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Gender Differences in Literacy

Lise Tracey

Debbie Yang

Gender Differences: Common Beliefs & Expectations
It's not Mars vs. Venus

It's more like North Dakota vs. South Dakota
(Matthiessen, n.d.)

(Eliot, 2009)

“Boys are Lean, Mean Problem-Solving Machines”
(Brizendine, 2010)
12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Row 2 Row 4 Row 1 Row 3 Column 1 Column 2 Column 3

Drawn to motion & direction

Have strong spatial visualization skills

Tend to be less attentive & more disruptive

Attracted to Like to draw cooler colors moving objects
(Diehm, 2009)

“Lean, Mean Problem-Solving Machines” (continued)
Find sitting, listening, reading, & writing stressful & boring Need many manipulatives, short verbal instructions, & physically engaging activities Need space & movement to aid learning

(Diehm, 2009; Ghezzi, n.d.)

Girls Have Unique Aptitudes
Like to talk & connect deeply with friends Enjoy group work, especially when it requires Have good leadership & penmanship perceptual skills Drawn to warmer colors

Tend to be more attentive & less disruptive

(Ghezzi, n.d.; Kauffman, n.d.)

Unique Aptitudes (continued)
Seek verbal praise Usually begin speaking earlier & use more complex sentences
Like to draw happy situations & bright pictures

Desire opportunities to utilize verbal skills
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(Ghezzi, n.d.; Kauffman, n.d.)

Biological Differences
Corpus callosum is ~25% larger in females by adolescence, on average → more communication between the left & right sides
(Moir & Jessel, 1989; Rich, 2000)

Biological Differences (continued)
Stronger neural connectors in their temporal lobes (involved in auditory perception & processing semantics in both speech & vision) → more sensorially detailed memory storage, better listening skills, better tonal discrimination, greater detail in writing
(Moir & Jessel, 1989; Rich, 2000)

Digitally enhanced version of an illustration from Manuel de L'anatomiste, by Charles Morel and Mathias Duval, 1883

Biological Differences (continued)
Hippocampus is larger, increasing learning advantage, especially in the language arts
(Moir & Jessel, 1989; Rich, 2000)

Biological Differences (continued)
Prefrontal cortex is generally more active & develops earlier → better executive function: planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, & moderating social behavior; less impulsivity
(Moir & Jessel, 1989; Rich, 2000)

Biological Differences (continued)
Have less oxytocin, the primary human bonding hormone, & serotonin, a chemical associated with happiness → less suppression of physical impulses
(Moir & Jessel, 1989; Rich, 2000; Taylor, 2002)

Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Biological Differences (continued)
Tend to use more cortical areas of their brains for verbal & emotive functioning

Tend to use more cortical areas of the brain for spatial & mechanical functioning & about half the brain space girls do for verbalemotive functioning→ they experience words & emotions differently than girls do
(Blum, 1997; Moir & Jessel, 1989)

Biological Differences (continued)
Have ~15% more blood Brains have more lateral flow in the brain, activity, so they have especially centrally → less cranial blood flow better able to multitask, & tend to concentrate, & make compartmentalize quick transitions between learning lessons (Havers, 1995; Marano, 2003)

Biological Differences (continued)
Brain can reset, recharge, & Brain is set to renew reorient itself without a itself by entering a neural neural rest state rest phase → more likely to “zone out” when teachers rely heavily on words instead of using visual & spacial cues
(Gurian, 2001)

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Observed Differences in Literacy Skills
Boys tend to Girls are read actionadept at oriented language texts skills earlier Boys read Girls less & don't comprehend value narrative & reading as expository much texts more
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Boys take longer to read
(Eliot, 2009; Smith & Wilhelm, 2002)

Stereotypes Knowledge of Gender bias often govern differences can affect adults' may bias academic actions unteachers outcomes consciously Language & literacy are Nature vs. learned nurture skills

(Eliot, 2009; Smith & Wilhelm, 2002)

Encourage children to turn off the computer or TV & read

Encourage the school librarian to
 

(Jones & Fiorelli, 2003)


Plan programs targeted to boys & girls Increase the amount of male-oriented literature Have coaches, athletes, & other role models read to students Recruit boys to work in the library

Strategies (continued)

Consider males' affinities when selecting classroom literature

(Schwartz, 2002; Scieszka, n.d.; Smith & Wilhelm,2002)

Nonfiction: informational texts, periodicals
Graphic novels, comic books

Series they can collect
Escapism, humor

Texts that are about boys or men
Texts that feature characters like themselves

Strategies (continued)
Use clear, structured instruction; short bursts of intense work; specific goals; praise; hand-on learning; & humor

(“The Trouble with Boys,” 2003)

Have male & female role models who read & advocate reading

Have storytelling
Engage boys in dialogue Keep reading logs
Faith Begins at Home Parent Support

Blum, D. (1997). Sex on the brain: The biological differences between men and women. New York, NY: Viking. Brizendine, L. (2006). The female brain. New York, NY: Morgan Road Books. Brizendine, L. (2010). The male brain. New York, NY: Morgan Road Books. Diehm, Celeste L. (2009). Achievement of boys and girls in single-gender kindergarten classrooms at one elementary school in western Michigan (Doctoral dissertation, Eastern Michigan University). Retrieved from

Eliot, L. (2009). Pink brain, blue brain. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.
Ghezzi, P. (n.d.). How girls learn. School family. Retrieved from Gurian, M. & Stevens, K. (2004, November). With boys and girls in mind. Educational Leadership, 62(3). Retrieved from Gurian, M., Henley, P., & Trueman, T. (2001). Boys and girls learn differently! A guide for teachers and parents. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/John Wiley. Havers, F. (1995). Rhyming tasks male and female brains differently. The Yale Herald, Inc. New Haven, CT: Yale University. Jones, P., and Fiorelli, D. C. (2003, February). Overcoming the obstacle course: Teenage boys and reading. Teacher Librarian, 30(3). Kauffman, C. (n.d.). How boys and girls learn differently. Reader’s Digest. Retrieved from Marano, H. E. (2003, July/August). The new sex scorecard. Psychology Today, 38–50.

References (continued)
Matthiessen, C. (n.d.). Girls' and boys' brains: How different are they? Great Schools. Retrieved from Moir, A., & Jessel, D. (1989). Brain sex: The real difference between men and women. New York, NY: Dell Publishing. Rich, B. (Ed.). (2000). The Dana brain daybook. New York, NY: The Charles A. Dana Foundation. Schwartz, W. (2002). Helping underachieving boys read well and often. Retrieved from Sciezcka, J. (n.d.). Our mission. Guys read. Retrieved from Smith, M. & Wilhelm, J. (2002). Reading don't fix no Chevys: Literacy in the lives of young men. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Taylor, S. E. (2002). The tending instinct: How nurturing is essential to who we are and how we live. New York, NY: Times Books. The trouble with boys. (2003). Massey Magazine. Retrieved from