Thursday, October 22, 2009

Boys learn differently

Here’s an interesting educational development.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is proposing a boys-only public school and boy-friendly teaching strategies. The TDSB is Canada’s largest school board.

“When every bone in your body is telling you to get up and move around, we’re telling (boys) to sit down,” Chris Spence, the TDSB’s education director, told the CBC yesterday.

An editorial in today’s Globe and Mail noted that, “26 per cent of (Canadian) girls scored at the top level in reading, compared with just 19 per cent of boys.” And there were many more boys than girls at the bottom level. I suspect these statistics would bear out for other countries as well.

It gets worse. Only 57 per cent of boys were at the national standard on Ontario’s Grade 6 writing exam (compared with 78 per cent of girls). And the Globe points out that “the testing arm of the Education Ministry says it has no publicly available research on the reasons” for that.

Well, I think we know. Spence was right on the money when he said that boys have to move around when they learn, which is the polar opposite of what the school system generally demands of them.

But that's fine. Because if our schools can't handle it, then parents can just fill the gap.

Walk outside with your boy – let him read the signs and ads that are all around us. When you’re reading to him, give him a ball to quietly toss from hand to hand. Talk to him about long and short vowel sounds while you’re kicking a soccer ball. "That tree - short or long vowel? This ball - short or long?"

The new boy-centric school could be open as early as next year. In the meantime, there’s a ton that parents can do to get their boys reading.

By the way, Chris Spence is the author of a number of books, including The Joys of Teaching Boys and Creating a Literacy Environment for Boys. He also has a blog.

The props for this picture were immediately at hand. They're six of the ba-zillion balls we have around the house. Boys need to bounce, toss, throw, catch and generally move around. They just do. And if you're smart, you'll use that moving-around time to discuss important stuff with them, because when their bodies are in gear, so are their minds.

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