After five years in school, will homeschooling be a fit for our family? Walk with us as we try to find out!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Boys and Girls Learn Differently

As I mentioned in last week's Wrap Up Post, I had the opportunity to attend a fantastic PTO meeting at RA's school on How Boys and Girls Learn Differently presented by a Gurian Institute trained presenter.  Some of the information was familiar to me as I was a School Psychologist BC (BC= before children).  Much of it was new as advances in brain research have been significant in the past 10 years.

Since writing helps me organize, process and remember information, I decided to lay out the main points of the presentation that seemed most relevant to Our Great Homeschool Experiment here.  If it helps another homeschool (or homework duty) mom, that would be an added blessing!

Disclaimers:  My summations are based on my understanding of the material presented.  For the sake of simplicity, many generalization of how boys and girls learn follow.  Of course, human behavior falls along a continuum and boys and girls may exhibit behaviors typically attributed to the other gender.  This is normal!  I know I certainly see this diversity in each of my own children, and in myself and our other lead investigator, too.

Information Processing:
  • Boys process information through activity.  Activity creates a bond between the participants that enhances learning.  When you want to teach, discuss or discipline a boy, it is most effective to do so while engaging in an activity.    
  • Girls process information through verbal interaction.  Speaking and listening creates a bond than enhances a girl's learning.
  • Boys have less ability to use both parts of their brains at the same time.  They are better are focusing one task at a time. 
  • Girls have a more innate ability to make connections across activities and use both sides of their brains at the same time.
Pain Processing:
  • Pain in boys is transferred from the limbic system to the brain stem, the center of more basic and involuntary emotions.  Their typical response to pain is anger, sometimes followed by a physical reaction.  
  • Pain in girls is transferred from the limbic system to the frontal cortex, the thinking center of the brain.  Their typical response to pain is emotional, usually crying.
Bonding and Discipline:
  • Boys bond through activity, movement and even aggression.  When disciplining boys, do so in the context of a bonding activity that allows for movement.  Even going for a short walk together can help the process.  Help them redirect their anger and aggression to appropriate avenues (i.e., hitting a pillow, yelling into a pillow, ripping scrap paper, etc.)
  • Girls bond through relationship and emotions.  When disciplining girls, do so in the context of a loving relationship.  Allow for emotional expression. 
  • Boys need movement, activity, brain breaks to attend.  They are capable of short bursts of focused attention.  When their brain enters a rest state, it is almost completely at rest and needs an activity that will "wake it up."  (More on brain breaks below.)
  • Girls are capable of much longer spans of attention.  
Tips to Maximize Learning Potential in Boys and Girls:
  • Take a brain break at least once every 30 minutes.  These quick and easy activities take little time and serve to refresh the student's brain and revive it to a state optimal for learning.  Some ideas include: 

    • The Twist
    • Miss Mary Mack
    • Lunges
    • Sit-Ups
    • Push-Ups
    • I Spy
    • Twister
    • Bean Bag Fun-Various tossing games-stand on one foot, throw both hands
    Gotcha- Students all stand in a circle. Hold their right hand flat and their left hand with the pointer finger on the right hand of the person to their left. Play music. When the music stops, you are suppose to grab the persons finger with your right hand and at the same time pull your finger off of the person's hand next to you.

    Beach Volley Ball- Get a beach ball and play volley ball with it.

    Keep It Up- Using the beach ball, have the students try to keep the ball in the air without having it drop to the ground.

    Juggling- Juggle bean bags, etc.

    Core Matrix- Students sit on their legs (they are bent underneath them) and they lean backwards. They should feel the stress in the core of their body.

    Get Up and Dance- Play music and have the students dance.

    Wall Sits- Students lean against the wall for as long as they can.
    A quick google search will turn up many more brain break ideas!
  • Good nutrition, including a breakfast with protein, fiber and fatty acids, and lots of water.
  • 9-12 hours of sleep per night depending on the age of your children.
  • Listening to music as the children work.
  • Laugh often!
What are your tips for maximizing learning and attention?

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