“2! 4! 6! 8!” shouted my husband in his booming voice, his arms outstretched and feet thumping the ground with each number.
He was getting a little crazy, very animated, and certainly was making an unforgettable impression on our 1st grade son. Our son is a quick learner, but for some reason he was really struggling with counting by twos. Counting by fives? Easy. Counting by tens? Even easier. Counting by twos? Not so much.
Our son looked bashful, peering at me out of the corner of his eye, then became giggly. A few moments later, he and his daddy both were parading around the kitchen shouting, “2! 4! 6! 8!”
My husband’s approach worked, and our son quickly remembered how to count by twos, all the way to 100.
What the Research Shows
We’ve had to get creative when it comes to raising our two energetic boys. The example above was merely one of our little adventures from a few years back, but according to recent research it’s not unusual for boys to need physical action to facilitate their learning. This holds true whether you’re teaching them life skills at home, or you’re a school teacher, or even a Sunday school teacher.
WebMD highlighted the education needs of boys in their March/April 2011 magazine, and I’ve since kept a close eye on continued research in this area. Apparently, boys have a greater part of their cerebral cortex dedicated to spatial and mechanical functioning. For that reason, researchers assert that most boys learn better with movement and pictures rather than just words.
Boys also have less serotonin and oxytocin than girls do; these are hormones that help to keep you calm. Because of this biochemical difference, boys are inclined to fidget and squirm in their seats.
Does this mean boys aren’t as intelligent as girls? Not at all. They learn differently than girls, and many of our school systems lack effective means of teaching them in active, physical ways. Don’t get me wrong – some teachers are marvelously pro-active when it comes to teaching boys; but it’s not necessarily the norm in every school or church setting.
Isn’t it interesting to see how God created each child in a unique and different way? How can we embrace these differences and cultivate an environment where girls and boys love to learn?
Three Helpful Tips For Teaching Boys
Whether you are working on lessons for homeschool, homework, or church, here are a few ideas for teaching boys:
1. Let him have frequent breaks.
Don’t expect him to sit and compliantly complete worksheets for an hour. Depending on the boy and his maturity level, you may need to break every 10-15 minutes initially and then slowly work toward lengthier, focused sessions. Let him race up and down the hallway a few times or run a lap in the backyard. Make a game of it! Get creative.
2. Let him play while he learns.
It took me awhile to figure this out, but you can read him a book while he pushes his little car along the table, do a portion of a math lesson while tossing a ball back and forth, or quietly draw a picture during a church sermon. He will likely retain the lesson better, and perhaps even miraculously repeat the gist of the lesson back to you when it’s done.
3. Teach the most important subjects at the start of the day or after a hearty play break.
Is math a struggle? Make it the first thing you work on, while you’re both fresh. Do the hardest assignment first. Eat the frog. He’ll be able to focus better and you’ll be less frustrated.
Have you ever taught energetic kids, whether in public school, homeschool, or Sunday school? What tips do you have?