Have you ever had a class of mostly boys or mostly girls? And are the dynamics of the class different when you have a class of predominately one sex? As we know boys and girls learn differently but this is insignificant in comparison to that of the “variation within each sex” (Alloway, 2002). Know as you are reading this article that when you target your boy learners, especially your at-risk boy learners, as a teacher you will be reaching out to all of your students’ needs, including girls.
Inquiry Based Learning
Inquiry based learning can be very effective when targeted for at-risk boys and when they are able to focus on the strategies and have “buy in” to school lessons, the outcomes can be successful. Inquiry based learning leads to motivated students, critical thinking skills, deeper understanding of subjects, physical, emotional and cognitive growth, ability to teach each other, and individual learning needs of students. (Donaldson, 1996). Inquiry based learning not only focuses on what we know but also how we come to know it. It involves team work, digging deeper into topics, high interest, development of skills and questioning, and student focused learning.
What Boys need to be Successful Learners
High areas of interest
To know why activities and assignments need to be complete- what is the deeper meaning and the outcome?
Why the information is important and how they can apply it
A strong relationship with their teacher
Conflicts before solutions
Support in learning pragmatic language
How to organize (folders, calendar, etc)
If a teacher is not implementing or providing some of these needs, then boys will struggle because their learning styles are different and when they are different and the learning strategies are not implemented boys will “shut down” and will not be successful.
Different Learning Strategies
If different learning strategies are put in place (mastery, understanding, self-expressive, interpersonal, and all four) then a teacher can observe which strategies certain children are successful at, need extra help with, or tend to gravitate towards. This will allow the teacher to choose certain strategies for those at-risk boys. Learning styles are significant and students do not process information the same way. They store it, organize it, and retrieve it in different ways. So, no single teaching style can fulfill a student’s need. (http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/inclusivity/)
Incorporating Flow Learning
Developing lessons can be fun and teaching these lessons can be rewarding when all the elements of “Flow Learning” are incorporated.
Elements of Flow Learning
Deep, but effortless involvement
Control over actions
Ultimately, the key to motivate boys is in getting to know those students to learn in a strategic manner that is also fun! Implementing these strategies can be extremely time consuming, hence the “strategic” part, but also worthwhile and after the first and second year, the lessons are there.
The formation of a boy's masculine identity is a factor in why boys struggle and underachieve in the classroom. Informality building relationships with boys and allowing them to connect and open up with their classmates and their teacher is vital.
Humor and Fun
Humor and Fun can be very useful in regards to giving your students, especially boys feedback and reinforcement. Humor and fun help to strengthen relationships between teachers and boys. The willingness to laugh and have fun while learning says a great deal to boys, It can communicate an acceptance and appreciation of boys and ‘boy-ness” that they perceive as a very positive message from their teachers.” It works, and what a great reminder that it is ok to have fun and sometimes boys will accomplish what is asked of them, when they are able to have fun and be a little silly.
Boys in Urban Schools
In the article, “Saving Black Boys” by Tracy Robinson-English from Ebony Magazine, there were many inspiring strategies shared from some urban schools, such as dressing for success, community meetings, and all boy schools. The biggest take away from this article was the motto “We Believe!” If boys say it over and over, they will believe in themselves and others will believe in them too. I love this motto.
The Need to Belong
For boys to build a positive male identity, they need a positive male role model in their lives. They need positive reinforcement and feedback from adults, specifically teachers. Boys need to feel the sense of belonging and to also feel as though their interests and feelings are important and they are listened to by others, especially their teachers. Standing by the door, and saying “hi” to students as they walk in and or leave the classroom will build connections. For those at-risk boys, looking them in their eyes or having some sort of code word or sign to let them know you are watching them for understanding may be helpful. Also, listening and understanding their learning styles will help build a positive relationship.
Non-Shaming Learning Environment
When building a non-shaming learning environment, boys could be asked to share their opinions and insights. They could be assigned roles and tasks within the classrooms. The environment needs to be inviting for them. It is based on the relationships with the teacher and student. Students need to feel and be respected and have shared principles.
Connecting the Dots
When putting together a lesson, boys need to know how it connects to the real world and how it will affect them in real life. This will motivate them to put forth effort. Also, boys may need help with organizational skills. For example, they may need help knowing how to take and organize notes, where to keep their homework so they don’t lose it, and how to use a daily planner. This will help them organize themselves at home and in the future.
Make an Enjoyable Setting
Students could be asked what, within reasonable limits would make them feel more comfortable in the classroom. Also, frequent feedback could be given to students to encourage them. Sensory based activities, offering challenging and complex situations, connecting new knowledge to old, and being able to reflect on what they learned are all ways to transform a classroom using active learning principles.
Allowing boys to feel a sense of control by giving them choices of either what or how to learn will motivate them, challenging them based on skill level would help, it is important for them to know the goals and how they are going to achieve them, and that they can be social and interact with their peers to solve problems. When the above is achieved, not only boys will show pride in taking care of and completing their work, all of your students will achieve this.