through sitting and talking. Generally they prefer movement, activity and organising themselves into hierarchies.
Build physical brain breaks into lessons.  Negotiate acceptable movements, rather than insisting that they boys stay seated.  They may prefer to walk around the classroom while reading a book to sitting still.
Boys need downtime for their brains – a neural rest state – more than girls.
Build silent, reflective brain breaks such as meditation and visualisation into your lessons.  Notice of a boy is passively disengaged from a lesson may be giving his brain a downtime it needs.  See if he comes back on board without prompting.
Boys are better at focusing on one task than moving between several different ones.
If engaged in an activity, allow him to continue with it if possible.  Draw boys’ attention to how tasks are linked and lead on from each other rather than being separate.
Boys have more dopamine in their blood stream – which may result in them being active, impulsive and risk-taking.
Access to movements, touching/handling, acting, model-making, role-play in your lessons.

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Here are a few things we can do as educators and as parents to help our boys grow into young men.

1. Develop Language of Emotions

It is important to teach the boys language of emotions. Teach emotions through modeling This may mean that we need to share how we are feeling.

It is important not to let children feel that they are responsible for your feelings – for example, “You’re really making me angry” needs to be replaced with “I’m feeling angry because this lesson is not going to plan.” Recognise your emotions. Name your emotions. Express your emotions appropriately. Teach your children to manage their emotions (by giving strategies and providing safe areas within the classroom and home). Example: “I feel really angry about what’s happened. I’m going to walk away because I’m in control.”

2. Use Reflective Language

When boys are expressing their feelings, use their own words into your responses. For example:

Child: I am cross!

Parent: Can you tell me why you’re cross?

Child: I am not happy because Billy took my football.

Parent: So you’re unhappy about what Billy did, are you? Tell me more.

3. Give Appropriate Praise and Value

Depending on the child, some boys may not thank you for for making a public show of praising them. A quiet word at the end of the lesson may be much more constructive. Also, use specific praise – “You’ve really got the hang of one step equations, well done!”

Praising should not be about the destination, it should be about the next stage of their learning – “Excellent learning, you’ve really got the hang of one step equations. I think you’ll have no problem with two steps equations.” Remember to praise your child’s learning, not the learner. “Well done, you’ve got far more control over your anger. Good effort!” And don’t be afraid to turn errors into targets by focusing on the positives. There is nothing wrong in making mistake or giving an incorrect answer.

I hope you have found the above information useful. Happy parenting/teaching!

Contributed by: Farin Padamsey

Head of Student Support

Greenfield Community School

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