The topic of what responses
to use for boys has also been a reoccurring theme. Many researches have
noted that boys need short activities which will keep them moving around
(Murphy, 2001; Norman, 2002; Sabesta, 2002; Worthy, 2002; Millard, 2001;
Bauer, 2002). When the boys are active while responding to a book
selection, it is felt that they will respond better (Murphy, 2001). This
is referred to as action talk. Murphy acknowledges that boys and girls
learn and respond differently. She is able to ask the girls what they felt
about a book, whereas the boys have to be coerced into giving a meaningful
response. Bauer (2002), felt that most boys are kinesthetic learners, “where
they learn best by moving their bodies, rather than sitting and listening.”
I have come across many ways to motivate boys’ responses. Some possible methods would be to allow the children to pick what response they would like to use. This will allow for more diverse, thoughtful responses and “gives them the opportunity to think more broadly”(Short, Kauffman, Kahn, 2000). There is also the concern that some children do not like responding because they do not know what the right answer is or what the teacher wants (Leggo, 1998; Dydbahl, 2001; Bauer, 2002).
Leggo, a popular children’s author, speaks of deconstruction. There should not be a hidden meaning in a text, rather, the children should use past experiences and their imagination for responding. When this is accomplished the child will have more self confidence, and the motivation to attempt more in-depth analysis (Leggo, 1998). It should be stressed that there are no “right” answers when responding. One boy noted that “I get frustrated when I have to write my opinion. I don’t know that the right answers are.”(Bauer, 2002). As a result, Dybdahl (2001), tells her students not to worry about getting the “right” meaning out of a poem, rather, she wants them to “think about YOUR response.” She does stress that there are no right answers mainly because the children come from various backgrounds, and have different life-experiences.
Testing without being concerned with content can also be applied here. After a summer dialogue journal, one child was penalised because she did not follow the correct directions for writing. Instead of using a pen, the girl used a pencil. The teacher only commented on this, and did not comment on what she had written. The teacher was not concerned if the student understood the story or how well she critiqued it (Glazer, 2002). Rather than giving a mark on a journal entry, the teacher should give constructive criticism (http://www.literacytrust.org.uk 2002).
Another concern I have come across is that some teachers are not allowing students to draw or sketch before writing their response (Millard, 2001). Millard believes that children get their ideas first from drawing, and then they will write a more meaningful response. She feels that there should be visual stimulation, followed by composition. As a result, when the boys at the school she was analysing were asked to critique pieces of their work they chose small pieces. This is because they were only concerned with correcting grammar, not with developing their thoughts.
There are various ways to motivate boys into learning and responding. One way to target boys at an early age would be to place them in single-sex classrooms (Strauss, 2002). Strauss noted that some schools in the United States have started using this strategy. It is no longer something used only in private schools. The Bush administration has placed it in some schools and it has been widely successful. According to Strauss (2002), because they have been in separate classes, boys have a better self confidence and they do not have the peer pressure stigma of “learning is not cool.” However there is some opposition to this project.
The simple fact is that
boys and girls do learn differently (Strauss, 2002; Millard, 2001; Bauer,
2002). Many have observed that boys like acting out a story in the form
of a play or through sketching (Bauer, 2002), however it has also been
reported that boys are very interested in computers. According to Millard
(2001), they would rather work on a computer than write a response.
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