Monday, May 4, 2009

Applied Knowledge

It's a beautiful day outside today -- sunny and 70 degrees. So when it came time to read this afternoon, I decided to apply my new-found knowledge of the male brain.

Instead of making the boys come inside (they'd been happily playing outside at Grandma and Grandpa's), I took the books outside. Instead of insisting that they sit down and listen, I let them listen or not. And I let them do their own thing while we read: Son #1 worked on his fishing tackle, Son #2 continued to construct a home for his frog and Sons #3 and 4 ate a snack.

We read a picture book that way, then paged through a nature book, trying to identify the frog. (It's a green frog, in case you're wondering.)

Then we moved to the sandbox and the last two chapters of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. (Which I highly recommend, BTW). Son #1, who's been reading independently for years, brought over his fishing tackle and continued to work while he listened. #2, 3 and 4 worked in the sandbox, creating roads, digging tunnels and burying themselves. And they listened.

They listened. All four of them. Even #4, who's just three years old. (It helped, I think, that the second-to-last chapter featured bulldozers and tractors.) Trust me when I say that reading inside does not go nearly as well. Inside, I'm lucky if I can get through two pages without interruption. Outside, I read two chapters.

I think there's something to the idea that boys listen and learn better when otherwise engaged!

How about you? Any examples of boy-friendly learning strategies successfully applied at your house?


  1. As the mother of boys myself, I have to agree -- sometimes a little tweak in your approach to things goes a long way with little dudes.

    When my guys were learning math facts (say, multiplication), I wrote sums randomly all over a white board. Each kid armed himself with a Nerf gun (the ones with suction-cup darts). Then I'd call out a problem and they'd have to "shoot" the correct answer. Math facts, commando-style! They learned them pretty darn fast.

    Kate (fellow blogathoner from Polka Dot Suitcase)

  2. I totally believe that can apply to everyone! I know I doodle in class and draw pictures while listening! If I can't keep my hands busy I can't pay attention!

  3. Kate,
    I LOVE that idea! That's the most innovative, boy-friendly technique for teaching math facts that I've ever heard!

    It might not work for every boy -- and certainly it would work for some girls -- but I know that my boys would get a huge kick out of it.

    Off to find some more Nerf darts...

  4. I think I have mentioned my two mini-trampolines before. They move from room to room around here, because everything goes better with bouncing! I read, they bounce. I use the treadmill, they bounce. They watch TV or even play video games, and they bounce. The tramps have even been out on the deck this week, and at the bottom of their slide! I encourage them to move, it's what they need.

    My older son asked for nerf darts just this evening! It was part of our "what sort of things do you think boys should know how to do" converstion!

  5. jen...i tried a similar approach with my class because now it's all boys! 10 of them! ACK! but during our extended reading time, i read a couple chapters of a book while they draw, color, or whatever...some of them actually focus on nothing but the book! then afterwards i ask some comprehension questions to make sure they were paying attention. most of them get it! i think maybe i'm not reading the right books to them though because they fight me every day at that time. if you have some books that you recommend, i'd appreciate a few titles! the tough part though is that my kids are 4th graders that are at the kindergarten -1st grade level cognitively. but they know that stuff is too baby-ish.