single gender middle school classrooms

i found this article very interesting. it’s about a school that’s trying out single-gender classrooms for middle school. this sounds like such a great idea to me, i have to admit. i mean, i want kids in middle school to learn about being together with both genders also — and that’s part of why i’ve not been a huge fan of single-gender schools. but if there are still opportunities for mixed genders withing the school (like at lunch, and maybe in some elective classes), but core classes single-gender; well, that just sounds smashing to me. same principle, really, behind why i can’t imagine using anything but single-gender small groups in middle school ministry.

(sorry, the link to the article doesn’t seem to be working, and i can’t seem to locate the article)

(ht to kurt johnston)

14 thoughts on “single gender middle school classrooms”

  1. I agree. My sixth grade daughter’s middle
    school is experimenting this year with single
    gender math classes. So far, it’s great. They’re
    doing it because of the research showing that
    girls tend to defer to boys in math and science
    beginning at these ages.

  2. I can think of one reason to use mixed small groups in MS. For my church, we only have a small group! Regular attenders = 3, and one just moved away! We’re only five weeks old, so if we grow instead of shrink more….

  3. Mark,

    My initial thoughts on same-sex groups for middle schoolers (in youth group or math class) is the same as yours.

    But, in the back of my mind is : Separate is never equal.

    I dont think that means we need to abandon gender separate activities for middle schoolers, but I do think the church needs to do some work on identifying the ways in which those groups are not equal so that we can at least have them out in the open, and maybe think of some ways to compensate for those inequalities, without giving up the safe space that young teens seem to find with their own gender.

  4. Um,
    Could you explain briefly why single gender groups are better than mixed for MS? I do have an idea more less why… but honestly I’m ignorant about the subject.
    I’ve been working with the HS and the pastor asked me to work with the MS and I had just planed to separate them by ages. Which still leaves me concerned cuz I don’t know what to do with the 11 yr olds.
    Would you recommend to have the 11,12,13 together but separated to gender groups??

  5. Do you think it would be better for one gender over another? Would it fuel more aggression in girls (thinking about the odd girl out book)? Other than these thoughts, I don’t think I would be opposed to it, but it should probably be researched more thoroughly. It’s especially good for church activities, as opposed to education in general.

  6. Prissy,

    I would think same-gender is better for middle school because it fits with where they are in their psychological development. Right around that time most people need to go through a stage of more intense gender identification. This goes along with the process of coming to terms with their emerging sexuality, and the role peers play in confirming/supporting that.

    Also, from a developmental psychology point of view, young teens especially need same-sex adults who they can form a bond with, and who they can look to to model adult “gendered” behaviors. Kids get this from their parents, but it helps when they get it from more than one source.

    I dont know that same-sex groups are the ONLY way this developmental need can be addressed in young teens, but I think youth ministry (and the church in general) just needs to be aware of developmental needs and think through how they can support people in those needs. If you’re not going to meet that need in the small group setting, there may be other ways to do it, you just need to think through what those are.

    Just my 2 cents…:-)

  7. Have any of the rest of you had kids, like mine, who are in some same gender courses in middle school? Jennifer, you’re probably right about separate not being equal, but for middle school girls, the evidence shows that they benefit from not having the boys there for math and science, and that when that occurs, they tend to thrive. What I’m seeing is that it’s working for my daughter – she’s not a math whiz, but this approach is giving her greater confidence. For that I’m grateful!

  8. Marko,

    I’m new to your blog and want to thank you for what you do. i went to the san diego ys conference – loved your sessions. thanks.

    anyway, i was a j-high Bible teacher at a private school for a few years before becoming a youth pastor. for the 7th grade Bible classes, we separated the genders. it was amazing and so much easier to work with the students. it cleared up so much of the “drama” and it freed us up to deal with Bible passages from their unique perspectives. i pushed for the 8th and 9th grade classes to separate as well, but that didn’t happen.

  9. j-high guy,

    It seems like most adults (teachers and parents) who encounter the same-gender classrooms say the same thing as you are saying : we get so much more done! And I think that is a good thing, obviously, especially if you’re talking about material that needs to be mastered (math, or even Bible when there is going to be a test/grade attached to it)

    But, even though I am al for single-gender groups for young teens, one of the things that youth groups will miss out on in those IS the distractions. If you’re thinking of small groups as “information download” then, obviously, the goals would be to get as much done as possible. But, I think we miss some of the life-transformation moments when it is just single-gender. An example…8th grade boys need to learn that their inappropriate comments hurt people. This is not going to come up as often if that boy is just with a group of guys who would never let him know they’d been hurt by him. Another example : 7th grade girls, who can sometimes look like 16 year olds, need to see that there are negative consequences too when they use flirting to get attention. These are not so much explicit “curriculum” issues where you need to “get a lot more done” as they are “life issues” that wont come up in single gender groups.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that I affirm single-gender groups…as long as they are “pull out” groups so that kids are exposed to other situations in a safe way. I think we would be doing kids harm if entire youth groups of middle schoolers were separated by gender (either explicitly separated, or in practice).

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