One thing I love about being hospitalized (the little baby is trying to make her appearance 10 weeks early) is that I get to speak to all of the incredible nurses that take care of me. Once they find out I am a teacher the conversations always get even better and today was no different. We discussed the topic of boys in the elementary classroom, and particularly how female teachers can create boy inviting classrooms. As this is something near and dear to me, I thought I would offer up a few ideas of how to get boys to feel welcome in our classrooms, or any kid really.
- Realize the damage of cute. Angela Watson had a great post that started a huge debate on whether classrooms should be cute or not. While I don’t mind cute at all I do try to look at classroom decor from a boy’s perspective. Most boys tend to not love polka dots, pink, cute little animals, and many other cutesy features we spread all over our rooms. We may find it welcoming and others may not want to be seen in it. So consider your entire population, not just what you think will brighten up your room.
- Give them room. I think we forget that many boys, and many girls (my own daughter included) need lots of room. Find extra space in your classroom by getting rid of unnecessary clutter.
- Give them choice for work space. I swear the moment I let my students pick their work space, I saw their attention shoot through the roof. Why? Many of my students prefer working on the floor or in a chair by themselves not touching anyone else. So give the students room to spread out so they can find their best work space.
- Have books for boys. This is huge. Boys need to be able to find themselves in your classroom library. I had never considered this until I looked at how many animal books, pink covered books, and friendship books I had collected versus sports, action, or fantasy. I am not trying to say boys only read these things, but make sure you have books that anyone can gravitate to.
- Read aloud books with male protagonists. I change sex of the protagonist every book. So while we started with “Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper following the courageous Melody, we are now reading “The False Prince” by Jenifer Nielsen, sucked into the heroics of Sage. Keep it balanced for all students to find something to relate to.
- Tap into the male energy. I often run my ideas for lesson plans or projects to see if my husband would have wanted it to do it when he was in 5th grade and he never disappoints. I am always reminded to add more options for the kids, to listen to their opinion, and to make it more hands on. Engagement for all seems to go up as the students get more involved.
- Realize your own angle. Whether you are a male or female teacher realize that you bring in a view of how you want things to be taught, and then realize that it is not the same for everyone. I fight this every day. I love learning in a certain way bt many of my students do not, so choice, voice, and passion becomes central tangents in our classroom.
- Challenge what you know. For every time I think competition will motivate a boy, another boy proves me wrong. For every time I think a quiet contemplation and reflection will motivate a girl, another girl proves me wrong. I may think I know how to appeal to children based on their gender but that’s not it at all. In the end, I realize that it is not that I set up my classroom to be female centered on purpose but it is what I know. We have to create environments where all students are welcome and make sure we don’t create rooms where students feel like guest rather than members.
What other ideas can you add?