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Mica Hrywna asks can a variety of strategies help to improve Year 9 boys’ enjoyment of English?

Introduction

This research will also help me to think about all alternative ways of creating interesting and engaging lessons for pupils of all ages and genders, and will hopefully reveal some answers as to why students feel negatively towards the subject.

  1. I aim to see if looking at students’ learning styles help to improve year 9 boys’ enjoyment in English. I plan to use a wide variety of resources and strategies in order to see what types of lessons work best with pupils of a low ability, and try to include a wide range of activities that help to engage them. I plan on exploring this particular topic as it is a conversation I have had with many boys that they do not enjoy English as they ‘hate reading’ or they ‘hate writing’ or ‘it’s boring’, therefore I want to try and change this mind-set by making lessons (where possible) more engaging and interesting. When speaking to the boys outside of lessons it appeared to me that they enjoyed lessons where it was more physical or hands-on which is why it has spurred me to want to try to create lessons that they can enjoy.
  2. Relevant Reading/Influences
  3. Girls Rock, Boys Rolls: An Analysis of the age 14-16 Gender Gap in English Schools (Burgess, McConnell, Propper and Wilson) http://www.bris.ac.uk/cmpo/publications/papers/2003/wp84.pdf
  4. Estyn, ‘Closing the Gap between Boys’ and Girls’ attainment in Schools’ (March 2008) http://dera.ioe.ac.uk/7498/1/Gender_Gap_Report_March_2008.pdf
  5. The research I conducted was very useful into giving ideas onto how to engage boys and what helps them learn best, although there was little research into specific research about boys and English. Here are some of the readings that I found the most interesting and useful.

Gender and Education: ‘Gapbusters’ (2008) Department of Children, Schools and Families http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/http://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/00600-2009BKT-EN.pdf

From the above document I found it interesting that it says girls and boys have different learning styles as genders. Girls are more likely to adapt to all types of learning styles and appreciate listening activities whereas boys like to be more active and tend to prefer to have more of a range of activities. As I have three girls in the class of boys that I am studying, I thought it would be interesting to see if the girls still make good progress and can adapt to the various teaching styles.

Gender and Education: the evidence on pupils in England (2007) Department of Education and Skills http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/http://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/00389-2007BKT-EN.pdf

Ontario (2004) http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/brochure/meread/meread.pdf

 

Something that particularly interested me from the above document was: “take a flexible approach to teaching, but use explicit teaching methods for literacy strategies”. This then made me think of the strategies and activities that I would use in the lessons delivered. I ensured that the literacy skills were taught in a specific and structured way, for example I would give an explanation of how the punctuation mark is used and then give examples of it in use; following this the students would then write their own examples. I used this in two particular skills lessons that I will discuss further in the report. It made me consider that it should be taught simply and effectively so that students understand the basics before developing further, as opposed to creating activities that may confuse them.

  1. Methods
  2. I found, after completing the research based on a writing project, that I wanted to develop this even further and examine their responses to a reading unit with a range of activities.
  3. As I progressed in my research, I logged notes and evaluations of the lessons I conducted as to how successful they were and how I felt the students enjoyed them. At the end of the entire unit I gave the students another questionnaire to answer. This questionnaire focused on their enjoyment of the activities that we had in lessons and which elements of the unit they enjoyed the most.
  4. At the beginning of the research I felt it was best to begin by giving the students a questionnaire and asking for their honest opinions on how much they enjoyed English as a subject – see copies of their responses attached. From this I began to plan my scheme of work for the writing unit based around some of the activities that were more popular. Whilst planning I thought of engaging and interesting activities that I thought they would enjoy the most. After reading research into what types of activities engage boys, and help them to learn best, I began to use a range of strategies in my planning.
  5. Impact on Learning (Findings)
  6. At the beginning of my research I asked the students whether or not they enjoyed English as a subject. 80% of the boys said they ‘sometimes’ enjoyed it, whereas only 20% said a definite yes. On their questionnaires I asked them to explain why it was only occasionally that they would enjoy lessons, and all students had different reasons. A couple explained it was ‘boring’; others said they did too much writing; another explained that they didn’t like doing the same activities; which demonstrated to me that I needed to create activities that were more engaging but also purposeful. At the end of the research I gave the students another questionnaire that was based around their enjoyment of English and the activities that we had been doing. The results (as you can see below) had changed slightly in terms of some of their attitudes towards English. 60% of the boys now agreed that they enjoyed English, which meant four more boys had now begun to enjoy their lessons.

 

MH Graph 1

 

 

 

 

MH Graph 2

 

When asked, most of the boys said it was because there was always different activities that made the subject more interesting. Some also said it was a mixture of the latter and also the enthusiasm demonstrated towards the subjects by myself that made them enjoy the lessons more.

In addition to the responses from students at the end of the research, I could also see this enthusiasm from the boys during lessons as they were actively participating and asking questions about the topics. I could also see a massive different in terms of some of the boys’ determination and independence in lessons, as some of them were asking on how to improve their work and what they would need to do to get the next level. (See attached reflections from lessons).

I also noticed a significant improvement in the students’ understanding of techniques and skills as demonstrated in lessons and assessments. At the end of the year the students changed teachers and they commented on how excellent their knowledge was – this was due to the repetition in lessons which I taught in a variety of ways so that it was not monotonous. There was also a progression in terms of the students’ grades, and for some there was dramatic progress. There were three students who progressed 3 sub-levels during the course of the year reaching level 6. I also saw a better attitude to learning in some of the students as they were asking how to get to the next level.

MH Data

During the reading unit that I completed with the research and methods in mind, students became more engaged with the topic. I was anxious for beginning a reading unit with a set that is historically disengaged with reading as a whole. As with the creative writing units, I planned short meaningful activities based on the novel we were reading in order to keep the students engaged. I also explored around the novel before actually reading it so that they had some background knowledge before we began. We also did some drama activities and by acting out the scenes the students were able to remember the plot better because they had taken an active role within the lessons. When it came to the analysis of the novel the students would refer back to how it was ‘their’ character which demonstrated their involvement with the characters and helped them to understand the plot

Conclusions

  1. I have been given another bottom set next year for year 9 which have more of a girl/boy balance, but I intend to continue with this research to see if it has the same effect on their positive attitude towards English. In the future, I will certainly be ensuring that, where possible, I will create a range of different activities for lessons and particularly focus on the topics that students find the least engaging to try and engage the students.
  2. In conclusion, I feel that what engaged the boys the most was the range of activities in lessons and there always being some different for them to take part in. The activities where I created competition were also very effective – I used these when I wanted them to complete tasks so that we could later refer to them. I already had the assumption that competition would work well with the boys, and of course, we are trained to chunk and break down our lessons into different activities and this research has proven how effective it can be.