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OL-738 Gender Matters Sandrine Pal

Module 1 Assignment 2 Summer 2018

2. Application: Gender-Specific Characteristics

Using the table titled "Developmental Gender Differences and Tendencies," please complete the
following activity. Review the characteristics listed below (using the table as your guide) and please
respond to 6 of the following 12 characteristics, including:
Identification of the gender it describes
A brief explanation of how the specific characteristic affects your instruction and/or your interactions with

1. “By age three, 99% of speech is comprehensible.”

This descriptor applies to girls. (As a mom of a boy and a girl, I have anecdotal evidence, too!) For my
practice as a foreign language teacher in an all-girls school, this is extremely important. The fact that girls
are more or less “wired” to be more verbal means that I do not have to meet them halfway about the benefits
of spoken and written communication. They have an innate tendency to view language as a valuable tool
that shapes their worldview: as a result, another language is immediately perceived as useful and oftentimes
intriguing in its own right.

3. “Greater attention span and empathy.”

This again describes girls, due to the higher-functioning cerebral cortex in the female brain. Empathy is
again a huge boon to a foreign language teacher: I am constantly asking students to picture themselves as an
“other” both linguistically and culturally. Their ability to reach for those alien perspectives comfortably is a
leg up in my courses. Attention span (and I believe working memory) is another asset in processing and
juggling the moving parts of a new language, so this also benefits girls in my discipline.

4. “Better at tests requiring circling of answers.”

This describes boys and was of great interest to me as a teacher of AP French. A full half of the AP exam is in
multiple-choice format. Because I think of this as a “lesser” testing format, I tend to focus on preparing for
the free response section in my course. I use multiple choice sparingly, with the exception of my daily “warm
up” activity, which is always in multiple choice format. In the last couple of years, I have received a lot of
pushback from my students about the warmups and I now see why. The exercise that I thought was “easier”
can actually be more taxing for them than writing or speaking. With the knowledge that multiple choice may
be more stressful for my female students, I am planning to rethink how I approach that portion of the exam
next year.

5. “Superior at seeing in low light.”

This describes girls and it made me laugh out loud when I read it. I have collectively nicknamed my students
“Draculas” (to their faces) because when I get to class and switch the lights on, any students who are already
seated will all but hiss at me. While I still think part of the issue is that they would like to take a nap, I never
imagined that lower light was a setting in which females were more high-functioning.

6. “Superior at hearing.”

This describes girls and I cannot emphasize enough how immensely valuable it proves in the acquisition of a
second language. Paired with prizing language as a tool, the ability to take in the auditory stimuli that make
up the vast majority of initial language acquisition is enormously significant in girls’ success in my discipline.
Not only do girls listen more actively for the content presented, they also have a keener understanding of the
nuances in sound that might carry different meanings in another language.

12. “Outperform [opposite gender] in tests of verbal and communication skills.”

This describes girls and goes hand-in-hand with the other language-oriented traits outlined above. For
better or worse, my discipline does include a lot of assessments of communication skills. Girls’ ability to do
well on those tasks in their native language is actually a very good predictor of their success in the study of a
second language. For instance, a student’s vocabulary size in English and her reading/verbal processing
scores on standardized tests (used for admission at my school) correlate neatly with outcomes in our
classics and world language programs.