Fifth-graders Brandon Murillo and Emilio Ochoa prefer not having girls around while they learn in class.
Their teachers at Lyman Hall Elementary School said they aren’t the only students who enjoy and seem to benefit from not having the other gender in class.
For the last two years, the fifth-grade teachers at Lyman Hall have been experimenting with gender-based classes.
Sandy Martin, fifth-grade teacher, said one of the benefits to teaching gender-based classes is that teachers are better able to gear lessons to their student’s interests.
“It’s easier to gear your instruction to things they’re interested in,” Martin said. “We spent some of our educational money on a set of books last year, called ‘Books for Boys.’ It’s comic books about Abe Lincoln and history. The girls classes use the ‘American Girl’ books. It’s been kind of neat being able to tailor our instruction to what they’re interested in.”
Brandon and Emilio said they don’t mind not having girls in class because the lessons are more interesting.
“I like it. It’s fun,” Brandon said. “We talk more about boys stuff.”
Emilio added that he’s less likely to get bored in his all-boy classroom.
Martin said she and a few of the other teachers heard about gender-based classes two summers ago and, after researching student outcomes, decided to give them a try.
“We really found out that there is a lot of research out there for positive impact on student achievement between fourth and eighth grade,” Martin said. “We thought let’s see what we think about this. Let’s try it. We tried last year and we all loved it.”
All six fifth-grade classes were segregated last year. This year there are two boys, two girls and two mixed classes.
The students aren’t entirely separated, however. They still attend their special classes with each other and eat lunch together.
At the end of last school year, the teachers surveyed their students to see what they thought about the experience. Most of the students responded positively; there were a few in each class, however, who preferred learning alongside the opposite sex.
Teachers have found that students in the gender-based classes are calmer and less shy about speaking up in class.
The biggest difference teachers have noticed is in student behavior.
Martin said there has been a significant decrease in the amount of behavioral problems. She said the reason there are fewer problems is likely because the boys and girls aren’t worrying about what the other thinks or trying to impress.
Krystal Parker, fifth-grade teacher, teaches writing to three classes, one of each, and said the difference is “huge.”
“It’s much calmer as far as like the climate of the classroom, much calmer,” Parker said. “Then I see that having all girls, they’re much more willing to speak out and share their work and ask me questions about things than when they’re in the mixed class. In the mixed class, they’re much more timid, and the boys are very vocal. They’re not as comfortable sharing as being more a part of the discussion as they do when it’s just them.”
Gisselle Vargas, a fifth-grade student, said she feels she’s learned more in class this year than she did in previous grades where her classes were mixed.
Gisselle said she remembers when she first heard her class was going to be all girls.
“I thought that it was going to (be) better about all the other classes,” Gisselle said. “Because when we’re with boys, they ignore you because they think you’re a girl.”
While the teachers said they feel the gender-based classes have been beneficial to students, they do not yet know if they will continue next school year.
Martin said she’s glad for the opportunity.
“It’s been a great experience,” Martin said. “I’m 100 percent for it. I have nothing but positive things to say about it.”