How to Help Boys Succeed in School
Boys' academic achievement has been a topic of concern for educators and parents alike. Studies show that boys tend to perform worse than girls in school, and this gap only widens as they move through their academic journey. I have noticed more boys struggling over my 24 years teaching 8th graders. It is something I am going to learn more about as part of my professional development. What is it about schools, society, and boys that have changed over the years to create an environment where these challenges exist? So far, I have learned about several strategies that educators and parents can use to help boys succeed in school. In this article, we'll explore some of the most effective strategies. Here's what I have learned so far.
- Studies show that boys tend to perform worse than girls in school. (Martin & Ruble, 2010; Robinson & Lubienski, 2011)
- Boys' academic achievement gap only widens as they move through their academic journey. (Gurian, Henley, & Trueman, 2001)
- Boys tend to face more behavioral challenges than girls in school. (US News & World Report, 2016)
Understanding Boys' Learning Styles
Boys' learning styles differ from those of girls. Boys tend to be more kinesthetic learners, which means they learn through physical activities and hands-on experiences. To accommodate boys' learning needs, educators should incorporate more physical activities and experiments into their lesson plans. For example, you can use manipulatives to teach math concepts or incorporate science experiments that involve building and creating. I have also witnessed boys respond positively to the right kind of competition as a means to increase engagement.
Providing Male Role Models
Positive male role models have a significant impact on boys' academic success. Male teachers, coaches, and mentors can provide guidance, support, and inspiration for boys. They also serve as examples of what boys can achieve academically and professionally. Educators can incorporate male role models into their lesson plans by inviting male guest speakers or arranging for male mentors to work with students. Taking the time to analyze the positive character traits of role models from history and present-day is a good start. Begin by exploring the question “What makes a good role model?”
Fostering Positive Relationships
Research shows that social connections are critical for boys' academic achievement. Teachers and parents can help boys build positive relationships by encouraging them to participate in extracurricular activities or join clubs that align with their interests. Educators can also create a classroom environment that fosters positive relationships by encouraging collaboration and teamwork. Forming positive relationships should be explicitly taught and modeled. The prevailing assumption up to this point may have been that parents provide this sort of instruction at home and in their daily lives, but I suspect this has become increasingly less prevalent.
Addressing Behavioral Issues
Boys tend to face more behavioral challenges than girls in school. Educators can address these challenges by using a variety of disciplinary approaches. Instead of punitive measures, educators can use positive reinforcement and praise to encourage positive behavior. Teachers can also work with parents to create a behavior management plan that reinforces positive behavior at home. An area that holds promise for boys is incorporating restorative discipline practices. These must be instituted with fidelity, but when done right, they can be quite effective. This is another case of what’s good for boys is also good for everyone else.
Encouraging Physical Activity
Physical activity is essential for boys' academic performance. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which can improve memory and cognitive function. Educators can incorporate movement breaks into their lesson plans, allowing students to get up and move around during class. Brain Breaks should be a part of each lesson plan and should be implemented at age-appropriate intervals. The next time you're at a staff meeting, take time to observe your colleagues. I’m sure you’ll see evidence that even with adults brain breaks are needed. Teachers can also encourage physical activity by incorporating sports and games into their curriculum.
By incorporating these strategies into your teaching and parenting, educators and parents can help boys succeed in school. Boys' academic achievement is critical not only for their individual success but also for the well-being of their families and communities.
- Gurian, M., Henley, P., & Trueman, T. (2001). Boys and girls learn differently!: a guide for teachers and parents. Jossey-Bass.
- Martin, C. L., & Ruble, D. N. (2010). Patterns of gender development. Annual review of psychology, 61, 353-381.
- Robinson, J. P., & Lubienski, S. T. (2011). The development and contextualization of gender gaps in mathematics and reading. International Journal of Educational Research, 50(5), 336-348.
- US News & World Report. (2016, June 22). Boys bear the brunt of school discipline. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-06-22/boys-bear-the-brunt-of-school-discipline