Motivating Boys in School and Learning

The current education system is leaving the male student behind. This is not done consciously, but nevertheless, it is happening. Educators and parents may see the unmotivated boy as an individual that lacks determination to succeed, but so many of our teaching practices are geared toward the female student. Male students are not being taught in the ways that give them success in school. Without that success, they have a hard time staying motivated.

There are a few things that can help educators and parents in the quest for increasing the motivation of our male students. Some of these may seem like common sense, but only a conscious effort to improve the instructional techniques utilized with male students will start to make a difference. These techniques can be used with male learners of all ages – just adjust for maturity and learning styles.

Reading with boys takes a different twist than with girls. They may like shorter books and passages. Male students tend to like nonfiction pieces. They want real world stories. It is not uncommon for a male student to read encyclopedias on their favorite topics. More and more text are being written for boys. The subject matter they may choose might include: dinosaurs, construction, architecture, etc. The main point is to allow them choice as they peruse the library shelves.

It is important for male students to see male role models reading. Often they read with their mothers as toddlers and they have female teachers as they enter the school age, but seeing a male role model get enjoyment from a text is imperative to the value the male student will see in reading.

Movement is another important component to male students learning. Give them a chance to act out a section of the book or create a song to remember important facts. Male students tend to enjoy visual aids. This can take the form of graphic novels (what used to be called comic books.)

As they reach school age, it may behoove educators to consider single-gender groups once in a while. Not only are the group members more likely to have similar interests, but they may be able to talk more openly and share ideas they have been too shy to vocalize. Boys also enjoy competitions and working with teams on projects. While the current education system frowns on competitions – we should evaluate ways in which we include the best interests of our male students in our current instructional practices.

Giving boys specific instructions on how much time they have to complete an assignment and what needs to be completed in that time frame is another strategy we can use with our learners. They need “think time” before being called upon to answer a question. This is not indicative of a slower brain function, just a difference that is seen between boys and girls. Giving time for reflection has always been considered an important part of learning. For male students, it is imperative that they have this time to fit the pieces together.

There are things that educators and parents can do to motivate boys in the learning process. Reevaluation of our instructional techniques may lead us to see that we teach in a way that could use a little tweaking to meet the needs of all of our students and increase the motivation of male students.