How to Help Boys in the Classroom

November 1, 2013

"Girl behavior is the gold standard in schools," says psychologist Michael Thompson. "Boys are treated like defective girls." Being a boy can be a serious liability in today's classroom.  Young male rambunctiousness, according to a recent study, leads teachers to underestimate their intellectual and academic abilities, says Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

If boys are constantly subject to disapproval for their interests and enthusiasms, they are likely to become disengaged and lag further behind.  Schools need to work with, not against, the kinetic imaginations of boys to move them toward becoming educated young men.

Here are three modest proposals for reform:

  • Bring back recess. According to a research summary by Science Daily, since the 1970s, schoolchildren have lost close to 50% of their unstructured outdoor playtime. Thirty-nine percent of first-graders today get 20 minutes of recess each day - or less. (
  • Turn boys into readers. Every teacher should have an up-to-date knowledge of reading materials that will appeal to disengaged boys. Parents need access to information on how successful schools are in supporting boys' literacy.
  • Work with the young male imagination. Ralph Fletcher advises teachers to consider their assignments from the point of view of boys. Personal narratives full of emotion and self-disclosure are prized; stories describing video games, skateboard competitions or a monster devouring a city are not.

Teachers have to come to terms with the young male spirit. As Fletcher urges, if we want boys to flourish, we are going to have to encourage their distinctive reading, writing, drawing and even joke-telling propensities.

Source: Christina Hoff Sommers, "What Schools Can Do To Help Boys Succeed," American Enterprise Institute, October 28, 2013.

 

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