Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day
Research shows that not only do boys and girls respond differently to similar environments, children in general like to do what they can do, and they hate to do what they think they cannot do. Citing several credible sources, Andrew Pudewa offers insight into specific ways you can create relevancy for children as you teach them academic as well as life skills.
Andrew Pudewa (Institute for Excellence in Writing) is a motivating and inspiring speaker. I've heard him speak before and I bought the IEW curriculum based solely on hearing him speak. So, I chose this seminar knowing it would be great, even though we had to enter after he had already begun. Andrew did not disappoint.
The beginning of this talk focused on the differences between genders. I took notes on the things that particularly struck me, so my notes may be a bit disjointed. If any of this piques your interest, I recommend downloading the audio, available HERE from IEW for $3.00.
The first thing I wrote down is that boys often don't even notice when they are making sounds or noises. (This describes my second son, now age 12, PERFECTLY.)
Andrew stated that for him, "most of school was about surviving boredom." He recounted that things like counting the tiles on the ceiling or biting his own arm kept him from dying of boredom. (LOL!)
Eyesight - due to a difference in the amount of rods and cones present in the eyes, most women see color & texture with more intensity and most men see direction & speed with more intensity.
Gender-separate schools are a beneficial idea, especially in grades K-2.
Teaching writing - men tend towards verbs and adverbs, while women include more nouns and adjectives. So, when women teachers help boys write, they can ask, "Do you want me to help you add in more ACTION?" (rather than more detail) Mark Twain said, "If you see an adjective, kill it. If it comes back to life, let it live."
Ambient Temperature - Boys learn best at a room temperature of 68-69 degrees (and girls feel cold). Girls prefer a temp of 74-75 (and boys fall asleep).
About annoying behavior - Andrew said, "he's a boy. He's clueless." LOL He doesn't realize he's doing _____. (whatever it is). So try setting up a code signal (with movement). When he sees you do the code signal, he should check to see what part of his body is moving and try to stop it.
Stress - Belief used to be that humans all responded with "fight or flight" but more research shows that males have that response, but females have either a "tend & befriend" or a "hide and disappear" response to stress. Men have an increase in heart rate, etc... and want to stand and walk in response to stress (even just a discussion). It's their sympathetic nervous system kicking in. (I wrote this down, but I don't understand it. lol) Women's parasympathetic nervous system kicks in instead and they have a decrease in heart rate, etc.. and want to lay down or sit down in response to stress.
Males think better when moving and walking. So allowing a boy-friendly environment can have significant results, even doubling test scores.
Don't tell boys to put on a coat.
Pain - In males, pain increases blood flow to the brain, allowing then to think more clearly. In females, pain decreases blood flow to the brain. He made a special point to say that boys think pain feels good. (I starred this in my notes! lol) He said spanking works for boys, but is not so effective for girls. Boys show their affection through punching, kicking, pinching, etc...
Andrew recommended books by Leonard Sax, especially Why Gender Matters.
The second part of the talk focused on the art and science of motivation. He discussed several types of relevancy because things are easier to learn when they are relevant.
1 - Intrinsic Relevancy - It's part of who you are (your special interests) or it is universally relevant (everyone has an interest in it). Capitalize on intrinsic relevancy.
The material learned when young is not as important as the METHOD of learning it. (Learning how to learn)
2 - Inspired Relevancy - A good teacher can make things relevant. Try making trades with other homeschool moms to get them to teach your kids what they love.
3 - Contrived Relevancy - This refers to material that isn't intrinsically interesting, so you have to make it interesting by the context. Try creating a game for this material.
Rules for these games: 1 - The child must be able to win. (It's not motivating if they know they will never win.) 2 - Positive and Negative consequences must both be included.
4 - Forced Relevancy (or maybe Enforced?) - Anyway, this is the stuff that is never interesting, but it must be learned anyway. Just make sure that the balance you use doesn't cause a "hate" of learning.
Finding that balance:
Children like to do what they think they can do. "Look at me! Look what I can do!"
If children think they can do something, they will want to try. Conversely, children will refuse to do what they think they cannot do.
60-80% of lessons should be what they can do already - making it easier.
20-40% should be what they think they can do.
0% should be what they believe they cannot do.
Find positive things to say. Affirm them and create trust, then you can correct them.
The power of a smile - It's contagious and powerful and allows you to communicate well.
Andrew ended by telling a story of a time that his young daughter came along to one of the writing workshops he taught for students. He was his usual motivational and cheerful self while teaching other people's kids. But his daughter asked him afterward, "Daddy, how come you're not like that at home?" Convicting.
Here are a couple other blog posts that sum up this talk. They hit a couple things I may have missed.
Life-Nurturing Education - Motivating Students with Relevant Lessons
Homeschool View - Teaching Boys and Others Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day