I’ve been reading boys adrift by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.
I’m from Boston, Massachusetts. When you’re from there M.D., Ph.D. is like crack to a drug addict. It gives you a speedy high. It is also like nutritious food and steady exercise for the body. It produces key information, superb results, and worthy of following.
I found Dr. Sax’s book Why Gender Matters sometime last year. I was on a major binge of educational themed books. These books I consider to be somewhat on the fray. I got a major figurative smack in the face about visual therapy which kicked my ass into gear about the importance of the development of the visual system in children. After that domino fell, it was an easy fall into other books with a fray type message that needed to be shared with educators. I realized that what teachers need to know about children and teaching is severely lacking. It is lacking, for many reasons, but a biggie is standardized testing.
Teachers are now trained to, required to, and often have their jobs tied to standardized testing. Fear is a terrific motivator…
Why Gender Matters informs the reader with data and experiential evidence (Dr. Sax has a clinical practice) that boys and girls brains develop differently; the rate, timing, and areas, to name a few.
boys adrift informs the reader of “five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men.”
One factor includes endocrine disruptors. Phthalates being a big one.
Phthalates are easily found in water bottles. Water bottles often end up in water (is that like irony?)
Do you know what happens when you leave a plastic water bottle in hot temperatures or when you freeze a plastic water bottle to act as an ice pack for lunch? It forces the release of chemicals and endocrine disruptors. Don’t do it. Choose glass instead.
“Collecting fish near the Wilson Bridge, the scientists found that the females were normal, but the males weren’t. When the scientists examined the male sex organs, they didn’t find sperm, they found eggs.”
“Similar stories of feminized or emasculated wildlife, including a diverse array of mammals as well as fish, have now been described in Idaho and Washington, in Central Florida, in the Great Lakes, in Alaska, in England, and even in Greenland.”
What you say? Male sex organs, of fish, that house sperm now reveal eggs. A cause for pause and inquiry; are those waters and others adversely impacting our human males? Sax shares a great deal more.
“Whereas environmental estrogens may strengthen bones in girls, they have a more complex effect on boys. We now know that environmental estrogens (particularly phthalates) appear to cause lower testosterone levels in young men. Those lower testosterone levels will likely impair bone mineralization. In other words, young men will have bones that are more brittle than the bones of young men a generation ago. The disruptive effect on these chemicals on bone density has now been demonstrated in species as diverse as monkeys and alligators. We can’t say for sure that these chemicals are to blame for declining bone density in boys. But it’s a possibility that merits a closer look.”
“Dr. Jane Fisher at the University of London, in consultation with Dr. Niels Skakkebaek and his colleagues in Denmark, has assembled a disturbing array of evidence indicating that boys today just aren’t growing up to be the men their fathers and grandfathers were.”
Read boys adrift for the sake of your son, nephew, student, or any young male you love.
Share how you have stopped using plastic or how you will stop using plastic.
Childhood development once a major focus in programs for preparing teachers, seems to be forgotten.
The onslaught of standardized testing, the explosion of technology, and high academic expectations, appear to overpower learning and respecting developmental stages.
What does “high academic expectations” even mean? That a toddler writes the dinner menu, adds up all the books in the bookshelf then divides into equal parts and completes the rock science project? That a kindergartener reads novels, multiplies by 9s, and engineers the next big thing? What are we aiming for folks?
As a teacher, parent, or caregiver you have way more power than you think. I propose that you stop and think long and deeply about a childhood you want to offer to your child/ren or students. Here is what to do:
Let Them Play:
A simple and best practice for natural stages of development is play.
My father said, “If there is no imminent danger, let them play.”
A kindergarten teacher who was my mentor, said to me, as we watched the little ones climb to the top of the monkey bars, some unsteadily, yet determined, “I let my students do as they wish, it is important for them to explore, extend themselves, and yes, even fall. I will not teach them fear.” By the way, none of her students, the year I worked under her guidance, ever fell.
Play and bullying
Logically speaking and thinking, many bullying problems occurred when play started to diminish. Children become less equipped with language, human engagement, and confidence in their physical body, as well as mental strength when play is not available.
I have an operating theory, that less play has contributed to bullying – when children don’t get enough, not only do they miss out on the full length of a developmental stage, they miss out on solving, for example, social engagement, social skills, and figuring out communication when expressing likes and dislikes.
Bring back scissors with lots of opportunities for cutting paper, string, leaves, small twigs, cardboard boxes, ribbon, and the occasional hair (be prepared it may happen to a doll or some real hair; laugh, take a picture, save the hair)
Have brooms readily available for sweeping the class or the leaves or sand.
