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Book review Supporting boys’ learning: Strategies for teacher practice, pre K- grade 3

Sprung, B., & Froschl, M., & Gropper, N. (2010). Supporting boys’ learning: Strategies for teacher practice, pre-K-grade 3. New York: Teachers College Press.

Educators in early childhood education are responsible for providing opportunities to all students to explore their passion and creative potential and it is indeed a huge responsibility. This is why Sprung, Froschl and Gropper attempt to help educators and readers better understand the needs of the children in the early childhood education system, especially those of boys. Sprung et al. (2010) contend that teachers need to understand the interests and individual differences between children. Teachers, whose students include boys, should develop teaching strategies that build upon the strengths of their students and take into account differences in individual development levels.

Being a practitioner, a teacher educator, and a mother of four boys, this book taught me several useful tips and strategies that are applicable to both professional and private aspects of my life. I have also learnt that not only boys and girls have different interests but there are also differences in the ways both genders receive and process information. Sprung et al. (2010) highlight many studies that demonstrate why there are serious concerns regarding maturity of young boys in terms of social and emotional development as well as academic success. In this review, I summarize the major points in each chapter and also address the recommendations made by the authors to better understand patriarchal society in regard to education. In addition, I offer strategies that may help teachers develop more effective teaching plans.

The book is divided into seven chapters, the first two of which introduce the main ideas discussed in the book. The next four chapters focus upon social and emotion development, literacy, learning through play, and school/family and community partnership. The last chapter offers practical strategies that could be utilized by the teachers to more effectively observe the behavior of their students in classroom settings. Each chapter includes clear heading, examples and anecdotes from the lives of children and teachers and ends by offering conclusions, innovative strategies to achieve chapter goals, and summary of the central points.

In the first two chapters, Sprung et al. (2010) introduce the general idea of the book which is gender differences, boys’ interest and strategies that teachers may develop to meet boys’ need in classroom settings. Active boys are usually most at risk because labels such as “bad boy” or “troublemaker” continue throughout their school career. In addition, research also shows that African American and Latino children often face problems because their teachers have poor understanding of the boys’ physical needs. Relational teaching is the key to deal with children’ academic hurdles as well as to development of social/emotional skills. Teachers need to address sex role stereotyping issues, create learning environments, and capacity to connect with boys.

The next four chapters outline four factors that hurt boys’ academic progress. Authors address the tools teachers can use to support boys’ learning such as social/emotional development, literacy, learning through play, and school, family, and community partnerships. Many boys are discouraged by long curriculum which negatively affects their social/emotional development and also cause low self esteem and confidence. As a result, boys turn away from books and this trend may be severe and long lasting. Play and recess should not be ignored because replacing them with reading and writing means boys do not get adequate physical play. In other words, there is no language development if boys do not have time for spontaneous language expression, physical movement, and cannot develop social relationships.

Furthermore, even educators who focus on playtime often contradict themselves by reducing playing time and creating highly structured lessons. Play experiences enhance vocabulary, literacy, and social/emotional learning and even research studies prove they result in long term benefits. However, the partnership between school and families is a major factor in children’s academic success. Research shows that teachers become more sensitive and understanding of children, and parents become more supporting of children’s learning if both parties cooperate with each other and cement the partnership. Teachers can play an important role by promoting partnership between school and families.

The last chapter in the book offers suggestions to observe children in classroom settings in order to achieve goals mentioned in previous chapters. Running records, sociograms, and checklists are different methods of observing and recording children’s behavior. These observational tools allow teachers to gather information about children to better understand them. This allows teachers to focus their attention on gender differences as well as children’s unique identities. Teachers can help boys succeed in their academic life by tracking individual participation in physical activities,

Sprung et al. (2010) try to alleviate concerns of educators who worry about children’s learning in early years, especially boys. The author finishes the book by calling upon schools to pay more attention to boys’ interest and needs. Authors also suggest strategies to help children understand their individual capacities and gain confidence instead of turning into submissive recipients. This is a great book that will be of much use to all of the stakeholders such as teachers, parents, administrators and government because of the many insights it provides.

What I have learnt by reading this book is that academic struggle doesn’t always point out to a disability. Children may struggle due to too much curriculum, thus, it is the teachers’ job to understand individual differences among students. Even though there has been substantial progress in early childhood and elementary programs, the standards still do not reinforce child development and mental maturity. The educators should focus on the needs of the children and not on their own.

Reference

Sprung, B. & Froschl, M., & Gropper, N. (2010). Supporting boys’ learning: Strategies for teacher practice, pre-K-grade 3. New York: Teachers College Press.