Last month, Gary Wilson visited Bickley Park to enlighten parents and teachers about the weird and wonderful world of boys. Gary is a leading authority in how boys learn effectively and what motivates them to achieve.
This blog provides a digest of some of the practical strategies Gary recommends for engaging boys and inspiring them to want to learn. They are drawn from a book he has written for teachers aimed at raising boys’ achievement entitled ‘100 Ideas for Primary Teachers’. However, the guidance he gives is equally useful for parents and boys to understand.
- Dads and/or other positive male role models have a hugely important role to play in inspiring boys to learn. Read with them; make a rocket with them; share their interests with enthusiasm.
- Boys often gravitate towards non-fiction books. They need to read fiction to help develop two key attributes for their future lives: emotional intelligence and the ability to reflect.
- Girls use between ten and thirty times as much language as boys in their early play. It is essential to provide opportunities for boys to talk. Boys are more likely to talk if they have a focus provided by activity. Be patient when a boy talks to you, listening with interest to what he has to say, handing conversation back to him and not leaping in with an answer.
- Boys tend to lose self-esteem and confidence when there is an over-emphasis on the neatness of work: boys are slower to acquire fine motor skills than girls.
- Boys are much more likely to write if they can see a purpose or outcome that captures their interest. They are much more likely to engage if learning is connected with a bigger picture.
- Always look for opportunities to praise boys. If you have high but realistic expectations, they will learn to respect your praise.
- Boys like clear and fair boundaries and people who are firm, but don’t shout.
- Boys respond well to people who have a sense of fun.
- Boys respond positively to people who know what they are talking about; who earn their respect and don’t just expect it.
- Boys love to have the opportunity to choose between different options rather than always being told what to do.
- ‘Boys need praise, praise and more praise’. Boys stay motivated if they hear more positive comments than negative. A rule of thumb is for every negative comment delivered, three or more positives are needed. Catch boys doing something well and praise them for it.
- Boys respond to challenge. This might be something as simple setting a time limit to complete a task.
- Boys respond best to short-term targets and rewards.
- The vast majority of boys tend to prefer learning in more active ways all the way through school. Nine times out of ten, boys say their favourite subject is one involving activity.
- Provide as many opportunities as possible for boys to be independent and think for themselves.
There is a wonderful quote by Goethe in Gary’s book:
‘Treat people as if they are what they ought to be and you can help them to become what they are capable of being’. A strong message for those of us lucky enough to share the wonderful world of boys.