NSDC Breakout Session 2: Closing the Male Literacy Gap

[Live Blogged]

Kelly King, Principal
Dawn Ryan, Teacher
Boulder Valley Schools

Doing personal intros. Just got a tease of brain research. I’m feeling a little excited.

Showing a cartoon, “I need you to line up by attention span.”

Telling a story by grown men to illustrate differences between boys and girls. I’m engaged. Boys throwing darts at each other in the dark.

Using cooperative learning to share brain research. My fact, “Boys get bored more easily than girls, requiring more varied stimulation to keep them attentive.”

Just talked about the use of music as a buffer between conversations.

Stress hormones “coritzol(sp?)” go up when you’re low on the pecking order.

“PET scans show the resting female brain is as active as the male brain working on a problem.”

This creates different tendancies in motivational patterns between male and female brains.

Going to talk about male and female brains definitively for the purpose of making points.

“There are actual physical structural differences between the male and female brains.”

Obj:
1. “at-riskness” among boys
2. understand chem. and struc. differences between male and female brains.
3. learn about effective inst. practice for addressing brain needs of both boys and girls.

Girls are outperforming boys in all industrialized countries in reading literacies.

(me – exam Phoenix’s writing scores by gender)

Showing data on improvement of boys’ scores since the school began focusing on boys.

They were in the Newsweek article “The Boy Crisis.”

“With Boys and Girls in Mind” Education Leadership, Nov. 2004. – great stats. on boy achievement.

Collaborative investigation of a fact that we find interesting. Partner is “take the answers down 5 ‘whys’.” (me – I want this slideshow)

For every 100 girls…

…suspended from school, there are 250 boys.
…expelled from school, there are 335 boys.
…who earn a masters degree, there are 62 males.

“Just the Facts” cards?

Sit and Get is tolerated by the neurological make-up of girls.
Biology is for cavemen. Sociology is advanced.

Key Brain Differences Impacting Learning:
New Yorker cover with “make-up” of teen brain.

Verbal-Spatial Difference: females have more coritcal areas in brain for verbal thinking. More resources for putting emotions into words.
Males more spatial thinking cortical areas. Males may need to prime pump before jumping in to descriptive writing. Females may need to hold model to get to thinking about concepts like rotating things in space.

Memory and Sensory Difference: Girls sing in tunes 6x more often. More boys are prone to color-blindness. Females see sharper more vivid color, more sensitive touch and acute sense of taste. This goes back to survival. Male better are depth perception, tracking objects through space, better at navigating through spatial areas. You recall an event using the senses you collected it with. Prime the pump differently to get more detail.

Frontal Lobe Development: develops in mid-20s for females, early 30s for males. Suppresses impulsive behavior. This is part of writing and risk-taking behaviors.

Cross-Talk Between the Hemispheres: Females have 20% more thickening between corpus colosum than males. More nerves, more communication between hemispheres. Male brain compartmentalizes and lateralizes brain activity. Female brain disperses activity around the brain to solve the same problem. When there’s a learning problem, it’s more difficult for the male brain to delegate problems. This points to stroke recovery and females regaining speech function better. Males tend to operate more in the left hemisphere, females in right hemisphere. Right side thinks more about problems and anxieties. 75% of divorces are initiated by females. Male brain is more learning fragile (disabilities). Female brain more emotionally fragile (anxiety, eating disorders, depression). Compartmentalization can lead to boys focusing on one thing and blocking other input out.

Natural Aggression: Testosterone (males), Oxytosin (bonding hormone) (females), oxytosin spikes in males during sex then goes back down again. Oxytosin inspires girls to want to be liked, fit in, belong. Boys have less oxytosin which creates a disconnect between boy investment in school.

Neural Rest States: Boys are gone when they go there. Girls can still be intaking a little bit. Might as well be talking to a wall at this point with boys.

Need natural light for good brain chemistry.

Book Suggestions:
Action-Packed Classrooms, Summerford (K-5)
Learning with the Body in Mind, Jensen
Action Strategies…, Wilhelm

Asked fourth grade writing students to act out the differences between “editing” and “revising” without speaking. Leader was responsible for interpreting movements.

What a complete sentence is: Took sentence strips, color coded nouns, verbs and finishers. Gave each of 5 groups a bunch of possibilities with a “Bank of Punctuation.” Gave kids 5 minutes to build complete, perfectly-punctuated sentences. Had to explain, “why they needed a comma or an exclamation point instead of a period.”

(me – audience is entirely engaged!)

Boys have less access to sensory details. This makes it more difficult for them to integrate those details into their writing.

Inverse relationship between quality of illustration and volume (quality?) of writing.

Bring in music to create a mood, think of colors that would create a mood and THEN put that mood into words. Need to do more priming of the pump for boys.

Putting vocab. words to music. Spelling words with elbows and then backsides. (hilarious!)

Too many words make the ideas too difficult. 8 purposes of writing simplifies things. Give them right visual-spatial tools to kids for the job you’re trying to get them to do. Visual construct must match intended verbal output.

Video games give things a better safety for pecking order movement.

Throw gender grouping into small grouping every once in a while. Expand topics that appeal to boys. Stop censoring boys interests.

“A good book for a boy is one he wants to read.” (Moloney, 2002)

In writing classroom, use “crappy prompts” to get kids to make writing their own.

“If the bum is numb, the brain is the same.”

I’m Glad I’m a Boy, I’m Glad I’m a Girl (1970)

“Me Read? No Way!” – Ontario Provincial Government

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