Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Teaching Boys Who Struggle in School: Pathway 6: Empower

Teaching Boys Who Struggle in School: Pathway 6: Empower
Cleveland closes her book with very direct advice on how to empower struggle learners in your classroom. She begins though restating her original concerns over the lack of reading and writing skills that boys must possess, “literacy skills are a universal key to academic success.  There is simply nowhere to hide or “get by” if a boy cannot read and if he cannot or will not read, his ability to write is also greatly diminished in nearly equal proportion.”

Alarmingly, Cleveland quotes research, “ experts tell us that after grade 4, shortcomings in reading and writing become increasingly debilitating because the skill of reading is no longer taught explicitly.”  Cleveland points out to the reader the importance of testing and assessing kids beyond what they can write. Instead, it is so imperative that we test kids verbally as well. Kids can have difficulty showing their teacher their true understanding through only one method of assessment.  Cleveland reminds the reader:
1. We don’t see what we aren’t looking for- we need to look beyond our typical methods of assessment
2. Once a label is given, we seldom question the decisions behind it- labels allow us to box kids into stereotypes rather than continuing to work towards finding understanding.
3. We cannot expect skilled performance without adequate and appropriate opportunities for practice in a way that develops proficiency-need to offer learners the opportunity to acquire, practice and affirm their growth,
4. The mode of practice must support the desired skill if the aptitude is going to develop to its fullest potential-kids need to learn and practice in ways that differ rather than returning to regularly used methods.

Because if teachers don’t meet these needs then, “his diminishing belief that his efforts will result in success lead to gradual disengagement from learning, and when, somewhere in the midst of this disengagement, we also label him as incapable, slow or lazy, we further undermine his and our belief in his ability to be a capable learner. As his literacy deficits become more and more glaring, his perceptions of himself as a failure may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Cleveland revisits the four factors that contribute to the continuation of the “Code” attitude amongst young males.
1. The growing absence of positive male role models: the presence of positive male role models in the classroom may offer powerful, real world exemplars for boys about the ways in which real men use and value literacy.
2. Concurrent overabundance of hypermasculine, anti-hero models in the media: need to counteract the media’s restrictive definition of masculinity
3. An unspoken understanding that boys who follow the Code do not enjoy or make public the literacy
4. An acute fear of being labeled as different- it’s much harder to label or exclude someone when we see him as a human being with rights and abilities
Cleveland reminds the reader of her goals at the beginning of the book:
  • Replace a boy’s negative attitudes about learning with productive perspectives about the role of risk as a necessary and valued part of the learning process
  • Reconnect him with school, with learning, and with a belief in himself as a competent learner who is capable, valued, and respected
  • Rebuild his life around skills and learning skills that lead to academic success and also lay the groundwork for success in life
  • Reduce his need to use unproductive and distracting behaviors as a means of self-protection
In order to achieve those goals, Cleveland instructs her reader on Literacy Building activities.  She identifies common barriers to learning:

Barriers to Literacy Learning
Criteria for Re-Engagement
Sensitivity to his lack of skill
1. High Personal Interest
Fear of Public Failure
2. Rapid Success
Lack of confidence in his ability to succeed
3. Evidence of growth
A need for support but an unwillingness to ask for it
4. Access to support
Lack of opportunity to practice in ways that are helpful
5. Companionable learning
A feeling of hopelessness
6. Choice and control

How can teachers help re-engage struggling learners?  
1. Graphic novels: “it turns out that because getting a boy to read is for more important to his academic success than what he actually reads
  • High Personal Interest: images resonate with kids
  • Rapid Success: easier for reluctant readers to get into; can combine words with images to create understanding
  • Evidence of growth: supports boys building reading skills connecting to background knowledge
  • Choice and control: boys can peruse each frame for as long necessary
2. Enactments: “ the very process of reading a literary text may consume so much energy that a boy with weak reading skills simply turns out”.  Chunking reading into smaller segments reduces this fatigue. Also make sure to seek clarification before moving onto the next chunk.  Enactments are about making sense of the meaning that is hidden between the lines.
  • High personal interest: incorporates many principles that engage reluctant readers: active involvement, compelling situations, direct experience, enjoyable setting, informal learning, and patterns of connection
  • Rapid success- allows the boy to experience learning and make a personal connection
  • Evidence of growth: students are able to bring the story to life using their own language
  • Access to support: working with his teacher in a relaxed environment
  • Companionable Learning: works with others and responds in character
  • Choice and control: boys have a choice how to respond and what it looks like
2. Talking Cards:Underachieving boys may have difficulty in generating their own descriptive language...”
  • High personal interest: boys pick cards that match their interests
  • Rapid success: goal is to help kids talk freely of their images
  • Evidence of growth: descriptive language increases with practice
  • Companionable Learning: students take turns and respond to teacher’s prompts
  • Choice and control: teacher models and scaffolds their use; boys can pick images and choose how to respond

Talking Cards: are a set of 80 to 100 images laminated on large index cards or half sheets of cardstock. A teacher creates the cards using the images culled from common materials such as photos, magazines, calendars, or other graphic resources. The images share one of several characteristics, each of which is designed to stimulate descriptive language:
  • Variations in nature: shapes, heights, intensity, and denseness
  • Uniqueness: people, places, things and art from other countries and cultures
  • Commonalities and differences: members of families, clothes in a closet, food at a store, bugs on a tree, flowers in a vase, boats at a marina
  • Openness to interpretation: sets of tools, bowls of fruit, doors with peeling paint (ask questions about these items)
  • Complexity: scene in which multiple events happen, many different characters present, design with many colors, shapes, or patterns.
  • Cognitive dissonance: lion as a pet, the moon or sun shining at the same time

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