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Modern research backs up the fact that there is a gender gap in today’s schools. As a general rule, boys perform lower on standardized tests in all 50 states. In class, boys are likely to get more Ds and Fs, far less than their female counterparts. Today’s schools are attempting to close the gap between the two genders and many have developed strategies to ensure the two are on equal footing when it comes to performance. It is apparent that boys and girls learn differently and it is important that strategies be used which can ensure they understand the materials being taught.

How Boys Learn


Boys literally see differently than girls. Even the composition of the male eye makes them more interested in motion and direction. To boys, the world is seen as objects moving in space. The teacher should constantly be moving around the room if they hope to engage boys. Boys typically draw pictures of things that move like cars, spaceships and trucks. These are usually done in darker colors.  Males are also drawn to some of the cooler colors like gray, black, brown and blue. The makeup of the boy’s autonomic nervous system makes them more alert if they are standing or moving. Boys do not tend to be as organized in their learning as girls and they are more likely to interrupt frequently and speak out more often even if they do not know the right answer. Boys will act first and then think later. With these things in mind, there are some strategies to help teachers teach boys effectively.

Visual Learning Strategies for Boys

Boys are likely to respond well to the use of a variety of visual elements. Teachers can use graphics, storyboards and pictures when teaching key concepts. Some research indicates that boys are more likely to write with much more detail, get better grades, and retain more information when visual graphics are used.

Hands-on Teaching Strategies

Boys will thrive in an environment which encourages hands-on activities. They also do well with project based assignments which develop hands-on learning. When they are physically involved in the learning process, their retention rate increases. They are also more able to remember the lessons and this is displayed favorably on tests and other assignments.

Teach Boys How to Learn

Organization is typically one of the areas that boys will struggle the most with. Teachers can help their male students by helping them learn how to become more organized. Boys need to learn how to do their homework and complete assignments. In order to help boys learn more effectively, teachers can devote some classroom instruction to helping them learn how to follow directions, organize and complete homework assignments, and succeed. This type of training will help them be successful beyond the elementary classroom and prepare them for the later grades and for life beyond the classroom.

Group Strategies

In some of the core classes lessons can be taught or reinforced by putting students in groups. However, especially in the elementary grades students do not always perform well in mixed gender groups. To assist with communication skills and allow boys to thrive without social distraction, create single sex groups. This allows boys to flourish in a wide variety of ways. They will be able to work with the group and discuss key concepts in a meaningful way.

Allow Movement

When it’s possible and practical, allow students some freedom to move about the room. Boys can tend to twitch, twist, and squirm while they are learning. In many cases boys are actually learning more when they are moving than if they are sitting completely still. If boys are allowed to more around or at least stand, while they are reading or writing can be very beneficial for their learning.  Some teachers are not prepared to allow movement in their room, but innovative classrooms which incorporate appropriate and reasonable movement can create an environment which is conducive for boys’ learning.

Reading Practices

Teachers have benchmarks in the major subjects that have to be reached. But to help encourage boys to excel at reading, it is important to allow time for freedom of choice in reading materials. When boys can choose their own reading materials they are more likely to stay engaged for longer periods of time especially if they are allowed to incorporate non-traditional reading materials like magazines or comic books into their reading time.

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Comment by Thomas Whitby on September 5, 2014 at 12:01pm

Is it possible that without standardized grading practices in place that many boys might be being graded differently than girls? Many teachers factor in things beyond academic assessments into a grade. Some teachers weigh formative assessments equal to summative assessments in their grading calculations. We may want to examine grading practices as well.Are expectations for boys different for those of girls? How much does complacency or acting out count in some teachers' grading? I do not question a gap, but are we accurately assessing learning as opposed to behavior in academic grades?


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