“If we leave [the] processes of reading and writing cloaked in mystery, telling ourselves that it all either comes naturally or else it doesn’t, we surrender to voodoo pedagogy. In voodoo, privileged people, objects and rituals are invested with secret magical power, and to some of our students it certainly seems that there must be mysterious, unnamed powers needed to do well in English.”(Pirie, 2002, p. 52)
As a female English teacher, I am discovering more and more the need to identify with my male students so that I don't leave them victim to voodoo pedagogy. One of the main errors, we make as female teachers is that we fail to acknowledge the differences in boy's and girl's learning styles, and therefore, fail to teach the process of discovery within the text. This makes boys feel stupid and eventually turns them off to reading and writing. Still, not only do we fail to teach the process of textual analysis, but as I had stated in an earlier post, we fail to create themes that intrigue boy learners.
I found two pretty interesting ideas for teaching reading and writing to boys. In the first, the teacher focuses on sports and in the second, the teacher focuses on masculity.
Working with a local sports organizationIn the United Kingdom, the Arsenal football club (or soccer club, as we would call it in North America) has set up an outreach literacy program for schools, using specially designed literacy materials. All of the reading and writing in the program is related to football and its star players. The program is delivered by football-loving teenagers. Among other benefits, the program draws on the uncanny ability of some children to absorb sports 'facts'. Being able to apply that knowledge in a learning situation gives them a surge of confidence.(Klein, 2002)
In one all-boys class run by a male teacher in a co-educational school, discussion focused on an up-front-and-personal investigation of masculinity: what meanings are associated with being a boy at school and a man in the wider community?The teacher harnessed boys' personal interests and experiences as a starting point for literacy activities. He brought to their attention for debate and discussion the privileges and limitations associated with living life as a male, and the problematics of gender and power relations that circulated among them. As well, boys were invited to discuss how particular versions of masculinity were produced and disseminated in popular media.(Alloway and Gilbert, 1997, p. 138)
Finally, based on the discussion we had last class about incorporating multi-modal/media writing assignments to attract boys, I found evidence
acknowledging that indeed incorporating more kinesthetic learning activities will engage boys. They enjoy any kind of manipulatives. While we may not have ready access to computer-related activities, we can begin to incorporate more drama and small group research projects into our classroom activities.
Ultimately we have got to be steadfast in seeking an answer because the gender gap in literacy is a real problem. According to one source, “Boys’ underachievement is a major concern. Nationally, boys fall behind girls in early literacy skills and this gap in attainment widens with age. The challenge of raising achievement directly addresses the learning needs of our students and the professional growth of our teachers, and enhances the role of the school as an agent of social change. We want to give boys and girls the best opportunity to become powerful learners.”(UK Department for Education and Skills, n.d.)