Boys and elementary school: Part 1

1stgrade imageIf your little fellow is headed to first grade in the fall, you’ve been spending over five years getting him ready. You’ve helped him learn how to interact and socialize with other people – kids and adults. You’ve read to him, talked with him, sung songs and played games that have helped light up the learning circuits in his brain.

You hope he’s ready. You hope you’re ready. Because up to now, it’s been fun and games at nursery school and kindergarten. First grade is where the judging starts: grades, assessments, scoring. And that can be scary, because you’ll feel that judgment, too, as his parent. You might get recommendations that you’re not comfortable with if your son gets tagged with a developmental hurdle like dyslexia or ADHD.

This post, and the ones I’ll put up over the coming three weeks, will talk about what’s happening in your little man’s brain development up to and through the early grades of elementary school. My goal is to help you help your boy through an understanding of brain development in boys ages 5 through 10.

  • Verbal skills: when he starts elementary school, your son will likely be less verbally adept than the girls in his classroom. One challenge he’ll face is the shift from learning to read to reading to learn, which for some boys is the turning point from loves-school to resists-school. Boys have more acute vision than girls do, but reading involves visual “perceptual speed,” which is something that girls are very good at. Show your son that he can manage this perceptual-speed-bump by helping him learn that he can master reading by slowing down and looking for cues. I recommend the large Richard Scarry books that focus on finding Goldbug, or the Where’s Waldo series to kick off that process.
  • The “normal” problem: the definition of normal in school is “listens well, reads well, is attentive.” This is problematic for little boys, because their learning style is iconic and kinesthetic: they learn from pictures, and by doing things hands-on. I recommend that you find ways to work with your son on visual and hands-on learning at home. If you or someone else in your family is good at building things, or is in a trade profession like plumbing or car mechanics, ask if your son can shadow him or her as they work on a project. He’ll see how reading, math, and other topics work together in a way that he’ll find both fun and educational.

Next week, I’ll talk about learning disabilities like dyslexia and ADHD and why boys are diagnosed with them so much more frequently than girls.

In “The Parents’ Guide to Boys,” Dr. James lays out a brain-based approach to encouraging boys toward and through a successful school experience. In this blog post series, she shares some nuggets from the book to help parents learn what’s happening in their son’s developing brain, and guide him toward a love of learning.