Teaching Boys Who Struggle in School: Pathway 2: Guide
Cleveland informs her reader that Guide, “ emphasizes providing clear communication in the form of expectations, feedback, and reinforcement as a means of empowering a struggling boy to help himself.”
Cleveland begins by discussing the basic requests for communicating in order to assist struggling boys in taking charge of their learning:
1. Give kids a way out: let them know they behaved badly but give them a way to correct their errors
2. Help kids know their strengths: let kids know the areas they are succeeding as well as need growth
3. Help kids relax into learning: let kids see you laugh at yourself so they can learn to laugh at themselves as well
4. Help kids “save face”: don’t humiliate or make fun of kids in front of others
5. Inspire kids: share your passion with kids; enthusiasm for learning is infectious
6. Keep it private: be straightforward when kids mess up but let them know privately
7. Let kids know they matter: greet kids and let them know you care
8. Make it real for kids: connect learning to the real world
9. Notice when kids try: notice when kids do things well and make it a big deal
10:Speak to kids with respect: treat kids with respect and let them know what respect looks like
When boys have clear expectations regarding how to behave and role models showing them how to behave, they can succeed. This takes the mystery out of behavior. Additionally, boys need clear instructions so they are not set up for failure. This is often problematic for boys because they have “somewhat less acute hearing than girls.” Effective directions follow these steps:
1. Change state: bring closure to the previous activity and ready the student for the next activity. Suggestions such as listen and clap, whistle stop, brain boosters
2. Explain relevance: explaining the relevance creates context for what we are going to teach; boys like connections and understandings, “In the last lesson, we did ____ as a way of gaining expertise in_____. Today, we will continue that process by doing_______. This will help us _________.”
3. Be crystal clear: It is extremely important when giving directions that steps are clearly laid out, and steps for success are not forgotten. Make sure to use fewer words, use familiar words, and number the steps.
4. Engage multiple modalities: when teachers stimulate more than one sense in their students, engagement increases.
5. Check for understanding: Make sure students are clear on directions and expectations before a task is started. Some ideas are pair checks (review with a neighbor what has been asked), show me (thumbs up and thumbs down)
6. Announce duration: struggling learners are often concerned with having enough time to complete tasks; ensuring students that there is plenty of time allowed alleviates this stress
7. Pair verbal commands with auditory start/stop signals: creating dual commands of verbal warnings with stopping and starting signals creates a classroom environment with clear expectations. Kids know when it is their time to work versus their time to listen to make sure they have all the directions.
8. Provide back-up: boys who struggle in school often need reinforcement of directions; create an environment where it is ok to ask for clarification and acceptable that they do so. Students can record or scribe directions for themselves or their peers.
9. Give fair warning: It is important to give a heads up to kids that the direction your classroom is taking will be changing. A verbal warning or reminder can help kids stay focused and manage their time wisely.
10. Acknowledge effort: verbal recognition of effort is so crucial to a boy’s feelings of success.
Cleveland also explores the importance of feedback to struggling learners. According to research by Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall, and Wiliam, “research is unequivocal about feedback as the great enhancer of achievement.” There are two types of feedback given in a classroom: judgemental and informational. Informational feedback “supports a struggling boy in some way, reducing his defensiveness, promoting self-awareness and responsibility, encouraging forward momentum, and inviting him to enter the learning process actively.” Judgemental feedback “ is often given after the learning experience ends, at which point an underachieving boy can no longer use it to improve the outcome of his efforts.”
- Focuses on judging
- Often interpreted as judging the learner vs. judging the learning
- Non specific
- Summative: no opportunity to revise and improve
- Learner cannot discern what has been done well and done poorly
- Levied against student with no invitation to participate
- characterizes success as winning over others
- Focuses on learning
- Central to classroom processes
- Sensitive and constructive
- Promotes understanding of goals and criteria
- Helps learner know how to improve
- Invitational; develops the capacity for self-assessment
- Recognizes achievement measured against a standard
Informational feedback is far more powerful for struggling learners; it provides the on-going encouragement and direction that is necessary to help the child succeed. It allows for the boy to realize he is capable of learning. Geoff Petty provides the following model that allows for the best use of informational feedback:
Step One: Before you say a word, stop and think.
Step Two: Describe what’s right or what has been done well (medal)
Step Three: Describe what needs to be done (missions)
By combining what a struggling learner has done well with where the student still needs to succeed in terms of a goal, the struggling learner can be successful. By phrasing the areas of concern as missions,or as goals to target, the struggling learner sees himself as a capable learner. Also, then he is more likely to move forward.
I am thinking this would be an excellent way to provide feedback on papers to kids:
1. What did they do well?
2. What do they need to work on?
By reinforcing what struggling learners do well, we increase the success of our students in the long run. They will see themselves as capable learners.