Just as Lucy screams "dog germs" when licked by Snoopy, third-
and fourth-grade boys scream "girl germs" when they have to hold
hands with girls. And girls scream "boy germs" just as
Why is it that, almost overnight, third- and fourth-graders
develop a disdain for the opposite sex?
Use these tips to minimize embarrassing situations for boys and
girls and encourage healthy interaction.
"THEY'RE IN LOVE!"
Third- and fourth-graders may act as though they hate each other
because they don't want to be teased about having a girl- or
boyfriend. They fear ridicule from their peers.
Earlier this year, 9-year-old Sara tearfully complained that when
she sat on the bus by Kenny, her friend since kindergarten, the
other children teased her about "going with him."
*Don't make them choose. Match girls and boys together.
It can embarrass boys and girls when they're forced to pick
children of the opposite sex to work with. When Mark picked Misty
as a Bible Buddy, winks, whispers and giggles followed. If you make
the choice for them, it won't be as difficult.
*Don't isolate kids. When prearranging groups, never make
a child be the only boy or girl in a group. It can be very
uncomfortable for that lone child.
TOUCH ME NOT
Forms of body contact and touching-that were previously okay-seem
somewhat awkward for kids this age. If you plan activities that
involve touch, some children will refuse to participate. Others
will make inappropriate or hurtful comments.
*Don't plan "touchy-feely" activities. Asking children to
hold hands for a prayer guarantees embarrassed giggling. Group hugs
are out. And don't plan games such as Pass the Orange-a game where
kids pass an orange to each other using only their necks.
*Be aware of kids' comfort zones. Even standing close can
be embarrassing. One choir director solved this by alternating her
second- and fourth-graders. The older children didn't seem to mind
standing next to younger boys and girls.
A teacher who couldn't get children to volunteer to be Mary and
Joseph in a Christmas play discovered that it was because she'd
indicated that Joseph would stand with his hand on Mary's shoulder.
When she proposed a change in the placement of her actors, she had
several volunteers for each part.
PLAN FOR SUCCESS
Activities that worked well in the primary grades may not be
appropriate for third- and fourth-graders. But you don't have to
quarantine your boys from your girls; kids can learn from each
other and have fun working together.
*Let kids know what you expect. Establish rules for your
situation. The golden rule is still the best basic rule. This may
need to be translated for third- and fourth-graders to specify "no
putdowns." Require "two-fors"-two compliments for every negative
*Get kids working together. Encourage cooperation. If
children are working together on a Sunday school assignment,
facilitate cooperation by providing one answer sheet instead of
several. Students who collaborate develop considerable commitment
and caring for each other no matter what their initial
Avoid activities that pit boys against girls. This only increases
their animosity toward one another. If you've planned a game where
students race to find Bible verses, form teams with boys and girls
on each team.
Think big, but start small. Before third- and fourth-graders feel
comfortable sharing meaningful experiences, they may have to learn
to share markers. Your girls may continue to say, "Boys are dumb,"
and your boys may continue to brush off "girl germs," but with your
loving guidance boys and girls will learn to respect each
Ellen Javernick is a fourth-grade teacher in
Copyright© Group Publishing, Inc. / Children's Ministry