Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

3 Fresh Approaches to Educating Boys in School December 13, 2013

Filed under: health,school — rjlacko @ 2:59 pm
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Dixon bookBoys have fundamentally different learning patterns, says pioneering expert

The problem of boys in education is not a new one. I printed pages of studies for my sons’ preschool and kindergarten teachers, begging them not to compare my boys’ abilities to sit criss-cross-apple-sauce or write the alphabet as prettily and patiently as their female counterparts.

A recent study from researchers at the University of Georgia, which followed 10,000 students as they moved from kindergarten to eighth grade, indicates that though boys scored well on tests, indicating mastery of material, girls got better grades. Researchers account for higher scores in girls because they comported themselves better than boys while in the classroom.

“Boys and girls have fundamentally different learning needs; girls are better at  sitting still and listening, whereas boys learn better via kinesthetic learning,  which involves more physical activity,” says Edmond J. Dixon, Ph.D., who has more than three decades experience as a teacher and is a parent of boys, and is the author of “Helping Boys Learn: Six Secrets for Your Son’s Success in School,” ( He also has a teacher’s edition titled “Helping Boys Learn: Six Secrets for Teaching Boys in  the Classroom.”

“There are many other studies, however, showing boys underperforming in school; now, it’s a matter of what we’re going to do about  it.”

Dixon, a cognitive-kinesthetics specialist, discusses why his first three “secrets” are so important in helping boys with active minds and bodies.

• Movement matters: The student most likely to disrupts the class because they cannot sit still is a boy. Research reveals that young boys’ brains develop a tremendous amount of neural wiring to facilitate movement and sensitivity for how things “fit” together.
When a boy is a toddler, we would never think that a sedentary child is a good indicator of health, so what makes us think that he should change while in grade school?
TIP: Allow a boy to use his “movement wiring” by allowing him to use his body as he learns to represent the topic.

• Games work: Testosterone makes males naturally competitive. If you want them to become suddenly engaged in something, make a game out of the lesson—it’s just like flipping a  switch on. Just look at sports talk shows with analysis such as “Pardon the   Interruption;” each expert has a clock clicking down to make his point. Little gaming tricks like this works on the male brain.
TIP: Create clear rules to help boys understand victory, and add legitimacy to the lesson. Games also serve as an excellent method for male bonding, too.

• Make them laugh: Observe a group of males; whether young or old, they bust each other’s chops. Not only is it okay, they enjoy it! Everyone has a positive chemical reaction with laughter; boys, however, often use humor as a form of communication, an asset with which most girls do not have a problem. Research has demonstrated that boys’ emotions are processed initially in the more primitive parts of the brain and come more indirectly to the speech centers. That’s why making a crude joke is easier for males to communicate sensitive feelings.
TIP: Before starting homework or an assignment, ask a boy to consider what might be funny, weird or strange about it; his mind will be more focused on the topic afterwards.  

About the author: A pioneer in the field of cognitive-kinesthetics for learning, Edmond J. Dixon, Ph.D., is the founder of the KEEN Differentiated Learning Group, an organization dedicated to helping struggling learners, and the creator of  KEEN 5X, a series of strategies for classroom engagement and learning that have been used with more than 50,000 students and teachers. His previous books, “KEEN For Learning” and “Literacy Through Drama,” have been used by educators to improve classroom learning.

Dr. Edmond J. Dixon’s book Helping Boys Learn: 6 Secrets for Your Son’s Success in School

This easy-to-read book gives parents what they need to help  their songs become successful learners at home, in school, and beyond. Discover how to use these six secrets to help boys:

 Sit still and stay focused
 Avoid distractions and stay on task
 Complete homework without nagging
 Put forth their best effort in schoolwork
 Become passionate, successful learners in school

I’ve had too many encounters with teachers which have ended in heartache for all parties. Most boys want to do well in school, and that means they want to move. When the teacher expects a class to sit still, and perform as well as the top (female) performer, everyone, the teacher included, is left frustrated, and disappointed. What experiences have you had in your son’s classroom?


Catching up with the kidlets: Spring 2010 June 7, 2010

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted pictures for Gramma and Grampa in Canada to see. These little gems are from Spring 2010.

Just last week, my 5-year-old Joseph surprised us all by suddenly passing Level One after only FOUR swimming lessons! He has always been a big fan of his bath, and he loves to go in pools and to the beach, but he has always been very nervous to try to leave the edge and try to learn to swim. When he was a baby, I took him to parent-and-me classes at our local rec center, but it was mostly water-bonding and blowing motorboat. And fun, of course!

This summer, I made the commitment to put the boys in “real” swim lessons and signed them up to work together in semi-private lessons at Waterworks Aquatics, thanks to a referral from my friend Kristianne Koch. Waterworks is amazing, but costs a pretty penny. Kristianne’s son Merrik went there as an infant and with his parents’ help and encouragement, was boogie-boarding and beginning to surf last summer at age four… for hours!

Anyway, Joseph was very excited and curious about swim lessons–but I could tell he was nervous. His little brother Noah was beyond excited. When I put Noah in the water, I need to stay right next to him because he will simply leap forward into the deep water, fully expecting to be able to swim. He is confidence personified. In order to get the boys prepared for swimming (and to bring Joseph’s courage up to his little brother’s level) I began listing all the things they’ll be able to do once they can swim:

  • Pretend you are dolphins!
  • Pretend you are sharks!
  • Pretend you are mermaids! (hey, who isn’t curious about mermaids at some point?)
  • Have swim races for prizes!
  • Dive for treasure!

OK, for the first four items, they were cheering! With each new idea the cheers grew louder and louder until I said, “dive for treasure.” Noah’s joy came to a crashing halt. Joseph continued to bubble with enthusiasm: “I know! We can put treasure into a treasure box, and put it at the bottom of the pool, then DIVE for it!!”

All the color drained from Noah’s face.  He did not share these dreams. He did not want to go to the bottom of the pool, not for any treasure of any kind. I’d overshot the mark, and toppled the confidence meter. Now Joseph was desperate to get in the water and Noah was clinging to the edge in fear. What was I thinking?

Over the first two lessons, Joseph worked very hard, and while I could see that he has reservations, he set aside his fear and powered through. Noah cried and cried, so I’ve let him sit out until he tells me he wants to try again, and transferred our pre-paid lesson package to Joseph. If there’s one thing about Noah, he has an uncanny ability to figure things out. At age three, he is almost as good at riding his bicycle as his older brother.

I’ve never seen Joseph so focused. I sit where I can see him and give the “thumb’s up” when he looks my way, but I am otherwise removed from his lesson. From the beginning, he was equally cautious and determined. I am so pleased to see him resolve his own inner conflict of fear, choosing to try instead. His teacher is very matter-of-fact. She doesn’t overflow with positive reinforcement, but she doesn’t appear disappointed either when he doesn’t get it right the first time. She simply offers more and more chances to try, in different ways. When I saw him swim down almost four feet to get a toy, I just knew how thrilled he must have been.

I’m so proud of him–It is incredibly rewarding to watch your child decide to meet a goal, and to make his own efforts to achieve that goal. I always reward the spirit of “never giving up” because if we persevere, we can do the things we want to do. I have seen him be frustrated when building with his Legos, and the huge sense of accomplishment that arrives when he figures out to create what he sees in his mind. But learning to swim requires trusting the capabilities of your whole body, entering an unfamiliar world and letting go. When success comes, it is sweet indeed.