Boys and Girls Learn Differently (Michael Gurian)


Okay, I confess...I have only read 3 chapters of this enormous book so far, but I do know that it is about gender differences in brain structure, hormones, and the implications to meeting both boys' and girls' needs in learning.


What I have read has been jam-packed with information about how the brain is set up, how it works, the different hormones and the roles they play, etc. There are charts and pictures and comparisons and descriptions of how boy brains and girl brains are wired. I have learned so much already, and I genuinely am eager to finish the book. I've experimented with some of the strategies Gurian suggests for gender-specific needs, such as permitting boys lots of movement and transitions to keep them focused. I tried that out with a couple of 5th grade boys in my reading intervention group, by letting them watch/listen to podcasts about whatever topics our daily passages were about. For the girls, I read about drawing out the relevance of their feelings and emotions to interest them in the subject at hand.


One interesting piece of information I learned was that emotive processing uses the most advanced parts of the brain, and that in order to fully engage any child in the topic, it is essential to find a way to make them feel strongly about it. I used that in a discussion with my 4th graders this year about plagiarism. I gave them some scenarios and let them talk through how they would feel if someone stole their work and passed it off as their own. They, of course, were infuriated. Then I asked them how they thought authors of websites, books, etc. (who had written info the kids were using to plagiarize for a presentation) felt with them stealing their work. It was a powerful moment for those kids because their emotions were creating their learning experience.


All of these situations of successful targeting of gender-specific learning needs showed me instantly that this book is a MUST READ for every educator. I've read lots of these professional research pieces, and rarely are they as full of practical tips for being a better teacher as this one.


My favorite aspect of the book is simply the fact that grounded, respected, scientific research confirms that there are major differences in boys and girls. For a long time we have been told to treat boys and girls the same, when I have never believed that. Both genders have been created with special strengths, weaknesses, and abilities, and it is nice to finally have that acknowledged by an authority in this field.