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1 M I N D T H E G A P Teaching for Reading and Writing Success to the Male Brain By Kenneth Odle.

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2 1 M I N D T H E G A P Teaching for Reading and Writing Success to the Male Brain By Kenneth Odle

3 2 Background Middle school is when we start to lose students, especially boys, as readers. There is often a presumption that reading is a more female activity boys arent supposed to like reading. There are biological reasons why girls, especially at a young age, can be better readers than boys.

4 3 Biological Differences - Intro More pronounced at younger ages. Still affect middle school students (and high school students, as well). Some effects carry over into high school, depending on the student. Should be taken into account at all ages.

5 4 Biological Differences 1 Frontal Lobe Less developed in boys. (In elementary schools, the difference may be one to two years.) Makes boys more impulsive. Boys less able to sit still and read. (Boys tend to fidget.) May cause students to be misdiagnosed as learning disabled.

6 5 Biological Differences 2 P Cells and M Cells (optical and neural) Males rely more on type M ganglion cells, which detect movement. Females rely more on type P ganglion cells, which are sensitive to color. Boys tend to rely on pictures and moving objects. Girls excel in describing color and other fine sensory information.

7 6 Biological Differences 3 Verbal/Spatial Differences Boys brains have more regions dedicated to spatial-mechanical functioning. Girls brains emphasize verbal-emotive processing. On average, girls use more words than boys. Girls tend to think more verbally. Boys tend to think visually they see pictures or movies in their minds. (American Born Chinese is full of examples.)

8 7 Biological Differences 4 Cross Talk Between Hemispheres Girls brains have more communication between hemispheres better multitasking. Boys brains tend to compartmentalize thinking in one or the other hemisphere prefer logical A-Z focus. Boys can become more irritable when moved quickly between activities. This can carry over into later grades.

9 8 Biological Differences 5 Neural Rest States Boys brains spin down more readily between activities. Boys fidget to keep their minds active. May be mistaken as ADD or ADHD.

10 9 Biological Differences 6 Natural Aggression and Hormones Boys are more competitive. Aggression Nurturance the playful hitting and dissing that boys engage in can be supportive. Less reliance on bonding malleability (less desire to comply in order to please others). Related to lower oxytocin levels in the body. (Oxytocin is the bonding hormone.)

11 10 Techniques 1 Spatial-Visual Representations Storyboarding Cartoons Graphic Organizers Use of sticky notes or index cards to organize thinking about a text.

12 11 Techniques 2 Book Choice Boys often regard in-class reading and writing as irrelevant. Boys prefer books with action (sports/war). Boys prefer books with pictures (history/how-to). Many boys are drawn toward different types of books than girls. (N.b.: But not always!) Alternate between canonical texts and personal choice books. Use multicultural texts.

13 12 Techniques 3 Books Boys Like: Comics or Manga (Graphic Novels) Fantasy and Science Fiction Series Books (alas! – see Nancie Atwells In the Middle) Choose Your Own Adventure Books Nonfiction (history, natural science, archeology) How-To (car repair/maintenance) Books with maps (think Lord of the Rings)

14 13 Techniques 4 Single-Gender Learning Environments Has been used with girls in math and science classes (girls now outperform boys in these areas). Alternate reading/discussion groups between all-boy/all-girl and mixed gender.

15 14 Techniques 5 Make Reading and Writing More Concrete Suggest a specific person as the audience for reading and writing (remember bonding malleability). Provide opportunities for sharing their writing (magazine, book talk, workshop, readers circle, writers circle, presentation, web site, etc.).

16 15 Techniques 6 Incorporate More Technology Create an interactive website about a book. Power Point, Prezi, or other electronic presentations. Electronic editions of texts, such as Plucker or Kindle, (but be aware of money issues). A play + a camera = a movie (yea!) (aka Digital Storytelling).

17 16 Techniques 7 Seek Out Male Role Models More male teachers in the earlier grades. Ask dads (not just moms) to volunteer in the classroom. Seek out more male guest-speakers. Encourage dads to read to their kids.

18 17 Political Implications 1 There is a higher percentage of female than male teachers in elementary and middle schools. Recruitment and public acceptance is an issue. Schools are under-funded and there is often little money for recently published titles. (Teachers may have to dig into their own pockets to provide a rich reading environment.)

19 18 Political Implications 2 There is a reluctance, at many levels, to move outside the established canon. Standardized testing can be an issue. The established canon is not usually considered risky (i.e., not as subject to censorship issues or parent complaints).

20 19 Problems Teachers tend to teach the way they were taught regardless of training. Teachers tend to teach toward those students who learn the way they do and most teachers in lower grades are women. Teachers cover books they like regardless of any relevance to their students.

21 20 Impact on Classroom Instruction Techniques aimed at boys can also improve results for girls. Boys are more likely to view reading and writing as something that enhances their lives. Encourages teachers to become research- based teachers. We can conduct research in our own classrooms.

22 21 The Ultimate Goal: We dont want to pit boys against girls. What we want is to create in our classrooms an environment in which both boys and girls can succeed, recognizing that boy[s]…have unique strengths, quirks, and weaknesses that every thoughtful practitioner or parent will want to be aware of (Fletcher 7).

23 22 Value for Educators Fewer behavior problems. Increased on-task time. A more equitable classroom all students can contribute and their views are valued. Students appreciate literacy as something beyond just reading books. Most importantly, students achieve more.

24 23 Resources 1 Guys Read website By Jon Scieszka (author of The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs) Suggests books important to boys. Interactive.

25 24 Resources 2 Gurian Institute Trains teachers and parents in gender science. Promotes practical applications. Offers books, DVDs, training. For-profit site.

26 25 Resources 3 Read-Write-Think A collaboration between the International Reading Association and the NCTE. Many lesson plans, searchable by grade level. Keyed to NCTE strands. Lots of lesson plans incorporate technology. Completely free.

27 26 Resources 4 Watch D.O.G.S. Encourages men (fathers, grandfathers, uncles, step-fathers, father figures, etc.) to volunteer and mentor in schools. Primarily active in urban schools. Offers training and support. Volunteers serve at least one day each year. A program of the National Center for Fathering. A member of the PTA Coalition.

28 27 Resources 5 Donors Choose Teachers can post projects that need funding. Donors can choose which projects to support. Donors can fund with as little as $1.00. Teacher and student feedback is expected.

29 28 Resources 6 Students What kind of books do you like? What kind of books turn you off? Which books do you wish teachers would talk about? Use surveys, reading journals, focus groups.

30 29 Resources 7 Parents What are your kids currently reading? What kind of books did your kids like or not like reading in earlier grades? Do you discuss books/reading/literature with your children? Value their input.

31 30 Resources 8 Colleagues Which books are you teaching now? How do your students like these books? What strategies do you use, and how successful are they? What is going well for you this year? What are you going to do differently next year? Ask the school librarian.

32 31 Works Cited Doiron, Ray. Boy Books, Girl Books: Should We Re-organize Our School Library Collection? Teacher Librarian 30.3 (2003): Fletcher, Ralph. Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices. Portland: Stenhouse; Markham: Pembroke, King, Kelley, and Michael Gurian. Teaching to the Minds of Boys. Educational Leadership 64.1 (2006): Sullivan, Michael. Connecting Boys with Books 2: Closing the Reading Gap. Chicago: American Library Association, Von Drasek, Lisa. Boy, Oh, Boy Books! Teaching PreK (2002): Wilde, Jack. Learning From Fantasy. Voices From the Middle 5.2 (1998):

33 32 Contact /

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