Around 6 months ago a friend recommended a book called 'Educating Boys' by Michael Irwin to me. I started it and then, like most books in term time, it got put to the side. Even thought I've been desperate to read it! These holidays have meant that I have picked it up again and continued to read it. It's a worthwhile read for anyone who are working with boys in education or who have boys at home.
Not a lot of the ideas and concepts are all that new to me e.g. boys need more movement, action learning and hands on approaches. But so far it has reinforced a lot of key teaching and learning concepts and approaches as well as ones that I have changed or don't use as much as I have previously.
A concept I linked into with learning is the idea of 'Play' as a basis for learning. A place to hook old learning into new learning and to make discoveries. Last year as part of our Daily5 reading work the students did 'Work with Words' which is basically spelling/grammar work. As part of this I gave my year 4 students purple sand to draw words into and wikki stix to make letters with, amongst other tasks. Initially I thought perhaps they wouldn't use them as they might deem them as 'babyish'. Interestingly enough these were the items that were first taken by the students working in this area over and over again. There was also a student developed system for letting people know you wanted to use them next. Both of these were play items and I will use them with my Year 5/6 students this year again! I also really liked the idea of having 'explorer' areas where there are things for the students (not just the boys!) to create or dismantle. But also it's made me think about how I can create more areas for play in curriculum areas to diversify the teaching and learning process.
Exercise and Physical Education as a catalyst for more focussed work. I know this and do a lot of this already as I see a huge difference in the students when there is more activity in the day. But it's made me interested to look at starting each day or the breaking the middle block with a burst of focussed physical activity. I've done this previously with 'Brain Breaks' and it's made a huge difference but it was something this year that I didn't use.
Also how I'm teaching Physical Education and the importance of making time for it. Our school is well set up with our syndicates taking part in syndicate wide sports each term for at least 1 hour and also whole school Jump Jam each week. This is a great base for our students and I know that my boys are always the first ones to be asking what sports they will be undertaking during this time and the first to complain if the weather is bad on sports afternoons!
It was interesting to read about the students who are coming into schools and the importance of teaching them to read and write from the first day and as early as 5. Irwin talks about the fact that a lot of the teaching and learning for literacy has moved away from play based, making and creating into more 'talk and write' examples. He stresses the importance of linking back to the play concepts and developmental play in the early years. There has been a lot of talk about the Finish education system lately and how they excel with teaching and learning in worldwide comparisons. Irwin interestingly points out the fact that students don't start school in Finland until they are 7 giving students more time to be involved in play. Such a focus on literacy which in turn pushes out areas such as The Arts, Physical Education and Science out of the daily curriculum. All areas that boys tend to excel in but don't get the opportunity to be as involved in.
So, I will continue to read, reflect and make links to my teaching practice and challenge ideas I have or have had and why I may not do them anymore. I think it is a worthwhile read and while the focus is on educating boys, I do believe many of the concepts and ideas can equally be forwarded to girls and their learning needs.