Ian Lillico is an educator with a special interest in boys’ learning. On his web page Boys Forward he lists a number of strategies of relevance to the library program for our all-boy classes.
- Since boys have a strong need for ‘territory’ my practice in assigning boys to sit at a particular group table for the year is a good one. However, my rule has been that students can sit at any seat, as long as it’s at the assigned table, and most students like this flexibility. Next year however, I might try assigning a specific seat for boys in all boy classes to see how that impacts on their sense of shared ownership of the library…
- Boys need to communicate before writing, (and writing tends to be a problem area for many boys) so I shall try increasing the opportunities for discussion using modelling and shared planning activities for project work. I already use his strategy of allowing ‘think time’ and in all my classes and often have students talk to the person next to them to answer my questions. I usually ask them to tell me what their partner has said so that both the person speaking and the person whose ideas are being relayed feel that they have had a turn. However I think I do need to encourage students to expand on their ideas more – maybe podcasting some responses would be motivating? An action research project would confirm for me whether this increases their writing output or not.
- Lillico also says that all writing activities for boys should include the use of teacher prepared templates or scaffolds, and that boys need to be told how many lines or pages to write. I need to make sure that all the rubrics we develop for project assessment includes this information in future.
- The recommendation that there should be ‘more interactive class teaching through the use of audio-visual instruction, CD-ROMs and the whole range of current multi-media tools’ is a key element of our new strategic plan. We’ll be blogging too, next year, (when I figure out how to build it into my classroom practice as a routine activity!)
- Some other ideas worth investigating include increasing time on task in short, intensive activities (though this occurs by default in the library since the lesson is structured to begin with a story to capture students’ interest, then borrowing (a physical activity involving walking about) and then a task at tables, which is usually about half an hour. Perhaps I could try splitting this into two 15 minute bursts?
- I don’t use quizzes much in my library program, because my preference is for open-ended learning, but Lillico says that boys like them – especially if there is a small prize – so it could be worth a try in some contexts.
- I also like Lillico’s suggestion that ‘all classes … should devote a proportion of each lesson (at least 15%) to reading’. This could include reading in pairs and shared note taking under given topic headings. (We do a lot of note-taking using templates in our non-fiction library units). Structuring tasks so that they begin with shorter, more closed tasks, which lead on to ‘more challenging, open-ended tasks’ within the same project would bring opportunities for success at the beginning.
- I don’t agree with Lillico’s recommendation that teachers abandon topics if after ‘explicitly explaining the relevance and attempting to integrate new concepts into existing ones, no relevance can be found’. Sometimes students need to be introduced to new topics before they see the relevance, and this is especially true of literature. I doubt if many of my boys thought that the ancient stories of Beowulf or Gawain were relevant beforehand, but they loved these stories, and could see the relevance of the moral issues once they had heard them. The trick is to lure them in right from the beginning…