What are little boys made of?
Snakes and snails, and puppy dog tails.
That's what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice, and everything nice.
That's what little girls are made of.
The above rhyme puts forth the simple notion that boys and girls are different. It also seems to be making a judgement call while doing so, but the point is clear. So why in our elementary schools do we continually view boys and girls through the same educational lens?
Many curriculums require children to write 'small moment' stories. The 'small moment' can be any event or happening in the life of the child that is then focused and expanded upon. Instead of writing list stories (I went to the store. I went to the park. I went home.) they are asked to give a detailed account of one thing that happened at the store. When they write something like "I went to the Acme with my mom and sister to buy pretzels. My mom had a coupon for Snyder's pretzels so we got that kind. I smiled." teachers applaud.
Girls are generally good at writing these kinds of stories.
Boys on the other hand are more motivated to write when they can write stories involving superheroes or violence. Teachers try to sway them away from these topics.
Here is a sampling I took from my class today.
That was written by a little girl about her hair and her mischievous brother.
And the drawing below was done by a little boy. It is a picture of Stewie from The Family Guy holding a knife while reenacting the shower scene from Psycho. He saw this on TV. It stuck with him.
Books by researchers like Ralph Fletcher who wrote Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices and Thomas Newirk who wrote Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy, and Popular Culture challenge us to rethink our expectations. Why isn't it okay for boys to write like boys? Why do we, as a culture, value only one type of writing and dismiss the other? Reading these books makes me realize how ingrained this way of thinking is and I continue to struggle to alter my perception.
It's an ongoing thing.
By the way, care to venture a guess as to whether a boy or a girl drew the top picture with the butterflies and the flowers?