Closing The Gender Gap – Boys and School
Historically girls have outperformed boys in school. As a former teacher and more importantly a grandfather of two young boys I was curious to find out why there is a gap between boys’ and girls’ school achievement. I also wanted to know what some of our local schools are doing to assist their male students.
David Booth, in his book Even Hockey Players Read, states “As we look at studies and reports that examine boys and girls and their learning styles and special interests, their growth patterns and stages of intellectual development, we do notice differences. While these differences are not seen in all boys or in all girls there are some obvious patterns.”
A paper produced by PBS Parents group states that boys’ learning needs do in fact differ from girls and offers some practical strategies for working with boys at school:
- Boys need lots of opportunities for physical activity. Don’t expect them to sit still for long periods of time.
- Boys learn best when learning is “hands-on”. They learn by touching, moving, and building things.
- Boys need to be exposed to reading that appeals to them and their particular interests ie. non-fiction materials such magazines, graphic novels, manuals and comics.
- Allow boys to write and talk about topics of interest to them.
Deb Johnson, Principal at Robertson Memorial Public School states, “We try to provide as much choice as possible as we know boys like to decide what it is they want to read and write about. We have spent quite a bit of money to build our classroom libraries with non fiction reading material. We also have a corner of the library dedicated to boys’ reading.”
Julie Holmes, Principal at Brookside Public School writes,” We tried to have a male only grade three class, but it turned out to be 18 boys and 2 girls. We are definitely taking a more active approach to teaching in that classroom with mini-activity breaks and lots of non-fiction reading materials. Our school’s literacy purchases have included only non-fiction reading materials for the past two years in order to inspire boys. Our library has dramatically increased magazine selections and graphic novels.”
Colborne Central Public School, according to Principal Angela Cowley, is working with six other area schools as a “networked learning community”. A primary focus of this group of schools is non-fiction writing as it appeals to boys. She states that boys need a purpose for writing and non-fiction writing provides the opportunity “to describe, to persuade, to narrate, and to perform”.
Finally, Alice McDowell, Principal at Victoria Public School, informs us of an article written by teachers Abby Armstrong and Heather Ball which recently appeared in their teachers’ federation magazine. In it they describe the strategies and successes of the writing program at V.P.S. They point out a main focus of the program was the use of technology to motivate boys to write.
While the gap between boys’ and girls’ school achievement continues to exist, through improved strategies based on an awareness that often boys and girls learn differently, the future looks bright for not only our male students but for all of our students.