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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Two Interesting Guys and What I’m Learning From Them

I Am On My Way to the Oregon Library Association

where I am giving a talk on boys and reading. When I was out in Las Vegas, my host — Sue Hendricks of UNLV, told me about a power point presentation Dr. Bill McBride 
gave about boys, girls, reading, and brain research. I emailed him to ask if I could show part of it. He agreed, and told me about yet another powerpoint, this from Larry Bedenbaugh (who has been profiled in a previous SLJ blog
        Larry’s cause is the Graphic Novel, and, more generally, digital storytelling (Google the term, the url for his neat handout is too long and I don’t trust the tool I use to shrink it). Both professors are speaking to teachers — Bill urging them to be aware of boy learning styles, Larry wants teachers to see GNs as a great help in getting kids to read, not as an evil to avoid. I suspect that the librarians will already know about GNs, but there is a larger point that is most evident in Larry’s work on digital storytelling: the tools for blending art (sound) and text are now so available and so easy to use, we need to work with kids to write, script, design, coordinate works in which words, writing, is crafted to work with other forms of expression.
      My second presentation in Oregon is on art and teenagers. As I was crusing around Youtube I found the most wonderful (weird) creations in which people had matched a music track to a completely unexpected visual — Carmina Burana as a fantasy cartoon, Nina Simone singing "the Desperate Ones" matched to both Leonard Bernstein conducting and a dog in a swimming pool.Think of all the possibilities for school — a teacher gives kids music that they need to illustrate, or text that requires music, or images that they need to orchestrate into visual poetry. We adults pick some experience that is wonderfully captured in the arts we know, show that to kids, but not as a lecture in which they are passive, but as a base for a creation they can make, mapping something in their experience to the music, art, text, scene we offer to them. Or we play tennis — the kids pass something they admire on to us, for us to match with art we know.
      Bill’s ppt. on boys, girls, and their brains reminds me of the posts I’ve been writing on walking to school with the 3rd graders. We speak of "boyish enthusiasm" but how open are schools to the enthusiasms of boys? As Bill points out, boys overestimate their capacities. They want to take risks. There are all kinds of dangers and flaws in that kind of thinking. But there is something thrilling in their desire to take on a challenge, do the impossible, be the hero (I realize these are very broad generalities with exceptions on both sides). How can we bring that sense of adventure into the classroom?