Leonardo's Apprentice

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Personal Thoughts

“A mentor’s position is not to give answers nor to direct another person’s actions, but to practice the art of listening, and learn how to ask the right questions.”  Peter Romero


computersComputers, laptops and iPads have become as common as the number 2 pencil. .  The research shows that 75% of today’s schools are using computers as part of the curriculum.  However, the very companies and institutions that have created and promoted technology (i.e., Apple, Microsoft) have funded the vast majority of the studies available, raising questions to the validity and objectivity in the research (Educational Week, Dec. 30, 2012).

For example, the iPad was introduced in April 3, 2010.  In that year, a number of stories emerged on student achievement and success in the classroom (Crump, M., Mar 29, 2010).   Since the release of the first iPad, we have seen the development and release of several generations of Kindle, Nook, ACER, and Microsoft e-tablet products.  Included with each of these technology releases has included the promise of student achievement, creativity and promotion under the NCLB program.

However, the purpose of this dialog is not to discuss the type of technology that is being put into the hands of our students, nor is to bash technology.  But to ask a simple question in how is technology in schools being assessed?

Grant you; the majority of students in the United States have access to technology at school, home or even their local public library.  While in school students generally use technology as a word processor and information gathering source (Royer, 2002).  Many research studies on the efficacy of technology tools for teaching and learning, studies are not supporting a strong conclusion that the return on investment is showing any future promises for success.

I found one article called, “How To Know If You’re Correctly Integrating Technology,”  that I believe to be on the right track of assessing the integration of technology into the curriculum.  A copy of the matrix is found below.



CEO Forum. (2000). The power of digital learning: Integrating digital content. The CEO Forum school technology and readiness report, year three . Washington, DC: CEO Forum on Education and Technology.

Crump, M. (2010). Pros and Cons of the iPad in Education. GIGAOM.  Retrieved from


Royer, R. (2002). Supporting technology integration through action research.

The Clearing House , 75(5), 233-237.


Strategies and Methods in Teaching Boys

Here a few tidbits I would like to pass on regarding some strategies and methods I researched, implemented, and found successful when teaching boys.

Be Cool

hotcoldBoys 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?

video_buttonShowing 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.

Math Suggestion

At the boardTeaching 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.

Mentoring Boys

Screen shot 2013-01-06 at 8.59.34 PM

On this page I will be collecting tips, strategies and successful programs dealing with the education of boys.  I have worked for over 25 years teaching and mentoring boys.  My experience has been at all educational levels from elementary to university students.  I will be adding my own suggestions from my past experience as well as current research.  I am opening this page up for dialog, sharing and comments.

The following pdf is an excellent source for the male teacher who is looking for ways to motivate male students in general.  In addition, this brief report is a great overview for female teachers who are dealing with issues with boys in the classroom and who are looking for ways on how to reach boys.   Download: Mentoring Boys.

Quotes Regarding Mentoring:

Plutart“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”


“Do not train boys to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”


“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward

How Boys Learn

Boys Do Learn Better in Single-Sex Classes

boysgirls_2 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.

Screen shot 2013-01-05 at 11.21.41 AM

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

No Whitewash Here

mark_twain1If you are male, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is not just a classic piece of literature, but an educational manual on how boys function and learn.   On the other hand, if you are female your perception might be closer to how a boy learned what true love and forgiveness was.  It is true; men and women are wired differently.

I would argue that boys who lived in the 19th Century are not that far removed from boys living in the 21st Century.  True, city boys today don’t have small islands to go off to play pirates, but they still play pirates today using Lego’s or by becoming a character in a video game.

Hidden in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are life’s lessons that boys grow to learn as well as how they best learn them.  So, allow me to take a few excerpts from this manual that might help you with your son or male student in better understanding how a boy thinks and how to motivate him.

Boys enjoy motivating themselves by scoring the highest points, being the first to reach the next level in a video game, or achieving a Letter in a sport activity.  So, why doesn’t this happen in the classroom with grades as the point maker, or being able to move on to the next chapter of a book, or achieving a certificate, ribbon or button?  Let’s see what Mr. Twain has to say about this.

“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do… There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.”

Boys will spend a considerable amount of time learning the ins and outs of a video game, working long hours to find a noise in a car engine, or reading cheat notes for a game in play.  However, getting a boy to do his homework, turn in his homework on time, or even using the spell checker when typing up a paper involves threats, punishments and sanctions from both parents and teachers.  So, how does one motivate a boy?  Again, Twain supplies another hint.



Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

“Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”

“Say – I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work – wouldn’t you? Course you would!”

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

“What do you call work?”

“Why, ain’t that work?”

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”

“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”

The brush continued to move.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticized the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

“Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.”

There are ways to motivate boys, but are not what you either might expect or consider. “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.”, (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II Scene 3).   First, there are dominance hierarchies for both sexes, but the boys’ hierarchy tends to be more stable (that is, the rules are more agreed upon) than the girls hierarchy (Maccoby, E.E., & Jacklin, C. N., 1999), and women need to understand this in order to motivate boys.  A boy is born already hardwired in this. Secondly, boys must have a vested interest in order to work.  Understanding these and other rules that govern a boy’s actions help teachers in planning their classroom lessons.  Twain’s whitewash scenario addresses all of these points, however with that said, it should also be understood that these rules need to be tweaked depending on the boy’s culture, socioeconomic level, and age.  One size doesn’t fit all here.

So, are we back to square one?  No.  There are common denominators that fit all boys that can be discussed and implemented.  I have found, in my 30 years of education, the old adage, “Boys will be boys,” to be quite true whether I was dealing with a boy from a Yaqui reservation, or a boy from the Bronx; a boy from Japan or from Holland.   I have researched, implemented and tweaked  several fields of educational research that worked with boys of different socioeconomic standings,  different cultures, and ages.   I have discovered gems and exposed media hype in topics of brain research to educational marketing tools.   The purpose of this blog is to create and serve the global educational community with what is being done to address the theories, programs and projects that are getting results with how boys best learn.  I am looking forward to the dialogs and exchanges that will help boys, at all ages, to achieve their potentials in education and their futures.


Maccoby, E.E., & Jacklin, C. N. (1999).  The Psychology of Sex Differences.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Twain, M. (1876).  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  Retrieved from http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/sawyr-table.html.