Archive for the ‘Teaching boys’ Category

The Gender Gap in Our Schools

March 11, 2015


This might sound old fashioned but I’m not overly worried about a gender difference in our schools as I feel that boys and girls are, and will always be, slightly different. I don’t consider it concerning, for example, that girls outrank boys at school.

What I do feel however, is that there are general challenges in education that if dealt with properly, should see girls and boys progress far more rapidly:

All around the world, teenage girls are more likely than boys to reach a basic level of proficiency in math, science and reading. However, among the world’s highest achieving students, girls continue to lag behind boys in math, according to a report released Thursday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The comprehensive, 176-page report looks at gender differences in student performance across 64 countries and economies. The OECD distributes the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an exam taken by 15-year-olds around the world, every three years, and used results from the 2012 test as a lens into the issue of gender equality in education.

Overall, the report highlights the increasing gap between male and female academic achievement — and shows that young women are often performing better than their male peers. Girls are now going to school longer than boys and significantly outperform boys in reading. Across countries examined in the report, boys are more likely to post low scores in math, reading and science.

Compared to girls, boys are more likely to say they think school is a waste of time, show up late to class and generally be less ambitious with their education and career expectations. They also spend less time doing homework and reading for pleasure, and more time playing video games or engaging with technology.

Evidence suggests that even though boys underperform in school as teenagers, they tend to gain necessary literacy skills by adulthood. Previous surveys from the OECD show that men are just as proficient as women in literacy by adulthood.

Yet top-performing girls continue to lag behind top-performing boys in math and science — which is related to the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering and math jobs. The results are especially bleak in math. In science, top-performing boys outscore top-performing girls on average, but there are a number of countries where girls post overall higher scores than boys in this area. But in math, boys significantly outperform girls, on average, in 38 countries and economies. In just a few places, such as Shanghai and Singapore, girls perform as well as their male classmates.


Click on the link to read Our Education System Betrays Boys

Click on the link to read  Are Kindergarten Teachers Biased Against Boys?

Click on the link to read Should We Include Feminism in the Curriculum?

Click on the link to read Arguments For and Against Single-Sex Education


Our Education System Betrays Boys

December 16, 2013


It bothers me when, as a result of girls outperforming boys on standardised tests, the assumption is made that girls are better equipped to succeed as they are inherently more academic.

Perhaps that assumption is true, but has it been thoroughly tested? What, if anything, has been done to change the way boys are being taught?

Dr. Kevin Donnelly, one of the sharpest minds in education policy and analysis is right to raise a few challenges which have, in his view, prevented boys from having an equal chance to shine in the classroom:

As to why our education system discriminates in favour of girls the reasons aren’t hard to find. As argued by the American author Michael Gurian “male and female brains learn differently” with girls maturing before boys in terms of academic ability, being able to socialise and interact with others and being more articulate expressing emotions.

When it comes to teaching primary school children how to read the most popular approach, called whole language where readers are told to look and guess, favours girls.

Boys need a highly structured, systematic model of reading based on phonics and phonemic awareness where they learn the relationship between letters and sounds and combinations of letters and sounds – the very approach no longer taught.

Since the late ’60s and early ’70s, mainly due to the rise of feminism and the fact that there are so few male primary school teachers, the way teachers teach and the way classrooms are structured have been feminised.

Teachers no longer stand at the front of the room and children are expected to direct their own learning in open, mixed ability classrooms. As a result, boys are easily distracted, become behavioural problems and soon fall behind.

The fact that a lot of learning adopts an open-ended, inquiry approach where teachers become guides by the side and facilitate instead of directing what should happen also works against boys’ preferred learning styles.

Boys need clear direction, explicit goals, timely feedback and an orderly classroom environment where they know what they have to do and what constitutes pass and fail.

Boys also need to be taught to respect authority and to have teachers prepared to enforce a disciplined environment where there are consequences for misbehaviour.

While there is no doubt that many women are still discriminated against and that significant issues like domestic violence must be addressed, it’s also true that making education more girl friendly shouldn’t mean that boys lose out.

Click on the link to read  Are Kindergarten Teachers Biased Against Boys?

Click on the link to read Should We Include Feminism in the Curriculum?

Click on the link to read Arguments For and Against Single-Sex Education

Click on the link to read The Perfect Example of Courage and Self-Respect

Are Kindergarten Teachers Biased Against Boys?

January 5, 2013


A study seems to show that boys are marked unfairly in the early years:

Academics from the University of Georgia and Columbia University think they have more insight into why girls earn higher grades on report cards than boys do, despite the fact that girls do not necessarily outperform boys on achievement or IQ tests.

Christopher Cornwell, head of economics at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, UGA’s David Mustard and Columbia’s Jessica Van Parys have published a study that they say shows “gender disparities in teacher grades start early and uniformly favor girls.”

