Oh yes, I was that teacher. You know, the one who took on all of the loud and obnoxious “troublemaking” kids who in reality, were a lot like myself. I’ll admit that my classroom was usually loud and even obnoxious at times, but I prided myself on having a teaching style that kids who hated school could get into and enjoy. One day another teacher said that my class was the “boy friendly” one and I liked that term so much I adopted it. Here are just a few quick tips to get started in developing a boy friendly classroom for next year (it takes time, so think about working it out over the summer break).
1. Alternate loud and quiet(er) activities.
Intentionally plan your days to do this. If you don’t plan it out you are going to find large stretches of quiet activities, and this will be your downfall. My regular daily schedule looked like this:
8:00-8:30 Greet children / learning centers
8:45-9:00 Potty, wash hands, brush teeth, etc.
9:00-9:15 Morning Circle
9:15-10:00 Outside Play
10:00-10:15 Whole Group Instruction
10:15-11:15 Small Groups / Learning Centers
11:15-11:30 Physical Movement Activity
12:00-12:15 Potty, wash hands, brush teeth, etc.
12:30-1:30 Rest Time
1:30-2:30 Learning Centers
2:45-3:00 Potty, wash hands, brush teeth, etc.
3:00-3:30 Outside Play
3:30-3:45 Afternoon Circle Time
3:45-4:45 Small Groups / Learning Centers
Transitions were predictable and children counted on them to navigate through their day. The first week or two was a struggle, but eventually we got into sync with one another and the days flowed well. Once they realized they wouldn’t be expected to sit forever and that activity times were coming, they didn’t find it as hard to sit for group times or quiet activities.
2. Prepare for the Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence.
I want to make it clear—Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence IS NOT hyperactivity nor does it cause inattention issues. Children with high levels of this intelligence can focus and concentrate, but they learn best through hands-on activities and movement. The area of kinesthetic intelligence is located in the cerebellum and concerns the thalamus, main ganglions and others parts of the brain. The brain’s motor cortex controls bodily motion and children with this intelligence display dexterity and skills for fine motor movement.
Children with bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are called “body smart” and tend to enjoy active sports, constructing, dancing, hands-on tasks, working with technology tools, etc. These types of activities require a deftness, coordination and using fine and gross motor skills. Children with this intelligence learn and express themselves through various physical activities.
You will need to adjust your way of thinking and reacting to these children. Rather than ridicule children with kinesthetic intelligence and who are very fidgety and tend to fiddle with stuff, it is better to give them tools and equipment to manipulate in class. Rather than stopping them from moving, it is better to let their bodies develop through expression. They need you to provide many opportunities to learn by acting things out and moving about. Don’t expect them to sit quiet for long and listen to something without experiencing it physically as this is unrealistic and will cause frustrations to arise.
3. Plan for Conflict Management.
Boys do not think and act the same way girls do in a conflict situation. The problem with this is that the majority of early childhood educators are women who think like girls and not boys. They get angry and frustrated when boys don’t act in “pro-social” ways. I was able to learn a few tricks over the years that help reduce some of the initial problems. I arranged the room into small chunks with each center allowing 3-4 children at a time. I also had individual spaces and spaces for pairs to work. I provided placemats for table activities that signaled others that the child wanted to work independently. There were carpet squares for individual floor activities and beach towels for children to use in pairs. Whenever possible I had more than one of a popular item. I put hooks on each center and they moved their photo to the center they were using to avoid overcrowding—when the hooks were full so was the center.
I could go on, and probably will in future posts. However, for now, this is enough to get you to start thinking about how you are going to improve your classroom for boys and for ALL children in the future.