Butterfly #13: Teaching strategies for male and female students

This is a knotty one, are there different strategies for the gender gap, or is great teaching great teaching? Neil and Sophia presented on strategies that they use with great effect to different genders at School. These strategies really do work in the classroom, and nothing can be more important than closing the gap, be it gender, ethnicity or FSM. Underlying it is the primacy of building relationships – with all our classes, knowing them and setting our end goals in place for each lesson.

First up, here come the Girls.


Treat them as adults:

  • Be respectful and treat students as responsible, mature individuals. 
This seems a bit cliché, but it really works.
  • Assume that your students will cooperate and treat them according to this assumption. They will pick up on your view of them and will likely behave in accordance with it.
  • Use the phrase ‘young adults’ (even if they are only 11) to make them feel like they need to assume this role of responsibility and thus behave with maturity.
  • Similar to most adult women and men, these girls are dealing with:
  1. Insecurities
  2. Managing relationships
  3. Health
  4. Weight
  5. Reputation
  6. Body Image issues
  7. Puberty
  8. Learning to manage stress, family and friendships
  9. Social Media difficulties (life comparisons!)

But sometimes… treat them a children

  • These girls are still developing into emotionally mature women – so empathise with the dramas in a 13 year-old girls’ life!
  • Go to the level – roll your eyes at their drama, take the mick with them once you’ve built those positive relationships, remember what it felt like to be 14 in school focusing on “which friend is bitching about which and which horrid boy you were going out with who has hugged your best friend and sent an ‘xoxo’ text. THE CHEEK OF HIM!”


 Show your Human side

  • Relate your life experiences to theirs: “Ohmygosh, girls – I went through this exact situation when I was 13. It may feel intense and full of drama now, but it will pass! I promise! Why not try x, y or z?”
  • They might act badly to get your attention. Try to get to know them personally. Ask about their life and discuss yours!
  • Listen wholeheartedly
  • Really listen. Most girls will mask their true issues.
  • Tell them again and again you are there to listen, to hear and to be there for them. Eventually, the masks will come down and they will open up.
  • Have time for them. Whatever else you are doing, give them time, or suggest a time in the day they can come and discuss with you.

 Praise, praise, praise!

  • Praise every positive thing anyone demonstrates in the class.
  • Remember to praise any naughty girl for any good thing they do in front of all the other children. Try not to go overboard to avoid eye–rolling. After a few weeks they will crave your praise, so then feel free to use that. Make little ‘naughty-no-more’ kids your helpers. Let them distribute the worksheets.
  • Communicate the behaviour you are expecting rather than seeing: “Excellent, Chloe is opening up her book and getting her title, date and challenge question into her book” (Chloe wasn’t – but she is now!) ”Excellent, underlining Sharya!” (Sharya’s ruler was still in her pencil case!) Then smile knowingly and try to be positive and optimistic.
  • Non-verbal cues like extended eyebrow-raising helps remind a student when they are not doing what you expect. As soon as they do something positive (opened up book!) PRAISE!
  • List names as positives on the board as a visual reminder of how well they are doing.
  • Add double positives for a certain task/ behaviour you want to have communicated at the start of the lesson that you wish to see.


Be inventive to get their attention

  • Bring some fun into the classroom! Making yourself look silly and normal will ensure girls feel like you are not threatening, but instead real and relatable.
  • Make faces, use body language to gesticulate and to include histrionics into learning and use your voice for silly accents!
  • Don’t be afraid to be a clown.
  • Use humour – sarcasm works a treat!



Neil has worked with young men for many years now, both academically and pastorally, and shared some strategies as well.

  1. Lessons that end in a product – a specific task, with an end-point, such as a project. This should include addressing unsolved problems and working things out.
  2. Make it competitive in their learning, using single-gender groups in the classroom.
  3. Motor activity – move them around the classroom. this helps boys’ engagement, and give them brain breaks. Howvere, show them how, and your expectations of this – primary school do this very well, but they forget when they get to us.

Alongside this,


4. Show them how… be it homework, how to apologise, following instructions, and above all, how to succeed (simple creatures)

Further strategies can build support around them – talk and mentor relationships (the original Mentor looked after Odysseus’ son) that can address fear of failure.


70% of SEN students are boys, and 20% of boys are termed ‘sensitive boys’, so find strategies to support, nurture and build skills. It is not all rough and tumble games.


Who could sharpen the tools the best? It worked for them!

