Recently we were privileged enough to spend 5 hours doing professional development in the company of Dr Ian Lillico from Boys Forward Institute. We covered a lot of material in five hours and it was hard for me to select which aspects of boys’ education to blog about because he made so many valuable points. One would hope that all teachers are already giving lessons that are exciting, enjoyable, rewarding and satisfying. I have chosen to share a few points that he made on the day as I think they are essential for all of us to understand if we are teaching boys.
Children of today are less attentive. They can attend for their age span + 3 minutes. Standing increases their attentiveness and teachers should try and introduce new concepts while kids are standing. We could even explore the possibility of “standing desks” at the back of the classroom.
Kids should be allowed to fidget. (This one is SO hard for me…I hate fidgeting. However we have had some success getting kids who fidget to sit on slightly filled hot water bottles. I also encourage kids to fiddle on their laps under the desk. Then I can’t hear it or see it and they are not disturbing anyone.) According to Dr Lillico, if boys draw on a coloured piece during shared reading, their comprehension is higher than if they sit still. If they fidget, they have less anxiety and pay more attention.
Children have become more attention seeking at school because they currently get minimal two-way dialogue at home – related to the busy lifestyles of today. The average time a father spends fully interacting with his son is 8 seconds a day, and a mother interacts for an average of 3 ½ minutes. Those are some frightening figures. Therefore, the teacher impact on our students is much bigger than it was in the past as we seem to be interacting more with our students than the parents do.
Kids of today have a tight net of communication and are staying in touch with each other nearly 24 hours a day using social media. For this reason, they are sleeping “hot,” i.e. Their body systems are not cooling properly as their system does not shut down properly (listening out for messages) They would therefore need a litre of water in the morning to hydrate so they can learn properly during the day – but they are not doing this.
At the age of 12, boys are at their emotional peak (for girls it is 10 ½ ) Any turbulence therefore that a boy is faced with around the age of 12 has a deeper impact than usual. Boys usually go to high school at the age of 12. Divorce in the family when a boy is around 12 years old will have a greater emotional consequence for the boy than if he was younger or older.
Male to male approval does not happen verbally. Men will possibly pat each other on the back or make a high five. Boys don’t praise each other, but they do put each other down. They do not therefore hear those good adjectives very often. The implication is that they don’t often have the vocabulary to express what they are feeling and so it comes out as anger. When boys start school they have a third of the vocabulary that girls do.
Boys need the “imprint” on their work. Saying their work is great is not good enough – they want to see you put it down on paper so they can keep it.
Most boys read non-fiction. Boys who don’t read fiction do not know how to escape into their own imagination/head for a while. The suicide levels in boys who read fiction before the age of 15 are much lower.
Boys tell you more things when they are moving. Go for walks, go for a drive… (I have been experimenting with this one – it is so true. Try it.)
I think a lot of what Dr Lillico said at his professional development relates to girls as well. Check out his website for more information and resources.