Saturday, September 14, 2013

Strategies for Teaching Boys and Girls

This year I am again placed in a building that has separate classes for middle school boys and girls. Years ago I purchased and read Strategies for Teaching Boys & Girls: Secondary Level by M. Gurian, K. Stevens and K. King (2008). In light of the fact that I would be co-teaching several of these classes, I decided to reread this text.  It is full of both the neuroscience and its implications for teaching. Although the book is several years old and the field of neuroscience has been exploding with research of late, I found the book to be helpful as I thought about how to approach these classes.

The book opens with a chapter on the basic neurological differences between boys and girls. While we would like to say that both are equal and the same, we all know that they are different, especially as they enter middle school and vastly large spreads in the onset of puberty highlight these differences. I have composed a chart summarizing the first chapter's insights. The codicil that the book includes that I did not recognize in the chart is that each child is unique, there are huge overlaps and while generalizations can help us anticipate types of responses, the individual child may not be well represented by the generalizations. This is especially true when it comes to designations of being right brained or left brained.

structure or chemical
what it does
gender differences
cerebral cortex
serious intellectual functioning- thinking, speaking, recalling, memory, voluntary motor behaviors, impulsivity, decision making, planning
females have more connections between neurons and it matures faster
So… girls process and respond faster, multitask and access verbal information faster, are less apt to engage in high risk behavior, less impulsive
coordination of muscles and thinking; helps navigate both the physical and social world
larger in males
Movement in the curriculum helps develop the skills of the cerebellum
corpus callosum
connects the hemispheres, increases in size during adolescence
denser in females- better cross brain “talk”
Males need more time to process.
Females may be hypersensitive and dramatic
Brain stem
“fight or flight” center
Very responsive to testosterone
Boys tend to respond more readily to physical stressors and be more volatile
Limbic system and prefrontal cortex
convert information from working memory to long-term memory
Larger in females so they have faster neural transmissions and increased emotional memory storage.
Females attach more sensory details to events and remember them longer; may hold grudges longer.
Music may change the brain state.
processing of emotions, deciding what to attend to and filtering out other stimuli
(This is one of the areas of the brain that is permanently damaged by marijuana )
larger in males; may lead to more aggression when angry or threatened
non-emotional tasks can help with calming down.
Males need more processing time to understand emotions
blood flow
impacts processing speed, alertness
Up to 20% greater in the female brain.
Females have quicker processing especially of verbal information, may not think before they act
language processing areas
males- centralized in left hemisphere
females- multiple areas in both hemispheres
girls tend to have more areas available for language processing when they start school
spatial processing
testosterone influenced
males have increased area for spatial processing.
Boys need more space to move and function
Girls need more motivation to develop the skill
sensory system
Females tend to have stronger systems
girls include more sensory detail in responses
male sex and aggression hormone
In males- levels rise when they win and decrease when they lose
In females- levels remain relatively constant
healthy competition tends to motivate boys and build self-confidence in girls
group of hormones responsible for female sex functions, influence female aggression, impacted by seasons and body mass
overweight girls enter puberty earlier
female puberty results in increased volatility and aggression
“feel good” neurotransmitter
impacts mood, anxiety, relaxation and cooling down after conflict
Girls have about 30% more than boys- more able to manage anger
Responsive to environmental stimuli- kindness is calming
neurotransmitter that impacts motivation and pleasure and movement control
Controls the flow of information between areas of the brain
increased stimulation tends to increase the stimulation more, spiraling out of control (self-inflating)
need to balance the flow- enough to transmit information and learn, not too much to provide unmanageable enthusiasm
“tend and befriend” hormone
impacts social recognition and bonding, formation of trust, develop and maintain relationships
females have more than males so they need to build relationships and will act in ways to do so
Males may not see the connections between their behavior and their relationships
left hemisphere
controls the right side of the body
processes information sequentially and analytically
generates spoken language
recognizes spoken words and numbers
responds more to external sensory information
constructs memories
does arithmetic functions
seeks explanations for occurrences of events
preference more common in girls
right hemisphere
controls the left side of the body
processes information abstractly and holistically
interprets language nonverbally
recognizes places, faces, objects, music
fantasies abstraction (ex science-fiction)
less detailed and more concrete in recall
relation and mathematical functions
organizes occurrences into spatial patterns
preference more common in boys

These differences are only the beginning. The true test and the area where training can make or break a single sex class is in implementation of strategies to best meet the needs of the students. One of the games suggested I modified to use in the all boy science class review. We had a Koosh(T) ball that was to be passed around- thrown with the left hand, underhand. The students were to repeat the last fact given and then answer a question given to them. It involved body movement, listening, using notes for help, and recall. Some of the boys loved it. One was unable to follow the rules. I think if I were to play this again, I might split the class into kids who wanted to play a review game and students who wanted to just take the test.  I do know that the biggest lesson I need to remember is that they need more time and movement. If we slow things down with increased wait time and increase the movement, our boys should do better.

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