This article is the fourth in a series that summarizes and reflects upon the Ontario Ministry of Education 2009 document Me Read? And How!
The fourth strategy advocated for improving boys’ reading:
Embrace the Arts
Including the Arts is one way to allow boys to be more active as they are language learning. Since they cannot sit for long periods at a time and it’s recommended that they be allowed to move around at intervals, incorporating kinesthetic and tactile activities into the time devoted to Language Arts is a great idea. Students could rewrite the stories they have read into scrips and act them out to the class, orally present a writing-in-role, deliver a monologue from the perspective of a literary or historical character, create an instructional/issues poster, put on a puppet show, compose a song, or create a dance to interpret a story or poem. In elementary school it’s recommended that hands-on literary games be incorporated and that a comprehensive arts program be paired with a good physical education program.
Don’t eliminate physical education in order to have more reading and writing time because all children need physical activity for better brain performance!
Kinesthetic and tactile learning ideas can even be incorporated into a high school English class which always involves communicating in a variety of modes and definitely includes an oral component. In high school, students get the opportunity to take a Dramatic or Visual Arts course, but if they are boys who are at-risk, performing at a level lower than academic and more likely to drop out of school, incorporating movement into an English class will definitely help some succeed.
In a grade nine English class where written language skills were lower than average, I received a pleasant surprise when I initiated an activity that involved drama. One student in particular flourished in the activity demonstrating more persistence and engagement than ever before in the course! At first, I was quite surprised, but then discovered that his drama teacher believes he is quite a talented and engaging student. He feels quite poorly about his reading and writing skills, so he had often been late to class, lethargic and unexcited about the reading/writing tasks that were assigned. I have to admit that I have a hard time varying from the reading/writing regiment ESPECIALLY if the students are behind in their skills for their age and level; however, I am learning that it’s better to relax and provide a variety of activities so that the students will generally be more engaged and willing to complete the writing when it’s assigned. If you can disguise that they are doing work, all the better!
Other ideas for improving writing through embracing the Arts:
- mind mapping
- studying works of art
- use of print materials with colour and different textual features, which includes graphic novels
- guest artists, arts councils, museums, and local arts organizations (Ontario Arts Council gives grants to artists to complete an Artists in Education program in Ontario schools)
- reader’s theatre, gaming circles, and tableaux
- local research project with a purpose (create dramatic presentation)
- producing comic strips (Ontario Ministry of Education has licensed all Ontario public school educators to use Bitstrips for Schools with their students.
Next Boys’ Literacy Strategy Tomorrow: #5 – Let Them Talk