Boys - it's a learning curve
Carey Ann Dodah (right), Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning answers your questions about helping boys achieve in a learning environment
Q. My son – like many boys – is full of energy and can’t sit still. The classroom environment does him few favours – what can I do to help him?
Carey Ann says: “Concentration is assisted by a number of things. Firstly it’s good to intersperse physical activity and traditional seated learning activities. If you can walk or bike to and from school then children are alert and ready for a bit of calmer time.
“Knowing how long an activity is going to take and what the reward is can also help. For example, in Explore Learning education centres an activity will take no more than 15 minutes and children are rewarded for concentration during that time. Short and frequent learning activities keep children stimulated for longer and maximise the retention of information.
“Sometimes children just need something to fiddle with such as a tangle toy. A tangle toy helps to take away the urge to fidget and stimulates parts of the brain that assist children in their learning.
Q. My son is struggling with the ‘by rote’ maths learning – times tables seem to come hard to him – and he has difficulty retaining the information. Any ideas?
Carey Ann says: “Learning times tables can be supported by incorporating memory techniques. Some children learn best if they use rhymes or raps e.g. ‘I ate and ate and was sick on the floor!’ for 8x8 = 64. There are also some great ‘tricks’ you can learn for the 9 times table. Pop into one of our centres and ask a tutor to show you. It’s also good to play some times table games. We love Ulti, a multiplication card game to play with the family available.
“If difficultly in retaining information is a trend that affects learning in other areas please discuss this with your son’s teacher as it may be an indicator of other learning difficulties.”
Q. I am worried that the trend seems to be for boys to fail at school. How can I make sure my son doesn’t end up as one of the statistics?
Carey Ann says: “A great book to read on this is Help your Boys Succeed by Gary Wilson. He has identified 14 different barriers that can affect boys’ achievement at school and he looks at how parents can break through those barriers. It is important to surround your son with positive messages that he can be great at school and talk about what happens if he does well. Having a vision of the future goals in life that he will be able to achieve will be helpful.
“There can be few male role models in education and this can be very powerful for boys in the early years. We are proud to have a good number of male tutors working in our education centres and we know that makes a difference to the boys that attend.”
Carey Ann says: “It is important to remember that not all boys are the same and not all boys are in danger of underachieving. Those boys who do under achieve do so for many different reasons, so for the purpose of this article I suggest that we look at each child as an individual rather than an indicator that all boys are the same.”
Q. Despite years of being read to and going to the library, my son is still waiting for reading to click. Any techniques that might help boys in particular?
Carey Ann says: “Firstly keep doing what you’re doing. Reading should be a regular activity that is fun-filled. Experiment with bringing characters to life and using different voices. It’s important that your son remains motivated. Point to words as you read them and discuss what’s happening in the story and use pictures for clues. Every child ‘clicks’ with reading at different stages, for some children mastering phonics is a vital step while other children use visual memory to support them.
“There are ranges of books that cater to boys and these are good to seek out so that your son doesn’t think the material is ‘babyish’. Project X is a reading programme specifically written for boys - check out www.oxfordowl.co.uk for free samples. Discuss any concerns with your teacher and consider visiting an education centre such as Explore Learning where we have reading tools specifically designed to support struggling readers.
“Often children respond differently depending on who they’re reading with, and sometimes boys respond more positively with male role models.”
Q. My son, who is in year 2, used to love school. But now he complains there is too much work, not enough playing – and not enough football! How can I spark his enthusiasm for learning again?
Carey Ann says: “Make sure he knows when it’s football time. Sit down together and draw out a plan of a typical day or week and show him what time he has each day to do his favourite things. Sometimes a loss of enthusiasm can be caused by school work becoming more challenging and some children are not sure how to deal with that. In our centres we have a simple reward system for concentration, effort and asking for help that works well. It’s important that your son feels comfortable to ask for help and to know when he needs it so that he can get a sense of achievement for his learning as well as his sport.”
About Explore Learning
Explore Learning is network of tuition centres providing English and maths tuition for children aged five to 14. They have 80 centres located across the country. To find your nearest centre visit www.explorelearning.co.uk and book a free consultation.
Recent research by the University of Reading has shown that Explore Learning tuition is proven to be beneficial to both boys and girls, of all abilities, across all age ranges in the study, living in all socio-economic areas.*
* Efficacy study conducted by the Institute of Education at the University of Reading