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Could these strategies cross-over? I think so, as they are all part of great teaching, specifically building relationships and trust from which learning can come. It is up to us to develop an armoury to deploy with the students that we work with. And if a strategy works, that’s great!

Butterfly #12: Well-Being

end goal

Paula re-visited our well-being today, with December being a really good time to consider How do we want to be? What is our end-point?

Just like a good lesson, keeping this in mind throughout can help the focus on our end-goal.








-Appreciative of my strengths

Valuing me is a good place to start. If we are not right, then a lot else won’t be either. So prioritise and spend time on what keeps you balanced and happy. There may be short-term costs here – sets of books to be turned-around that don’t quite get there immediately, but the value long-term will be a person who is able to give their best to themselves and others. This is the balance that needs to be found.

So how do we get there?


-Two minutes relaxation
-Smile & laugh
-Think about my food that I’m eating not the job I’m trying to finish
-Shoulder exercises
-Walking away from the desk at lunch
-Brighten the day – a happy memory photo as a screen saver
-Plan to chill – choose at least one night during the week
-Plan nice food – seasonal food for nourishment
-Organise the weekend

A week can be both a long time in the classroom, so map out how you will mind yourself across the week.

Remember, we have the massages during the week, as well as the Christmas Party and Theatre trips in January.


-It’s a universally acknowledged truth that no one likes Mondays, so you need to begin your day calmly.

-Try relaxing for two minutes before your students arrive in the morning. Visualise the day ahead going as well as possible because this is good for the soul.

-At the first break of the day step out of auto-pilot and clear your mind by eating a piece of fruit mindfully. Focus on the experience of eating without multi-tasking or your mind wandering.


-After work or during lunch go for a walk on your own. Focus on what you see, smell, hear, taste, and feel. Don’t use the time to make plans or dwell on problems.


-Tuesday is a good day to pay attention to the early signs that you are becoming stressed.

-Think about how the week is going and watch for things that are starting to worry you. This will help you spot your trigger points and take remedial action.

-Half way through the day, why not reduce muscle tension? Tense your shoulders without straining, then relax while breathing deeply. Feel the stress fading away.

-Tuesday should be a day for forgiveness. Most of us store up many negative emotions that could be released by forgiving ourselves and others.


-You’re bang in the middle of the week and making sure you feel refreshed is important; sleep is vital.

-Avoid the enemies of sleep. Keep a regular sleep schedule, have a relaxing bedtime routine, eat healthily and get regular exercise.

-Try the three-minute breathing space during lunchtime. Sit comfortably and focus on your breath. Your mind will wander, gently bring it back.

-You could also take a five-minute lunchtime vacation. Picture yourself in the most relaxing place you can imagine. You will feel more refreshed on your return.


-The best medicine for a happy Thursday is laughter; have a giggle with colleagues or listen to your favourite comedy show.

-Laughing has wide-ranging benefits, improving cardiovascular health and helping you connect with others so start the day with a chuckle.

-Challenge negative self-talk. Work on reducing the “should/shouldn’t/must” statements to reduce stress and increase confidence.

-Identify a buffer zone. Respite from work demands is essential for health and performance. What can you do after work to help you recover?


-When Friday arrives it is time to switch off that mental filter. You’re almost at the weekend and it’s time to relax and wind down from work.

-Make sure you eat regularly and stay hydrated. This is particularly important (but less likely) when we are busy and stressed.


Think positive. Focusing on your negative traits and behaviours means that you turn a blind eye to your positive qualities.

-Make a list of things that help you relax. Then choose one and do it without feeling guilty.

Thanks to The Guardian for the well-being week ideas.

Finding some quality moments during the week can be invigorating. I took a walk with the Horticulture boys this week. Breathing in deeply during our wanderings, we found an acorn  planted 2 years ago as part of the Jubilee celebrations. It is now a budding oak tree.


Paula also referenced a self-assessment support hotline:


Cookie recipe:

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4oz/125g  Margarine

4oz/125g Granulated sugar

4oz/125g Plain Chocolate coarsely chopped

4oz/125g Self-raising flour – sieve this with the custard

2oz/50g Custard powder

Oven temp – pre-heat 180deg C, on the 2nd / 3rd shelf from the top

Makes 32-40 Choc chip cookies.

  1. Cream the stork & sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Mix inb chocolate chips and sieved ingredients to a firm dough.
  3. Cut dough into quarters, and each quarter into 8 or 10 pieces
  4. Form each piece into a small ball and place on a grrased baking sheet.
  5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes then cool on a wire tray.

Remember, take care and happy baking.