Each summer, our faculty reads a book and conducts a book study on a topic that we have identified as relevant to our work. Our reading this summer focused on learning more about how boys experience school, and how to teach so that they are successful academically, socially and emotionally. Gender plays a significant role in how children think, behave and learn. The Minds of Boys by Dr. Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens, is a practical approach to helping boys succeed in educational environments, extracurricular activities and daily life.
The "boy-friendly" model that the authors promote focuses on improving learning for boys so that they feel effective and confident as learners, increases motivation, and diminishes rates of acting out and poor performance. These 'best practices' for our boys increase girls' achievement and performance as well.
Having read the book, our teachers got together to discuss the big ideas and prioritize the many strategies that Dr. Gurian suggests.
The strategies that we identified as most important for our work at Levine constitute both a research and performance baseline for success and teachers are encouraged to utilize these strategies whenever and wherever possible in their classrooms.
- Teachers increase the use of graphics, pictures, and storyboards in literacy-related classes and assignments. When teachers use pictures and graphics more often, boys write with more detail, retain more information, and get better grades on written work across the curriculum.
- Classroom methodology includes project-based education in which the teacher facilitates hands-on, kinesthetic learning. The more learning is project-driven and kinesthetic, the more boys' bodies will be engaged in learning -- causing more information to be retained, remembered, and displayed on tests and assignments.
- Teachers provide competitive learning opportunities, even while holding to cooperative learning frameworks. Competitive learning includes classroom debates, content-related games, and goal-oriented activities; these are often essential for boy-learning and highly useful for the life success of girls, too.
- Classroom curricula include skills training in time, homework, and classroom management. In order to feel competent, engaged, and motivated, many boys need help learning how to do homework, follow directions, and succeed in school and life; classrooms are the primary place these boys come for that training.
- Approximately 50 percent of reading and writing choices in a classroom are left up to the students themselves. Regularly including nontraditional materials, such as graphic novels, magazines, and comic books, increases boys' engagement in reading and improves both creative and expository writing.
- Teachers move around their classrooms as they teach. Instructors' physical movement increases boys' engagement, and includes the teacher leading students in physical "brain breaks" -- quick, one-minute brain-awakening activities -- that keep boys' minds engaged.
- Students are allowed to move around as needed in classrooms, and they are taught how to practice self-discipline in their movement. This strategy is especially useful when male students are reading or writing -- when certain boys twitch, tap their feet, stand up, or pace, they are often learning better than if they sit still. Flexible seating options are available in classrooms.
It has been exciting to visit classrooms around the school and to see evidence of our learning in practice. Our teachers are committed to improving their craft and providing the best possible learning environment for all our students.
___________________________Michael Gurian is the author of Boys and Girls Learn Differently and The Minds of Boys and founder of the Gurian Institute. Kathy Stevens is training director of the Gurian Institute, author of Strategies for Teaching Boys and Girls, and coauthor of The Mind of Boys.