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'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Posts Tagged ‘Boys and learning’

Boys and learning

Posted by Lisa Hill on December 9, 2008

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.
  • beowulf

  • 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’.  gawainSometimes 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…

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Boys and Reading

Posted by Lisa Hill on March 17, 2008

Today’s Age (17.3.2008) features an article by Paul Jennings about boys and reading.  Much of what he has to say makes a lot of sense, but I have to admit that I’m not a fan of Jennings.  I simply don’t want to read about toilet humour, and I don’t want to promote it because I don’t think it does promote a love of reading that lasts.  

I do like the suggested reading, labelled ‘Great Macho Reads for Boys’.  I’m a big fan of the Old Tom series, Asterix, Specky Magee, Rowan of Rin, and Artemis Fowl.  The boys at my school also love Goosebumps (of course), Deltora Quest books,  Carole Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper series and – contrary to Jennings belief that boys won’t read books with female heroes – the Lily Quest series.  These are all books with meaty themes that we can talk about and remember long after the book has been returned to the shelf.  I also find that retellings of ancient Greek and Roman myths are very popular, especially Michael Morporgo’s versions: this year I’m reading his Beowulf and we’re doing a study of different illustration styles of this story since 1920.  (See  I think boys and girls of all ages love books with heroes who confront evil because they can admire them and emulate them.  In the 21st century kids don’t need to confront monsters but they do need to make choices which involve doing the right thing, standing up for their friends, and deciding which things are really worthwhile in the long term.  We’ve had some very fruitful discussions arising from these books.

Last year I began tagging books with genre stickers so that kids can more easily find the type of books they like (horror, sport, humour etc).  This has been very successful for those children who are exploring reading but get a bit lost amongst the shelves once they’ve exhausted their favourite authors. It’s taking a while, though.  I’ve only been in the library for four years and I haven’t read everything yet!

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