The researchers analyzed data from 5,800 elementary school students and found that boys performed better on standardized exams in math, reading and science than their course grades reflected. The authors suggest that girls are truly only outperforming boys in “non-cognitive approaches to learning” — defined as attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organization — leading to better grades from teachers. The study is published in the latest issue of The Journal of Human Resources.

Cornwell said in a statement Wednesday that worse grades place boys at a disadvantage for future opportunities, adding that the divide is further worsened by increased competition for jobs as women increasingly enter the workforce.


Click on the link to read  Why do Boys Score Better than Girls at Maths?

Click on the link to read Should We Include Feminism in the Curriculum?

Click on the link to read Arguments For and Against Single-Sex Education

Click on the link to read The Perfect Example of Courage and Self-Respect

This Can Only Ever Happen in a Co-Ed School

October 20, 2012

The beauty of teaching in a co-ed school is that if done properly a mutual respect develops between the genders. It is the perfect forum for dispelling myths and forming respectful relationships between the sexes.

Take this above video for example. A young girl in Norway is teased by a cocky male classmate. He refuses to bend over to avoid her soccer kick. Instead, he remains standing, defiantly sending the message that since she is a girl she is incapable of kicking the ball with any real force.

As the video shows this tactic was not very wise.

I am not posting this video to belittle the boy. Instead I want to comment on the lessons he and his classmates may well have taken from the incident. This was a brilliant showcase for demonstrating the boundless capabilities of the opposite gender and how nobody deserves to be taken lightly in any sphere or circumstance.

Teaching in a co-education environment, we see examples of this every day. It does more to enhance the relationships between genders than any bogus speech delivered in parliament can ever achieve.


Click on the link to read Why do Boys Score Better than Girls at Maths?

Click on the link to read Should We Include Feminism in the Curriculum?

Click on the link to read Arguments For and Against Single-Sex Education

Click on the link to read The Perfect Example of Courage and Self-Respect

Why do Boys Score Better than Girls at Maths?

July 31, 2012

At a time when girls are outscoring boys in most subject it is surprising to me that boys still maintain the edge in math. A recent study explains why:

From an early age, boys tend to take a more impulsive approach to math problems in the classroom, which might help them get ahead of girls in the long-run, suggests the latest study to touch on the gender gap in math.

The research claims girls may tend to favor a slow and accurate approach — often computing an answer by counting — while boys may take a faster, but more error-prone tack, calling out an answer from memory. The difference in strategies seems to benefit girls early in elementary school but swings in favor of boys by middle school.

“In our study, we found that boys were more likely to call out answers than girls, even though they were less accurate early in school,” Drew Bailey, who led the study, said in a statement. “Over time, though, this practice at remembering answers may have allowed boys to surpass girls in accuracy.”

The University of Missouri study followed 300 students from first grade to sixth grade. During those first two years, the boys called out more answers in class than the girls but also had more wrong answers. Girls were more often right, but answered fewer questions and responded more slowly, according to the university. By sixth grade, the boys were still answering more problems than the girls and were also getting more correct.

Click on the link to read Should We Include Feminism in the Curriculum?

Click on the link to read Arguments For and Against Single-Sex Education

Click on the link to read The Perfect Example of Courage and Self-Respect

Arguments For and Against Single-Sex Education

July 8, 2012

I am glad that I teach both boys and girls in my Grade 3 classroom.  I find it more challenging and the social dynamic can be quite fascinating. At the same time, I can understand why many prefer a single-sex classroom to a co-ed one.

Below are some popular arguments put forwards in favour of single-sex classrooms:

  • Some parents don’t want their children to be in mixed-gender classrooms because, especially at certain ages, students of the opposite sex can be a distraction.
  • Leonard Sax and others agree that merely placing boys in separate classrooms from girls accomplishes little. But single-sex education enhances student success when teachers use techniques geared toward the gender of their students.
  • Some research indicates that girls learn better when classroom temperature is warm, while boys perform better in cooler classrooms. If that’s true, then the temperature in a single-sex classroom could be set to optimize the learning of either male or female students.
  • Some research and reports from educators suggest that single-sex education can broaden the educational prospects for both girls and boys. Advocates claim co-ed schools tend to reinforce gender stereotypes, while single-sex schools can break down gender stereotypes. For example, girls are free of the pressure to compete with boys in male-dominated subjects such as math and science. Boys, on the other hand, can more easily pursue traditionally “feminine” interests such as music and poetry. One mother, whose daughter has attended a girls-only school for three years, shares her experience on the GreatSchools parent community: “I feel that the single gender environment has given her a level of confidence and informed interest in math and science that she may not have had otherwise.”


