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Daniel Wolpert: The real reason for brains
Here a few tidbits I would like to pass on regarding some strategies and methods I researched, implemented, and found successful when teaching boys.
Boys work better in cooler environments. Studies have shown that boys stay more alert and active when the room temperatures is around 68F (20C). In California, our temperatures, even in the Winter, rarely get below the mid 50’s but it is good to prop a window to introduce fresh cool air even in a California Winter.
Using Video in Class?
Showing a video to boys, at the high school level, generally means lights out, heads down. When considering a video as part of the lesson determine if it is a scene or the parts of a movie you want to demonstrate, or use as your point. Videos can be edited in sections and even if you don’t have FinalCut™, AfterEffects™ or some other professional software, there are a host of free video editing softwares available both online and for downloading (I’ll be adding more on this in the EduTech section of this blog). Showing the whole video may be necessary, so in those cases I found it best to create a list of questions on the movie to answer while it was playing. At the end of the movie or class I collected the sheet of questions and answers, and added this to the grade as part of the overall assignment.
Teaching Math to boys? After explaining a lesson on how to complete the answer for a math problem I would generally write three problems on the chalkboard or whiteboard and then call up three students to work the problems out.
Once the student was at the board and working on the problem, I had a visual assessment on the lesson, as well as, being able to help a struggling student. If this procedure is done all the time, the boys tend to pay attention because they know they will be called up. In the end, it becomes a competition with the boys at the board and those still at their desks who are also working to find the math solutions, or maybe even an alternative solution that they can share and boast about. Alternative solutions were given extra credit, which made it more of a game.
Interesting enough we already do separate boys and girls. In sports, club activities (the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts), some organizations (YMCA and YWCA), even some summer camps are restricted to same sex activities, bathrooms and changing rooms. There are others.
So, if we accept these separations why not at the educational level? Brain and physiology studies show that boys and girls develop at different rates at different times. Why do we continue to insist and expect that putting both sexes in the same classroom and teaching both sexes exactly the same will work?
Alabama has separated the sexes and now has come under attack by the ACLU.
“We understand that teachers and parents want to provide the best education for their children. But coeducation was never the problem with failing schools, and single-sex programs are not the answer,” said Christina Brandt-Young, attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “These programs are poorly designed and based on pseudoscience and stereotypes that do nothing to enhance learning, and only reinforce discredited ideas about how boys and girls behave” (Leech, 2012).
Single-sex education has been around for thousands of years. It wasn’t until the end of the 18th Century that co-educational classes were being instituted in the United States. In 2005 covering 2221 studies was commissioned by the US Department of Education entitled Single-sex versus coeducational schooling: A systematic review. The review demonstrated positive results and arguments for establishing public single sex classes.
True, every child learns differently. Researcher and educator, Howard Gardner (Harvard University), developed a study and discovered seven distinct intelligences called Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence. These seven distinct intelligences also work differently with how boys and girls perceive their world. The ACLU lawyers have no foundation for their political case. In the last 10 years, there has been a multitude of brain and cognitive research to demonstrate how male and female brains form, perceive their environments and function. The good point that we can all be thankful for are that these are lawyers not educators.
While the fight continues in Alabama, a successful experiment of separating 5th grade boys and girls has shown much success in the Bronx in New York.
The single-sex classes at Public School 140, which started as an experiment last year to address sagging test scores and behavioral problems, are among at least 445 such classrooms nationwide, according to the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education. Most have sprouted since a 2004 federal regulatory change that gave public schools freedom to separate girls and boys (Medina, 2009).
After working in two all boys private high schools here in Southern California for the past 25 years, I am confident that boys learn better in a single-sex environment. The statistics of the number of boys graduating from single-sex schools, and the percentage of college acceptance letters these boys have received is higher than boys from local area public high schools. These statistics are on record. I would be open to questions and further discussion on this topic.
Leech, M. (2012). Alabama public school separates boys and girls for all classes. The ACLU has a problem with this. Retrieved from http://www.cafemom.com/group/99198/forums/read/17736762/Alabama_public_school_separates_boys_and_girls_for_all_classes_The_ACLU_has_a_problem_with_this
Medina, J. (2009, March 10). Boys and Girls Together, Taught Separately in Public School. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/11/education/11gender.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
National Association for Single Sex Education. http://www.singlesexschools.org/home.php