One of the many issues that teachers often face in their classrooms, is boys disconnection with literacy. Somehow, it seems that boys always have more difficulty engaging with writing and reading activities. But why is this so?
This is an issue that has intrigued teachers and scholars alike. Along the years, several studies have been conducted to analyze and troubleshoot this “phenomenon”.
Some attribute this issue to the lack of boy-friendly approaches in the classroom. Others, attribute it to the physical and cognitive development factors innate to boys. However, there seems to be a consensus that we, as teachers, can make a difference by adapting our classrooms and our teaching approaches to boys’ needs.
So, how exactly do you ensure that your classroom is stimulating to children of both genders, while still taking in consideration the variety of learning styles within your class?
I took the liberty of compiling a list of suggestions:
Make reading part of your classroom’s daily routine. Establish a consistent period of time in which all children will occupy themselves with reading.
Offer reading materials that will pick your students’ interest. Do a little of homework and get to know your students likes and dislikes. Offering boys reading materials that closely relate to their likes and dislikes is the first step to a successful literacy program. Also, don’t assume that you know what boys like. Ask them! You might be surprised 🙂
Give your students a voice! Allow them to discuss the books you read as a class, as well as the books that they read independently. Allow them the opportunity to voice their thoughts and opinions. Convince them that what they have to say has value. Promoting discussion in your classroom will make literacy a lot more meaningful.
Provide as much variety as possible. Don’t stick to just one genre or medium. Variety allows children to explore the possibilities and decide what best fits their needs. It also gives them control over what they can or cannot do.
Most boys are visual and kinesthetic learners. They thrive in environments rich in visual stimuli and hands-on activities. Taking this in consideration when exploring a topic, could have positive results. Instead of asking them to sit quietly and listen, consider allowing them to learn through movement and hands-on projects.
Because they are very oriented towards gross-motor skills, boys tend to take a little longer than girls to process information. So, instead of expecting them to reply to a question immediately, consider giving them a little bit of time to process the question and devise an answer. This will promote a better understanding of the topic being studied and will encourage students to take risks.
Be positive!!! You are a role model. What you do and say affects your students. Being positive, having positive expectations and continuously encouraging students to do better, fosters a climate of positive thinking among the students. Instead of being defeated by their first failure, students will increasingly feel that they CAN do it.
Role models are important! Most of the time, boys’ disconnection with literacy has a lot to do with the lack of literacy related role models in their lives. You can easily fix this by naming examples of favourite male authors and by allowing them to listen to books being read by famous men (actors, singers, etc). If you really want to impress them, ask your students’ fathers, uncles, cousins, etc, to come to the class and read to them.
Make literacy meaningful. Do you want your students to write a letter? Why not having them write a letter to a favourite male relative, a soldier overseas, or even a favourite teacher? Connect literacy activities to things that boys relate to. Nobody wants to write a text to just stuff it back into a binder! There is no purpose in that. Boys specifically need a purpose to make their efforts meaningful! Knowing that what they write is going to actually be read by someone they connect with or admire, helps them establish a purpose.
How many times have you faced the frustration of a male student that does not think he is capable of overcoming his mistakes? Often boys feel that if they don’t get it right the first time, that means that they cannot do it. EVER! Teach your students that it is OK to make mistakes. If you are bold enough, purposefully make some mistakes yourself. Show your students that mistakes happen and you can learn from them. Show them that mistakes are just another stepping stone towards success.
Teaching is, as you well know, a balancing act. You need to juggle a myriad of options in order to cater to every child’s needs. Sometimes we are extremely successful in achieving our goals, other times not so much. Hopefully, this small list of suggestions will help you make your classroom a more boy-friendly literacy space.
Please feel free to share your own thoughts about literacy for boys, on the comments below.