Boys and learning – 6 strategies for the classroom

I work in a boy’s school so educating boys is something I have been passionate about for many years. Many of those in education are concerned about the lack of engagement that boys have in their education.

When I first started teaching I worked in a girl’s school and followed up with a co-educational school in the country. Here we had concerns about girl’s education. Many girls left school without finishing year 12 and less went into further education. We were especially concerned with the way girls dropped out of maths and science in years 9-10. We had several programs running to try to change some of these trends. Boys did better in education until the 1980’s when thing began to change and the statistical data showed the turn around. Since the end of the 1980’s boys have been out-performed in the K-12 classroom by girls. The data shows that boys still score a little higher in science and maths, whilst girls do better in language and humanities areas but overall boys are being outstripped by girls.

This is the case in Australia and the following infographic about educating boys (based on US data) was interesting in that there were some marked similarities.

The infographic started out with population data – visual representations of birth rates and kindergarten enrollment. The first interesting thing was that data showed that almost twice as many male students as female students repeat kindergarten, and approaching triple the number of male students diagnosed with a learning disability compared to female students.

The number of girls graduating from secondary school seems to correlate with Australian statistics.

The proportion of male and female students remained fairly constant throughout primary and in the initial years of secondary schooling, with the number of male students exceeding female students by about two percentage points, up until Year 11. In Year 11 there were slightly more females than males, and in Year 12 females exceeded males by 3.2 percentage points.  (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012)

More women than men also participate in higher education in the US which is also the case in Australia.

The other part of the infographic I particularly liked was at the end, with the advice about what schools can do to educate boys.

The 6 strategies for engaging boys in the classroom that are recommended are not ground-breaking and I have certainly seen them used in school. The library staff have also worked with teachers in the classroom to use the strategies. No doubt many could add to the strategies with example of their own but they are worth reiterating:

  • Design lessons that end in the creation of a product.  I would add make it authentic and shared with more than the student and the teacher. One simple example: In the library we love to run the book trailers that our students create for their English teachers about the books they have been reading. It works to publicize the books in the library and the boys like seeing their work on our big screen.
  • Structure lessons as competitive games. 
  • Require motor activity. (We have all seen the research that talks about the physicality of boys so we need to find ways to harness this and use it in learning situations. It does not have to be a major exertion but just some movement.) One example I have been impressed with at our school: One of the maths teachers regularly starts her year 7 lessons with a small foam ball that the boys throw to each other. As the boy catches the ball she asks a question that he has to answer. She uses it as a way to revise work from the previous lesson as well as reinforce some of the maths rules. They have a chance to answer a question as it goes around the classroom for 10 minutes.
  • Allow boys to address unsolved problems and use opened questions.  especially problems that have a real-life application or that they have some affinity with.
  • Combine team work and competition. Some simple examples: The literature circles in year 7 have given us some opportunity to try this out. This year we offered a pizza lunch for the class that read the the most books in the Premiers’ Reading Challenge. The boys encouraged the less-able readers and congratulated them as they finished a book. They also offered suggestions about what others might like to read. The Book Spine Poetry competition in book week also worked as groups of year 7’s  combined to create poems.
  • Focus on self-direction and  independent discovery. Assist boys to become more self-reliant and questioning. We have a year 8 science project (WASP) that most of the boys love. The library staff get involved in the research component at the beginning of the project.
    This program was designed to allow the student the freedom to investigate a scientific topic of their choice. Students had the option of conducting a scientific investigation on a topic of their own choosing or build a working model of an invention. The aim of WASP is to stimulate ongoing interest and participation in science. The program encourages independent enquiry-based project work as well as giving students the opportunity to present their achieve-ments to a panel of judges from the Science faculty.

No Boy Left Behind
Source: TopMastersInEducation.com

Useful Links

steps to success

Book week activity – Book Spine Poetry

We have organised a number of activities for book week this year. Over the past few weeks we have worked with the photography teacher to produce Book Spine Poetry.

One year 10 class and three year 7 classes spent a period in the library looking around the books – fiction and non-fiction – aas well as using the catalogue to put together their verses.

I thought it was a great way to get our boys to look closely at our collection and, in some cases,  they went to shelves they had never looked at before. They also spent time calling up titles in the catalogue and then trying to find them on the shelf. All the time learning about how to find things in the library without realising it.