Below are some arguments put forward by critics of single-sex classrooms:

  • Few educators are formally trained to use gender-specific teaching techniques. However, it’s no secret that experienced teachers usually understand gender differences and are adept at accommodating a variety of learning styles within their mixed-gender classrooms.
  • Gender differences in learning aren’t the same across the board; they vary along a continuum of what is considered normal. For a sensitive boy or an assertive girl, the teaching style promoted by advocates of single-sex education could be ineffective (at best) or detrimental (at worst). For example, a sensitive boy might be intimidated by a teacher who “gets in his face” and speaks loudly believing “that’s what boys want and need to learn.”
  • Students in single-sex classrooms will one day live and work side-by-side with members of the opposite sex. Educating students in single-sex schools limits their opportunity to work cooperatively and co-exist successfully with members of the opposite sex.
  • At least one study found that the higher the percentage of girls in a co-ed classroom, the better the academic performance for all students (both male and female). Professor Analia Schlosser, an economist from the Eitan Berglas School of Economics at Tel Aviv, found that elementary school, co-ed classrooms with a majority of female students showed increased academic performance for both boys and girls. In high school, the classrooms with the best academic achievement were consistently those that had a higher percentage of girls. Dr. Schlosser theorizes that a higher percentage of girls lowers the amount of classroom disruption and fosters a better relationship between all students and the teacher.
  • The American Council on Education reports that there is less academic disparity between male and female students overall and a far greater achievement gap between students in different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, with poor and minority students children faring poorly. Bridging that academic chasm, they argue, deserves more attention than does the gender divide.
  • Single-sex education is illegal and discriminatory, or so states the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) . In May 2008, the ACLU filed suit in federal court, arguing that Breckinridge County Middle School’s (Kentucky) practice of offering single-sex classrooms in their public school is illegal and discriminatory. The school doesn’t require any child to attend a single-sex class, yet the suit argues that the practice violates several state and federal laws, including Title IX and the equal Educational Opportunities Act.


Maths is Taught So Poorly

February 13, 2012

I realise that what I am writing is a gross generalisation, but I believe that maths is generally taught in a very abstract and monotonous way. No wonder the students are not benefitting from maths instruction at the primary level. Traditional maths teaching involves worksheets, a mindless array of algorithms and plenty of other rote styled goodies.

The tragedy of it all is that maths can be taught in a completely different way. I find the basic skills of maths the most refreshing and creatively exciting subject to teach. The fact that maths is a composite of everyday skills means it translates wonderfully to problem solving activities.

The other day, whilst teaching ordering numbers up to 4 digits, I got my 8-year-old students into groups, each given a particular airline to reasearch. The groups had to find the 3 lowest airfares for a return domestic trip between certain dates and times, These prices were then compared and ordered from least expensive to most expensive. Isn’t that the whole point of ordering and comparing numbers?

Whilst engaging in the exercise, the students enjoyed working in groups, competing for a bargain against other groups, learning how to book airline tickets and simply use their imagination by pretending they were actually intending in going on the flight.

Isn’t that more interesting than a worksheet that has numbers on it to order?

This is why I am not at all surprised that British students leave Primary school ‘with the maths ability of 7-year-old’:

An analysis of last year’s SATs results has shown 27,500 11-year-olds are going on to secondary school with the numeracy skills of children four years their junior.

The figures equate to a staggering one in 20 of the total of those leaving primary school. Boys perform worse than girls, with 15,600 behind in their ability.

Separate statistics published two weeks ago also revealed that one in three GCSE pupils fail to get at least a grade C in maths.

The disclosure follows the launch of a Daily Telegraph campaign – Make Britain Count – to highlight the scale of the nation’s mathematical crisis and provide parents with tools to boost their children’s numeracy skills.

It comes amid concerns that schoolchildren are less likely to study maths to a high standard in England, Wales and Northern Ireland than in most other developed nations.

I appeal to Primary teachers to give the text-book a rest and don’t be afraid to try new and exciting ideas to engage your maths students.

Reading “Adds a Year to Children’s Education’

February 8, 2012

I’m not sure where Mr. Gibb gets his measurements from, but there is no doubt that our children are not investing nearly enough time to reading. Similarly, if children were to radically change their reading habits, strong improvement would surely follow:

Nick Gibb, the School Minister, said that reading books for just half an hour a day could be worth up to 12 months’ extra schooling by the age of 15.

Speaking ahead of today’s announcement, Mr Gibb said: “Children should always have a book on the go. The difference in achievement between children who read for half an hour a day in their spare time and those who do not is huge – as much as a year’s education by the time they are 15.

He added: “There is a group of children who can read but won’t read – the reluctant readers.

Currently, as many as one-in-six children are still struggling to read when they leave primary school, figures show. One-in-10 boys aged 11 has a reading age no better a seven-year-old.

Failure to pick up the basics at a young age is believed to have serious long-term consequences. A recent international report showed that almost four-in-10 teenagers in England never read for pleasure – considerably more than in other countries.

