As I press the 'publish' button on my blog, somewhere in Australia Niki Buchan is pressing the same button on hers.
I have had lots of guest bloggers in the past but today I am trying something new – a simultaneous blog.
In Scotland Niki was the Head of an independent school nursery, Morrisons Academy Nursery, until she was approached by Claire Warden to become the Educational Development Manager and In-service trainer for Mindstretchers.
Niki became Head of these outdoor Kindergartens which are now internationally recognised as Centres of Excellence. Auchlone Nature Kindergarten was also recognised by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education as sector leading with the highest award possible.
I met Niki and Claire several years ago and we have all been bumping into each other whilst delivering conferences ever since.
Niki has recently moved to Australia to work as an Educational consultant and pedagogical leader and also delivering on behalf of Mindstretchers. She certainly gets about!
Niki's blog is well worth a visit. Not only is the content great but her photography is superb. Go and have a look, you will find her at Precious Childhood.
There are many subjects that Niki and I share a passion for, but we both have a particular interest in raising the enagagement level of boys.
I just want tom make it clear here, that I know that not all boys are the same - just as not all girls are the same. But having three boys of my own, and lots of experience of working with other people's, has shown me that there are some general similarities that we can use to our advantage.
This is me at around 4 years old – not only was my mother a teacher, she clearly fancied herself as a hairdresser! Thanks for that mum. Although my hair cut is better these days not a lot else has changed. My taste in shirts is scarily similar and I still spend most of my time talking to 'the girls'.
Famously my Year Two (top infant) report said;
'If Alistair spent less time talking to the girls and more time concentrating on his work, he would do significantly better.'
Little did they know I was going to end up making a career out of it!
In my experience, on the whole, boys can be harder to engage. They are often not as compliment as some of the girls and always seem to be attracted to the most inappropriate behaviour and anything to do with poo or wee.
As a father of 3 boys I know this from first hand experience.
This is what happens to the bathroom door in our house when you buy your 8 year old son some 'Bendaroos'. It is not like any of the examples on the packet…
But, you have to admire his creativity. Someone then turned the p's upsidedown so it said 'boob room' (I suspect it was my eldest, although nothing was proven)- well one of my boys laughed so much that they farted. At that point we almost had to call an ambulance for them all as the level of hilarity was so great! So, welcome to my world of (most) boys!
What I think about boys in EYFS is that we need to stop getting hung up on 'boys' and 'girls' and start looking at them as children who have different interests and therefore are engaged by different things regardless of their gender.
I don't really care if you are a boy or a girl, if you are engaged by Ben 10 then I am going make sure that I have plenty of Ben 10 stuff in my provision. If you have a thing for Disney princesses then the same applies to you.
I am NOT gender stereotyping – that has already been done to these children long before I got to work with them. What I am doing is planning to their interests.
They were not a 'boys' and 'girls' writing area. They were writing areas that had been themed to the two main interest areas of the children in the setting. Did the princess area significantly increase the mark making interests and output of either gender? No, although the girls maintained their high level interest and output. Did the Ben 10 area increase the mark making interest and output of either gender? Yes, the output of the children who had a particular interest in Ben 10 (who also happened to be boys) significantly increased. – So why wouldn't you do it?
Whenever I have worked with settings who provide activities that have an element of 'risk' to them it is the boys who seem to relish the opportunity most.
Find out what really engages your boys and then work with it. This will often be Superhero and Weapon play.You are not going to stop gun play by saying 'I hope that's not a gun?' when clearly it is, so why not be proactive and take control of that play rather than pretend to ignore it? If you fancy thinking a bit more about weapon play in your setting you will find a 'model' policy in the resources section of the blog
As I have said many times before, my mantra is 'high level engagement gives high level attainment'. When are those boys most engaged? Probably not during their guided read or 30 minute carpet session!
You can usually guarentee a healthy interest in anything to do with blood, guts, gore and worms – So why not embrace it?
When you are planing your curriculum delivery both indoors and out you need to think about your children's interets and how you will 'dress' the objectives you need to teach in those ares. Our job is not to pull children out of the environment to take them through the same activity that you dod this time last year. It is to use effective assessment to identify need, plan next steps outcomes for those needs and then 'dress' the objectives so that they really appeal to all of the children.
Embrace your inner boy! It will be worth it.
Thanks for sharing this blogging moment Niki. I am off to read yours now!