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The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life.

THE MINDS OF BOYS: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life. Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005. 351 pp. $24.95. Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens present the results of recent gender-based brain research and offer implications for parents and professional educators. The authors identify research showing differences between male and female brains, along with techniques and strategies to better meet the needs of boys. Their topics include: the current crisis in education for boys, how boys learn, helping boys through the early years, appropriate learning environments, boy-friendly school curricula, and providing for boys who need extra help. Throughout this publication, the authors emphasize that their suggestions are good practices for all students, while they explain how girls generally learn in different ways than boys. They also share many stories, some personal, that they collected through years of teaching and running the Gurian Institute, which provides training for teachers and parents in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

The research findings mentioned here are very interesting. Boys usually have more dopamine in their bloodstream and they process more blood flow in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls physical action. That is why boys usually want to be more active. A boy's corpus callosum, the tissue connecting the brain hemispheres, is up to 25 percent smaller than a girl's. Therefore, it is much easier for girls to multitask. On the other hand, boys should not be given too many items to do at the same time and should be given directions in a linear manner. The neural connectors in a girl's temporal lobes, the areas responsible for listening, are stronger, so they usually have better aural memory. By contrast, boys need more sensory-tactile experiences for their learning to take hold. Brain scans of boys and girls show that when boys are at rest there is very little brain activity, but when girls are at rest their brains exhibit a great deal of activity. Therefore, boys should be allowed to move a little, draw, or hold a squeeze ball when attempting to concentrate in class. These activities will help keep the brain alert. These and other findings should lead to many discussions, changes in expectations, and presentation of information, especially for boys.

In our modern industrialized society, it is easy to lose the sense of community. The authors suggest that parents create a team of family members and friends who can mentor their son as he grows. Attachment, one aspect of mentoring, is a major issue with all children, but especially boys. The Gurian Institute advocates 10 strategies to promote attachment: 1) burst of attention, 2) lots of affirmation, 3) verbal mirroring, 4) physical play, 5) leadership, 6) enthusiasm, 7) predictability, 8) self-management, 9) choice making, and 10) appropriate discipline.

Gurian and Stevens encourage parents to be advocates for their children by providing stimulation at home and insisting on changes to the school curricula, wherever it may be needed. Parents may want to push for changing reading requirements, increasing the use of visual media, encouraging note taking and paper writing using laptop computers, encouraging the use of physical movement even while reading and writing, and initiating community discussions about school start times and class size requirements. As what boys eat or drink can influence learning, the authors also suggest that parents determine if their son is getting enough water and protein, monitor his sugar intake, and ensure healthful eating habits.

Chapter 11 identifies 10 strategies for dealing with undermotivated boys: 1) checking in with boys every day, 2) getting boys involved, 3) sitting them near the front of the room, 4) providing more hands-on and fewer verbal learning opportunities, 5) allowing students to move around while doing academic activities, 6) providing soft objects for them to squeeze for brain stimulation, 7) changing class or school schedules to make them more brain-compatible, 8) providing opportunities for physical activities, 9) providing smaller classrooms and schools, where possible, and 10) having a mentor for each undermotivated student.

This book includes a number of very informative "Did You Know?" and "Try This" boxes, which state important research findings and provide field-tested strategies for instruction at home and in school. The Minds of Boys gives a wealth of information for all parents and professional educators for immediate implementation in homes and classrooms. Gurian and Stevens are to be commended on this timely book. It is user-friendly in its style and content, and provides rich, up-to-date resources. Reviewed by Andrea F. Rosenblatt, Associate Professor, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL
COPYRIGHT 2006 Association for Childhood Education International
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Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Rosenblatt, Andrea F.
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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