So, it just so happens this year that due to the way band pull outs work I have a 25 minute 5th grade class with ONLY boys. The flute and orchestra girls join us halfway though making the full class 50 minutes long. I can already tell this group will be a challenge, not because the boys misbehave, but because I have never taught a class of only boys before. While I think it will be great to get them to sing out more (because they won't be embarrassed to sing in front of the girls) it also makes me nervous because I know that some of the games, song lit, etc. will be harder to sell to them without girls to love it first.
This is the perfect year for this to happen because in Hungary, not only was my Musicianship teacher- Arpad Toth a teacher who typically teaches only high school boys, but I also went to a workshop during the symposium that dealt with this very subject. Jason Goopy gave some great tips in his workshop for working with boys.
Jason stated that boys elicit the pedagogy they need and they can respond to ineffective teaching with disengagement, inattention etc. As teachers, we need to make positive trusting relationships with the boys so that they can learn to be the men they want to be.
When teaching boys we must "Keep it Calm and Keep it Real" - which reminds me of those Keep calm and... t-shirts and posters floating around. Boys need literature that is not only interesting to them, but that is sensory, cognitive, and physical. One tip I got was to use body percussion MUCH more- seems simple but it is a really easy way to get boys moving. Finding different literature for boys that appeals to them from many musical identities is also very important- you may have rockers, theater kids, future politicians, or future sports players in your midst and music should appeal to ALL of them.
Great lessons for boys have a transitive factor with lots of games, motor activity, team work, open inquiry, surprise AND personal realization ALL while keeping a focus on literacy- which is something we should insist on AND be persistent with. With all of this said- remember music should be FUN and (at the VERY LEAST) we want our boys to grow into men who aren't afraid to sing Happy Birthday, or sing a lullaby to their new baby. Of course we would love it if our boys grew into professional musicians, music teachers, or community choir members, but ensuring that they know that music can bring joy to their daily lives will leave a lasting impression on them all.
A few specific examples of things Jason did in his workshop were the "Long-legged Sailor" song with motions on the descriptive word which changed each verse. (Long, Short, Bow. He also had some great rhythm dictation that turned into body percussion with multiple levels. We wrote the simple rhythms down and then performed them in groups to make a really cool body percussion piece. (see the picture below for what we did- I did this in my chorus and they LOVED it!)
I plan on extending this activity to include all different types of rhythms that my 5th grade boys know. He also mentioned using songs from movies boys love like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. Using this music is also a great time to talk about careers in music ASIDE from professional performers.
Things I am planning on doing for my all boys class this year are not only changing up the lit a little to work on the same concepts as the rest of the 5th grade- but with songs more appealing to the boys, but I also plan on bringing in a few extra speakers or skyping men who have music as a career or hobby to talk to them and sing/ play for them etc. Hopefully I will have more boys than ever leaving my room saying "wow, that was fun today".