As teachers, we are responsible not only for seeing to it that our students read at home, but also that they grow to appreciate books. It is essential that our primary teachers choose relevant, engaging books to read to their students whenever the time permits.

The Unique Challange of Teaching Boys

January 31, 2012

There is no doubt in my mind that teaching boys is a more difficult proposition than teaching girls. It is also clear to me that boys have suffered from a traditional classroom setup which has proven far less successful in engaging them than it has for girls.

Currently in Australia, local television station ABC1 is showing a brilliant series entitled, Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School For Boys. Gareth is a choir master and isn’t qualified to teach, but takes on an 8 week trial with a group of underperforming boys in an attempt to improve their literacy skills.

Mr. Malone draws on his three rules for teaching boys:

1. Make the work feel like play.

2. Have a real sense of competition

3. Have a real sense of risk.

I have just finished watching the first episode and fell in love with his unique and creative style. I also enjoyed watching his colleagues putting down his methods, clearly a byproduct of feeling threatened by this novice.

Below is episode 1 in its entirety. All episodes are available on YouTube.

Boys and Reading: The Constant Struggle

May 18, 2011

The results of a recent survey found that boys don’t enjoy reading and fail to get past 100 pages of a classroom text.  Should we be surprised?  Boys have been disconnected from reading for years, and the question has to be asked – what have we done about it.

The findings are an indictment on how inflexible we are at altering the way we teach:

Many secondary school boys do not have the stamina to read beyond the 100th page of a book, research suggests.

Teachers also revealed that classics of English literature, such as those by Jane Austen, are putting boys off reading.

Some 70% of the 500 teachers surveyed for publishers Pearson said boys had switched off by the 100 page mark.

This is leading many teachers to ditch longer novels in favour of shorter books, it adds.

Teachers were asked to identify points where boys would switch off in class when novels were being read.

A quarter said that the interest cut-off point happened within the first few pages of a book.

A further 22% said interest waned within the first 50 pages, while a further quarter identified the 100 page mark.

Nearly a third of the teachers questioned said boys were put off before the book had even been opened, if they saw it had more than 200 pages.

According to the research, Shakespeare plays including The Tempest, Macbeth and A Midsummer’s Night Dream were particularly unpopular, as was Steinbeck’s 1930s classic, Of Mice and Men.

The reluctance to read could partly explain the achievement gap between boys and girls.

Last year 85% of 11-year-old girls reached the expected level in English for their age compared to 76% of boys. In reading, the gender gap was even more stark at 79% for girls and 64% for boys.

According to children’s organisation Unesco, the biggest single indicator of a child’s future success at school is whether they read for pleasure.

The research is timed to coincide with the launch of a new series of books called Heroes aimed at secondary school pupils which aims to switch boys back on to reading and get them past the crucial 100-page mark.

Best-selling author Frank Cottrell Boyce, consultant editor on the series, said: “Pleasure can’t be taught. Pleasure can only be shared.”

He added that boys should be started on shorter books.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said its research showed that boys lag behind girls not just in literacy skills, but in the amount they read and in the extent to which they enjoy reading.

“This gets worse as children get older. This is a vital issue and one the National Literacy Trust is working hard to address. More needs to be done to engage boys’ and building on their own interests.”

He added that publishers had a crucial role to play in this.

On the subject of publishers, an author who recently read my yet to be published manuscript, commented that had I made my main character a girl instead of a boy, I would have an easier time convincing publishers to publish the book.  She said that since boys don’t read, a girl would have been a more appropriate choice. The comment shocked me.  At no stage did I ever envisage the book to be strictly a book for boys.  I always thought it would be of universal appeal.  But apparently publishing companies don’t see it that way.

Shakespeare and Steinbeck are wonderful, but were never intended to be ones first foray into literature.  Is it so wrong to choose something of lesser literary acclaim for something more contemporary?  The sad reality is, teachers tend not to gravitate to Steinbeck and Shakespeare for their own leisure reading and don’t have strong connection to the texts the curriculum requires them to teach.  For a teacher to effectively inspire their students to love reading, they must love reading.  For students to read beyond page 100, the teacher needs to do more than set reading homework – they need to show the class how enjoyable and meaningful the book is to them.

When I read my manuscript to kids, I am overwhelmed by how much they enjoy the characters and situations.  I love how they connect with the main character and his issues and are able to relate to what he is going through.  Somebody once asked whether the kids enjoy it, not so much for the quality of the writing, but because the author, who has such a deep connection to the material, reads it out with such enthusiasm and joy.

Maybe so.  But isn’t that the key?  For boys to enjoy reading, they must see that their teacher enjoying it too.  If that means dispense with the classics and let the teacher decide what texts to introduce to the classroom – so be it.

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