This article is the eleventh in a series that summarizes and reflects upon the Ontario Ministry of Education 2009 document Me Read? And How!
The eleventh strategy advocated for improving boys’ reading:
Be in Their Corner
To be in the corner of the students, it’s important for teachers to know them. Teachers should know their students’ reading strengths and weaknesses. I believe the best practice is to have the students read to the teacher while the teacher takes note of their strengths and weaknesses. There are diagnostic tools at a variety of levels for performing such assessments, and such tools are leveled so you know at what level the student is performing.
Next, teachers should know what their students like to read. Getting to know the boys allows the teacher to find the right reading materials. It’s more difficult though for teachers to show these students that they believe that their contributions are “worthwhile and valued” (65) so that the students will try harder. In one project described in the document, boys in grades 3 and 6 were asked what they thought their teachers needed to do to help them improve; they said they wanted: “boy friendly topics”, “a clear outline of what was expected”, “a shorter writing process” and “fewer things to fix after they had finished” (66). Boys (and I think girls too) should be allowed to choose reading materials according to their interests, so that they will develop enthusiasm for reading.
Thirdly, if they are more enthused about reading, they are likely to read more often. The students’ perception of their abilities can be a hindrance, so it’s important to bolster their self-esteem by telling them what they are doing well. What are they doing well? As humans, we ALL share the fact that we have feelings and those feelings play a role in how well we learn. If a student feels badly about their abilities, he (or she) is not going to perform as well and he’s not going to want to try since he feels that he’s already failed.
Finally, mentorship is another strategy for demonstrating to students that their teachers care. There are a variety of approaches, but the main idea is pairing at-risk students with teachers who will spend time with the students and “to explore and expand the students’ literacy experiences, attitudes, and interests” (67). The caring adult approach has been found to produce better boys’ literacy performance.
Next Boys’ Literacy Strategy: #12 – Drive the Point Home