Why Boys Are Struggling in School
Many experts believe that brain-based differences in how boys and girls learn are at the root of the problem. Boys are generally strong spatial learners, abstract thinkers, and learn better when active—while the language centers in girls’ brains develop earlier, allowing them to grasp reading and writing skills with greater ease.
Michael Gurian, author of The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life, found that boys’ brains go into a rest state several times throughout the day, causing them to “zone out” during instruction. And while girls also experience a rest state, they are still able to gather information and take more in than boys do.
Matt Miller, a first grade teacher in Newton, Massachusetts, sees these differences daily in his classroom. “I find that boys need explicit instruction and practice in learning how to listen and gather information, whereas girls almost innately come into the classroom knowing how to be active listeners,” says Miller. He believes that boys are tactile learners who benefit from multi-sensory activities, and the review and repetition of skills.
Miller also feels strongly about allowing frequent breaks for movement, giving his students a chance to unleash their energy. While school systems across the country have cut back or eliminated physical education classes due to limited budgets, students, particularly boys, will have even fewer opportunities to be active during the school day which may impact their learning in the classroom.
Janine Mast, a fourth grade teacher in Dublin, Ohio, agrees. “I do think boys and girls learn differently. Boys love anything kinesthetic. They love to move around and act things out. Girls seem to be better auditory and visual learners. However, it is important to note that all students learn better by acting and experiencing what they are learning.”