Monday, May 20, 2013

Teaching Boys Who Struggle in School: Pathway 4: Adjust

Teaching Boys Who Struggle in School: Pathway 4: Adjust
Cleveland begins by referencing previously mentioned challenges that teachers face in their classrooms such as location, size, etc.. but also reexamines some essential questions that face our struggling boys:
  • Is it possible that some of these behaviors are the result of a boys’ inability to function well within the physical environment itself?
  • Are there ways we can organize our classroom spaces that might minimize some of these behaviors?
  • Might some of these adjustments also help boys to learn self-regulation, building a stronger sense of self along with reducing the need for constant policing?
Cleveland argues that we could say yes to many of these questions because of the strong connections between the physical aspects of the classroom with boys’ needs. Cleveland points out that there are four intersections:
1. A need for increased physical activity: boys need to move their bodies before and while they are learning so that they can learn.
2. A need for social interaction: boys consider peer interaction to be the most enjoyable part of school.
3. A reduction of visual and auditory distractions: making simple adjustments to the classroom layout can minimize behaviors.
4. A need for physical comfort: when students feel comfortable and safe, discipline problems dramatically decrease and learning improves

Cleveland suggest Zones of Comfort to help boys maximize potential in our classrooms.  

Strategies to increase physical movement:
1. Moving time: create distinct seating and desk arrangements for daily learning scenarios:
  • direct instruction- desk face one direction
  • individual work, paired or small group
  • whole class or small group discussions
  • structured small group discussions
  • use of centers or stations
    • when moving desks into different configurations, students can create mental shifts into the new activities preparing their mind for the work ahead and refocusing.
2. Standing time: boys might need the options of walking to the back or side of the room to move about.  This also gives the boy a sense of freedom and responsibility to move around while others are seated. Clear expectations need to be set around this option.
3. Errands: the responsibility of running an errand for the teacher and completing the task helps the child to feel successful as well as gets them up a moving.
4. Energizer monitor: a boy is assigned to give a prearranged signal to move around and change the flow of the lesson to get the kids reacclimated and refocused.

Strategies to Increase Social Interaction
1. Study Buddies: each student has a buddy they can consult about learning matters. Students can leave their seat to discuss learning with their buddy. This enables the student to physically move around and work on his social interaction skills.

Strategies to Reduce Distractions:
1. One of Four: Make sure the front of the classroom where instruction is given is a calm place free of distractions.  
2. Traffic Lanes: make sure there are clear lanes for the students to utilize when moving around the room.
3. Testing circle: move desks in a circle facing outward to reduce distractions while testing.

Strategies to Increase Comfort:

1. Fidget grabbers: to give boys permission to hold objects that he can fiddle with during class that are quiet objects.
2. Kick Stopper: wrap something stretchy around the bottom leg of desk to allow kids to move without distracting others
3. Rocking Chair: having a rocking chair in class gives kids that need to move a quiet place to do so.  
4. Calm Down Vest: a physically weighty vest allows for kids to calm down as a result of the weight of the vest placed upon them.

Do It Yourself Modality Zones:
Ear Phone Zone: keep a pair of earphone headsets for boys who need quiet time to avoid distractions
Nonglare Zone: sun glasses or visors help boys who are light sensitive
Flex Zone: have a supply of clipboards available for boys who need to change their work stations during class.
Lamp Zone: some students might prefer their own light source to illuminate their work more directly especially if the classroom lighting is kept more dim.

As Cleveland explains about these small changes, “simple adjustments to his personal learning environment can optimize his ability to focus and concentrate in any learning situation, now and in the future.  The ability to control the quality of his learning experience is especially empowering for a struggling boy, who may often feel at the mercy of conditions over which he has no control or input.” Cleveland goes as far as to suggest that the classroom be designed by the students with different arrangement week by week until one final arrangement can be collaborated upon and voted on by the entire group.

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