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xmasparty
Raising Boys Attainment or Superheroes need Super Teachers

Boys… They have it tough. The gender attainment gaps in Primary school result in a reduction of life choices and chances by the end of High School. In 2011  48% girls went to University whereas only 37% boys had the same chance.
At our INSET with Gary Wilson (www.garywilsonraisingboysachievement.co.uk) on Friday we were taken through the challenges of boyhood and the barriers to boys learning. From succumbing to the peer police (“Better to be seen not to be bothered by winning than to try and fail.”) to issues with independence; with parents who have been lured into the false impression that it’s easier to do everything for our boys rather than live with constant nagging, raised blood pressure and ranting that even the smallest of requests can result in. From low self esteem to the negative labels society puts onto boys from a very early age Gary is on a one man mission to change these negative stereotypes (once challenging British Home Stores when they advertised a boys T-shirt in their Spring Collection declaring “Lazy and proud of it!”).

So what can we do in our schools and classrooms to give boys the best opportunities to meet their potential? Gary’s main suggestions of the day were: 

- Promote breakfast – by not eating breakfast by 10.30am we have the reaction speed of a 70year old. 
- Promote a “can do” ethos  -  internal auditory is louder in boys heads.
- Positive visualisation ensures success – Imagining yourself doing well means you most probably will.
- Feed your brain! Giving children fruit and a drink prior to test helps with attainment.
- Assist neuropathways by ‘piggyback’ learning- teach someone else what you’ve learned. 
- Promote creativity- children who play instruments do better at school.
- Develop leadership capacity in boys so they get attention for the right reasons.
- Boys prefer active learning. Although there’s a need to balance approaches across learning styles make sure there’s enough active learning events in our lessons to motivate and engage so boys work to the best of their ability. 
- Superheroes! Tapping  into this genre helps to boys to make links to the real world. Staff should value play based on children’s interest whilst promoting order and boundaries. Superhero play = emotional intelligence = clear rules = structure = guidelines for success. 
- Ban setting! Setting reinforces negative stereotypes. The younger a child is ‘set’ the worst they’ll do at age 16. 
- Celebrate success by using hand written ‘I did great work’ style labels as success stickers to give parents a focus to celebrate success at home.
- Aifl- use those lolly sticks or a random name generator (http://www.classtools.net/education-games-php/fruit_machine) to ensure children are focused and expect to be included in the lesson.
- Plan the plenary! Don’t let the boys skip any part of Kolb’s learning cycle (http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html) in their rush to be finished.
- Focus on Fiction: it promotes emotional intelligence and 
          – exposes children to wider experiences,
          – aids understanding of what others think,
          – helps children identify with characters and their issues,
          – gives children strategies to deal with dilemmas.
-Set up Systems - When in doubt give them a system! 
- Think in the short term for long term success: Short term goals, short term targets, short term rewards = boys striving for success.
-Cut out the copying out – it has no purpose and is predominantly used as behaviour control. Out of the mouths of boys: “Teachers’ can’t be bothered to teach us when we’re copying out.”
-Make learning real and fun by giving children real audiences. Use Crazy Talk (http://www.reallusion.com/crazytalk/crazytalk_trial.asp) software to manipulate pictures and provide a purpose to writing. 
- focus on fine motor control development. Often this is an area of difficulty for boys (http://scotens.org/sen/articles/primary_reflexes.pdf) so praise for quality ideas when quality presentation is a mountain too high!
- Consider training staff to teach the children peer massage  (http://www.misascotland.org.uk/index.htm) or yoga (http://www.yogascotland.org.uk/findteacher.html). Positive touch  and relaxation helps to keep students calm, focused and motivated.

Through Gary’s work with groups of boys their top tips are:
- Choose the right time of day to teach important stuff- not when we’re excited.
- don’t criticise if you can’t read my handwriting, it’s not always the most important thing.
- be more persuasive!
- writing in small chunks is best.
- we want to write in any way we want!
- use mind mapping ideas.
- you start the story, let us kids finish it.
- give us basic ideas to get started.
- make it fun!
- use lots of props.
- find out what interests us
- use mind maps as a form of plenary/ help me share my learning with a partner.
- read to us – it helps us with our own stories and poems. 
- let us act stories out.
- give us time to think and talk.
- model writing – use visualisers to share pupil work.

All the approaches above are very much good learning and teaching and would benefit any pupil regardless of gender but with a focus on engaging boys and bridging the attainment gaps the whole class will benefit.

Other places to get Gary’s words of wisdom are:

http://www.oxfordschoolimprovement.co.uk/professional-development

YouTube:

Books:

http://www.garywilsonraisingboysachievement.co.uk/publications.htm

Sometimes, it’s the little things
April 27, 2011
2

Cross-Posted on Fearghal Kelly’s thoughts

I’m just back in the classroom this week – phew, I’d forgotten how much of a rollercoaster teaching is! You strap yourself in and off you go…good fun though!

One of the things though which has really struck me this week so far is how much I’ve changed as a teacher in the last couple of years – but if you were observing me you might not even notice. For example, when planning for some of the lessons this week I was looking through some of the supporting PowerPoints on the server and while the were perfectly fine, I just had to make a couple of changes. Rather than starting with titles and learning intentions, I added striking relevant images to the start to get the discussion going, their brains whirring and make them inquisitive. And where there was a diagram, I tried when possible to add a picture or a video to give the slide more relevance and interest.

There’s other examples as well. When meeting each of my classes, I haven’t started by reading out the rules and telling them the consequences of their actions and so on. I’ve started by telling them a little about me, finding a little about them and carrying out an activity which required them to work in groups to share their thoughts on how they learn, what they’ve learnt, why they want to do well, why science is relevant and how they should behave and then getting them to summarise the responses – some which are fantastic.

One of my classes is revising for an exam and so with 20 minutes remaining in a lesson I told them to open their textbook to the contents page, find the topic which they found the hardest and go to that chapter. I then told them to look at the questions in the chapter and not to do any which they knew the answer to, skip those and do the ones which they had no clue about. This threw quite a few of them, but I simply explained that they were there to learn and to do so they needed to search out the things they can’t do – not the things they can do already. I’ll be honest and admit I made this up on the spot – I’ve never taken this approach to revision before.

All of these examples are tiny. I’m almost embarrassed to be writing them up and publishing them on the web as so many of you probably to do all of this and more every day. What I am proud of, and the reason I can bring myself to publishing this, is that to me these are much more than simple ‘techniques’. These are the manifestation of much of the reading I have been undertaking into learning and I am therefore convinced that the consistent application of approaches such of these, and more, will lead to better learning experiences for the pupils in my classes.

So much of Curriculum for Excellence is being undermined by the perceived expectation that lessons need to appear radically different. I disagree with this assessment of the change. For me, lessons can appear to have changed only a little to the untrained eye, but should be increasingly planned with a sound educational rationale in mind. That will take time however.

Medicine and agriculture are now both ‘evidence based’, and it is time for education to follow their example. It is no shame to follow them; it is easier to work out how a liver works or how a plant grows than how a person learns. But we do know a great deal about how people learn now, and we need to change our practice accordingly. Geoff Petty, Evidence Based Teaching

Involving Pupils in Assessment

One of the questions on the Suggested Themes page is:

How, realistically, can pupils be involved in both their learning and assessment?

This really reminded me of a practical example from Stoneyhill Primary School, where P3 demonstrated how they are actively involved in their assessment…

As a secondary teacher, I love this video. It exemplifies not only how it’s possible to involve pupils in assessment, but also that the Primary 3 pupils are gaining a lot from having this sort of opportunity. And if they can do this in P3, imagine what they could be doing in S1!