Tell_me_the_truth_sml

After talking about the task and showing the boys some examples, they all became totally engrossed in the task. To begin I had collected some titles I thought would make good starting points on trolleys and they used them to get ideas for a story line they wanted to follow. After that the ideas came thick and fast.  The year 7 students really surprised me. Working in pairs, they came up with a lot of “stories” they wanted to tell and found book titles to match. For 75 minutes they were totally engrossed in finding titles. Most of the year 7 boys put created 4-5 book spine verses. The year 10 students took longer to get the stories together and probably were trying for more complexity with their  verses.

The photography teacher used the session to teach the boys how to use the SLR cameras and the year 10 students had to produce clear close-up photos without any flaring due to a flash hitting the book covers.

The competition was open this week for to all students to enter a photo of their poetry onto our library intranet space. After Friday we will print out the photos and display them (as well as making sure everyone knows where the digital copies are) so the college community can have a vote on the ones they like best as well as a panel (including some of our English teachers for a more critical view)

I have put a few of the early examples onto my pinterest board

Two unusual alphabets and using them with classes.

Alphabet using GoogleMaps

I was looking for typography and different letters of the alphabet when I found these two (amongst others) via Pinterest. One particular board I like is Typography / Calligraphy.

Pinterest has become quite a resource for me when I want some images and it does not let me down often. I have to be very disciplined so as not to get too engrossed in what I find there as time gets away.

The first alphabet here is Google Maps Typography by Rhett Dashwood.

It is amazing that people find so many different ways to make use of Google maps.

For several months in 2008 and  2009 Rhett spent time searching Google Maps. He was looking for  land formations or buildings that resembled letter forms.  The place were limited to those within the state of Victoria, Australia. Go to his page and find the placemarks and links to all of the “letters” used except for “y”

I liked the idea and thought that the idea could be adapted for students to use as a class activity in geography. They could do it the way Rhett did, picking a particular area and searching.They could also try to find the alphabet in their local area/suburb. They could give map co-ordinates so that others could find the “letter”. It would be a great way to get to know an area. They could also go out and search their area, finding letters and then locate them on the map.

The second alphabet offered another way to catch the interest of students and test their knowledge. I have found some good Harry Potter alphabets and posters but this one makes you think about all the characters and their traits to find the answers.

The Harry Potter Alphabet on Buzzfeed and although it is not the only Harry Potter alphabet, it tests you. How well do you know the characters in the series? The letters give a clue. I am sure the students could come up with alphabets for the books they enjoy. I must think further about this idea – may be a good book week activity or take the place of a traditional book report.

Harry Potter alphabet

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GeoGuessr and GeoSettr

This week I have been playing around with the addictive puzzle game GeoGuessr and then the related GeoSettr. It is simple to use , free and tests your knowledge of geography and your powers of observation.

To explain it very simply, you go to the site and try to guess your location using Google Maps and Street View technologies. The closer your guess is to the actual location, the more points you score.

GeoGuessr

GeoGuessr uses Google Maps so when you enter the site, you find are (virtually) placed in different locations from somewhere in the world. You can look around and then put a pin on the world map to guess where you are.

  • Click and drag to look around you. Click the arrows to move forward or back, zoom in and out and move around just like you would normally in Google maps street view, in order to get a better idea what you’re looking at. So “walk” left or  right or turn around or look up and down to fully explore the surroundings you find yourself.
  • Once you think you know where you are, use the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in on the map in the upper-right corner to place your position on a world map
  • Click on the map to place your pin.
  • Finally click  “make guess” to lock in your location.
  • You then get the actual location identified and you are told how close your guess was (along with the points you scored). You then click onto the next location.

You can take your time as your score is determined by how far away from the actual location your guess was with no time limit.

Students can explore the world in a very engaging way. It would be a good tool for group activities within a class, with members of the group working together and negotiating to find the locations.

It is a great tool to use with students in this form but you can now customize your own version using GeoSettr.

My Setting page-opt

I created one of my own using 5 places in Victoria.

Firstgroup-answers1

Once I got the the end it gave me the URL I can use to find it again. The whole address needs to be copied and then pasted into the address field. It does not seem to work when you insert it as a link behind a word or image.

My Setting page-script

We are going to use GeoGuessr with the Geography students at the end of term as an extension activity. They will then use GeoSettr to create their own geo-quizzes and share them with the rest of their class.

It is certainly an addictive pastime.

Useful links – Some of my March sites

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