Allow children to play with sticks; drawing on the ground, swatting at tree leaves, or running them along the fence.
Keep chalk outdoors and indoors, readily available for doodling, drawing, tracing, or coloring. (whiteboards and dry erase markers will not pack the same bang for your buck, there is texture to chalk and crayons).
Puzzles, board games, and blocks where children are using their fingers or hands to manipulate and move pieces. While also using their minds for spatial relationships, planning, strategizing, creating, executing, and completion – life skills and body skills rolled into one.
Drastically eliminate if not altogether eradicate technology or screens. Especially in the younger years/grades. There is zero benefit, zero, to screen time that is relatable or applicable to a young mind when it comes to development.
If you hit a real snag with a school where your child attends, rally some like-minded parents, coordinate a strategy, and meet with administrators. (It is not the teachers who are looking to eliminate your child’s developing, learning, and joy through play) Unless you’re too busy watching your children play!
Teachers, I suggest the same to you. If you are weighted down by the testing, rigors, and lack of your students getting to play – find out who on staff feels the way you do and work on solutions, bringing parents on board, and meeting with administrators.
Because you don’t know a thing about teaching reading or writing to emerging first graders.
I’m going to share with you a starting point for understanding what your students do know about reading and writing; books, letters, words, sentences, text features, sounds, and more.
After completing graduate school with a specialized program of Reading Specialist under my belt, I did not feel prepared to take on the practice of teaching children to read or write. I had plenty of knowledge about phonology, phonics, spelling, writing, grammar, and some strategies for helping students who needed some focused attention, but I had nothing of the sort that was systematic and produced true results.
Reading Recovery along with other systems such as Orton Gillingham, Linda-Mood Bell, or Wilson Language Training, are a necessity for teacher’s tool kits. I find few who have any of these in their repertoires, and fewer who know how to teach reading and writing well, especially if a student is in need of methodical progression of learning.
Big publishing companies aim to create for the masses and gain mass dollars. I recently heard a teacher say, “I don’t know how to teach you that because it’s not in my book!”
As a first grade teacher, you will want to begin with an assessment called the Observation Survey (OS). I’ve worked in schools where this is a well-used tool for garnering information. Administering this assessment requires skill, practice, training, and collaboration with partner teachers to discuss findings. It is not an assessment to be given lightly; meaning there needs to be a commitment to the information garnered, with lesson implementation focused on known information to build success over time.
The OS is broken into six parts:
Letter Identification (LID): 26 upper case and 28 lower case (two variations of a and g) students can identify the letters by naming them, offering the sound, or saying a word that begins with that letter.
Observed information: a student’s knowledge of letters, whether it be naming, knowing the sound, or an associated word, approach and ease of task, and more.
Concepts About Print (CAP): is composed of 24 questions about book handling (cover, title…), directionality (where to start, which way to go…), identification of comma, capital, one letter or one word. The assessment it more in-depth than my description, but suffice those are the general elements.
Observed information: book handling, book knowledge, recognition of letters, words, and punctuation in text, and more.
Word Reading (WR): child sees 20 words and reads any that s/he knows.
Observed information: how many words is the child able to read, is s/he able to start reading an unknown word using some information and more.
Writing Vocabulary (WV): child is prompted to write as many words as s/he knows with a time limit of 10 minutes.
Observed information: how many words does the child know how to write, phonology, letter formation, comfort in writing, and more.
Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (HRSW): child is read a sentence, then writes as much of the sentence as possible.
Observed information: how many sounds is child able to record (write) from an oral dictation, knowledge of sounds in words, ease of writing, letter formation, pencil grip, and more.
Reading: a series of leveled books, specifically for the OS, are used, that have been standardized, a book at a time is introduced, while the teacher takes a Running Record.
Observed information: student’s ability to read while using visual information, meaning, and structural information.
What I love dearly about the OS is, the observing is purposeful, as an educator you are watching for the student’s strategic approach, what useful information do they have to read and write. Information observed during the assessment affords the development of lessons that are powerful and planned for meeting that child where they are and providing just enough in lessons to grow their knowledge to blossom.
The OS is not to be taken lightly, you will need practice over time, you will want collegial participation. You will want to seek out a Reading Recovery Teacher, or a Reading Recovery Trainer to support you along the journey. This is an assessment that is best carried out and utilized in a group of dedicated professionals interested in a holistic look at what a student can do