Why Preschool Boys Are Falling Behind: Addressing Boys’ Brain Differences, Special Needs of African-American, Latino Boys
Groundbreaking Boys' Project Is Transforming Early Childhood Classrooms
(Cleveland, Ohio) Armed with strong evidence that boys are falling behind girls at an early age, the Boys’ Project of the early childhood organization Starting Point is transforming classrooms in Northeast Ohio from boy-averse to boy-friendly–changing the ways teachers teach and classrooms are organized. Their groundbreaking work has garnered national attention and is documented in a new book, Wired to Move: Facts and Strategies for Nurturing Boys in an Early Childhood Setting.
According to Starting Point Executive Director Billie Osborne-Fears, “We created the Boys’ Project because too many boys were falling behind in school; partly due to gender, race and ethnic issues we believe can and should be addressed in early childhood classrooms. The aim of the Project is to raise awareness and understanding of how boys learn and behave in order to start these boys on the path to new success in school and in life.”
Starting Point statistics on children in Northeast Ohio early childhood programs indicated 72 percent of the children with social-emotional problems were boys; 59 percent of these boys were African-American, up from 40 percent in the preceding 10-year period.
National statistics show even greater disparities between boys’ and girls’ performance and behavior. For example, the average boy enters kindergarten a year to a year and a half behind girls in language skills. That makes it hard for boys to keep pace with girls in learning environments that use reading, writing, speaking and listening skills to convey most of the information. Other studies show that 80 percent of discipline problems and 80 percent of children on Ritalin are boys.
The Boys’ Project comprehensively addresses these problems, using the latest research into the way boys’ brains work and cultural issues specific to African-American and Latino boys. They found many early childhood classrooms are more suited to the ways girls learn–and boys’ brains are wired for some of the very things teachers find frustrating. For example:
Boys are often expected to be quiet and follow instructions. However, when they’re forced to sit and listen for extended periods or if they’re not given enough time for physical play, their learning and behavior suffers. This is especially true for young boys.
Since boys are not as good at using their words as girls, they become frustrated, act out–often physically–and their brains shut down. When teachers don’t understand how boys’ brains work, they often categorize them as behavior problems or think they lack intelligence. The problem can be complicated by the fact that most early childhood teachers are women, more attuned to the way girls learn and behave.
The Boys’ Project has trained hundreds of preschool and universal pre-kindergarten teachershelping them understand how boys’ brains work and how to make simple changes in teaching methods and room arrangements.
In evaluating the results, Starting Point found significant improvement in the boys–and the girls. A better classroom dynamic and less disruption were beneficial to everyone–the boys, the girls and the teachers.
The new book Wired to Move, published by Gryphon House and written by Ruth Hanford Morhard, examines and expands on their work–offering teachers across the nation easy and effective ways to help young boys perform at their best and create a foundation for later learning.
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