Last week during a math lesson in my first grade class I was very aware that the content I was covering was over their heads. The lesson objective was solving for the missing addend. Let me just say that I don’t remember learning this in Sister Agnes Marie’s first grade class. Secondly, my rambunctious little guy was obviously over this lesson and over me. During the forty five minute lesson I had asked him to simmer down, pay attention, stop rocking on his seat, stop playing with the math manipulatives, and to change his color on the behavior chart. My rambunctious little guy sits within arm distance from me and I often reach over in the hopes that my magic tap will calm him down. Everyday my team teacher and I remind him of the importance of paying attention and doing one’s best work. This particular day I asked him what he needed from me. He looked solemnly at me with his big brown eyes and said this, “Can I have lunch recess?” I was speechless.
Coincidently, that very day my sister sent me an article by Christina Hoff Sommers, What Schools Can Do To Help Boys Succeed. Sommers proposes three simple changes to help boys have more success in school.
1. Bring Back Recess
Ironically, recess is usually the first thing that is taken away from kids when they break a rule. And for a little guy who is in constant motion, running around on the playground would be more beneficial than sitting in my class with his head down. The article also points outs that 39% of first-graders get about 20 minutes of recess each day in comparison to Japanese children who get 10 minutes of play each hour. Nixing Recess: The Silly, Alarmingly Popular Way to Punish Kids advises that “research has shown that taking away recess does not make classroom behavior any better, and, in fact, it might make things worse in the case of students who are misbehaving because of an excess of energy or boredom.” How many times has my rambunctious little guy been denied the opportunity to blow off some steam? Unfortunately, too many times.
2. Turn Boys Into Readers
I love picture books and I read three different books a day to my first graders. However, the picture books that I tend to choose for read alouds are ones that I, a female teacher, find appealing. I need to get comic books because truth be told, I don’t have any in my classroom library. I also need more non fiction books and a variety of books that little boys will find appealing. Alex Carrera, a fellow colleague has already started to think outside the box by bringing her little dogs to class to encourage her fourth grade boys to read.
3. Work With the Young Male Imagination
I’m not too fond of vampires, pirates and other ghoulish things. But as I’m realizing, some little boys are and I need to foster their creativity. This past Halloween another rambunctious little guy couldn’t stop talking about monsters and scary skeletons. If it were up to him, he’d draw all day and he’s pretty talented as you can see by this picture. Last year, I had a another little boy in my class who would rather doodle cartoon like images instead of listening intently to class lessons. Lucky for him, his mom enrolled him in an art class. He came alive when he talked about his Wednesday art classes. I was invited to attend his art class’ puppet show and it was spectacular. This little boy was a very different student than the one that showed up to my class. He was excited and engaged!
Lastly, while these articles have been eye openers, I’m not quite sure how I will move forward and implement changes in my classroom. But I do understand that my rambunctious little guy needs his playtime. Imagine when I tell him, “Go out and play. We’ll figure something out together.” Priceless.