Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Boys Will Be Boys: Thinking Differently About How to Educate Boys in Grade School

Katheryn Rivas, a writer from our friends at online universities blog, submitted this post on early childhood behavior. These classroom management strategies help us understand and work with elementary boys of all ages. I hope you enjoy!

behavior and classroom management, boys will be boys
Boys will be boys. So the saying goes — and yet, so many boys in schools all around the country are being punished for being just that: boys. Aggressive, physical, and energetic behavior in school-aged boys has long been a hotly contested topic among child psychologists, teachers, and academics. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, boys
  • are 30% more likely than girls to fail or drop out of the education system
  • are up to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD
  • under-perform against girls in academics, all the way to graduate school
Schools today increasingly mete out strict consequences for unruly, distractible, and impulsive boys, but are they responding to boys with counter-productive methods? Developmentally, boys are not as mature in grade school as girls, especially in verbal and fine motor capacities. The elementary classroom curriculum is sometimes at least 80% language-based, which puts average boys at a severe disadvantage and worse, doesn't give them the opportunity to become fluent or to practice the language in a safe environment before they are frustrated by expectations that are too high.

Furthermore, with many schools paring down or in some cases completely eliminating recess periods, boys — who learn more quickly by physically playing and socializing — are stifled and stunted by being constricted to the classroom. Joseph Tobin, PhD, a professor of early childhood education, remarks, "The most tiring thing you can ask a boy to do is sit down. It's appropriate to expect for kids to sit still for part of the day, but not all of the day."

The combination of boys' naturally defiant rambunctiousness and schools' intolerance of such behavior often worsens the tendency boys have to act out. Stricter punishments lead to louder resistance. The cycle is unlikely to end unless teachers are prepared to modify their strategies to accommodate their boy students. Here are some ways to compensate for a boy's playfulness and assertiveness in the classroom to both help foster a healthy and positive relationship with learning as well as handle their behavior without snuffing out their spirit:
  1. Encourage play. Include as much physical activity for boys as you can in your curriculum, both indoors and out. Children learn by playing, and will expend energy that will otherwise go to aggressiveness or unruliness.
  2. Tailor lessons to boys' needs. Balance out your lesson plans with activities that will appeal to boys, such as building things, to keep them engaged and to optimize their learning. Touching, moving, climbing—anything that involves use of their bodies and is "hands-on" will help them learn more effectively.
  3. Let them choose reading material. So often schools want students to read material that is not only uninteresting, but that actively bores them. Of course, school shouldn't always cater to the wants of the students, but they (especially boys) will be much more motivated to read independently if they are able to read or write about things that interest them.
Remembering that boys and girls develop differently is a critical part of knowing how to best educate them. Sometimes bad behavior in the classroom is not the result of an overly energetic boy, but an education system that doesn't support a boy's natural growth and tries to shape boys into something other than what they are: boys.
About the Author

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes for online universities blog. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

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