I support ten elementary schools and observe at least 20 math lessons (grades K-5) per week. This past year, boys have dominated the dialogue and explanation of solving math problems (80% increase in three
years.) Their articulation and use of academic language have been impressive. I have observed a few
things that have contributed to this high level of engagement amongst boys:
1.) Early success in mathematics – second graders are fourth-graders now, kindergarten students are now second graders, and first graders are in third grade. I have watched the boys succeed in the early grades, which has contributed significantly to their growth, confidence, and their participation.
2.) A plethora of encouragement and positive reinforcement from their teachers. Tons and tons of cheering, praise, and feeding into their ego. Yes, young boys have egos.
3.) A safe environment where it’s okay to be vulnerable and mistakes
4.) Process, Turn, and Talk – this is where the magic happens. This is where boys are most comfortable and where they can learn so much from their peers. However, boys must process the skill that was taught before turning and talking. Three questions will guide the processing: 1) What did I just see? 2) What am I still confused about? 3) What do I need to see again to understand the problem? In my observations, I have noticed that if boys are in groups these questions will be answered and students will better understand the problem once the discussion ends. Additionally, I have noticed that a strong female partner who’s
friendly and jokes inspire boys to pay attention and focus (strategically pairing students is
5.) Planning – the planning process has been phenomenal. Planning periods are now teacher-led, and teachers are currently practicing their lessons and providing feedback to one another (instructional coaches facilitate, not modeling) before they teach. This has been proven to be very effective.