Out of these discussions one common theme has emerged. The boys have told me that there is too much noise in the classroom, and this makes it harder to concentrate on writing. Girls too have suggested that this is a problem, and in our innovative learning environment with 60 odd learners it is not entirely unbelievable.
Therefore I decided to take a leaf out of Chris Marks book, from his inquiry into boys writing back in 2014. I have set up silent learning spaces inside the class, where learners can have focussed learning time without distraction. However unlike Chris I have not made these physical spaces as such, and instead these 'silent spaces' have taken the form of earmuffs.
Learners who want to use the earmuffs must ask first, and explain to me what work they want to work on while wearing them. They also have to set a goal for what they want to accomplish in that time, and are held accountable if they don't. If someone is wearing the earmuffs, the deal is they are not to be disturbed.
I have been very careful not to prescribe the earmuffs to anyone, and therefore it is entirely up to the learners whether they use them or not. It has encouraged a sense of responsibility over their writing, and helped them become more aware of their needs.
So far the earmuffs have been working very well, and I am really excited by the enthusiasm towards writing this has helped foster in my learners. In the beginning there wasn't any real gender divide between who was using the earmuffs, but overtime I have noticed that the boys have been requesting to use the earmuffs more often. Part of me wonders how much of this is due to the 'silent' nature of the earmuffs, or in fact the deadline nature of being held accountable to reaching the writing goal agreed upon before using the earmuffs. As when I reflect on my own needs in writing, a deadline has always been most inspiring.
The earmuffs were bought off trademe for only $2.50 each ($25 for 10).