weather icon Clear

Clark County School District educators explore nontraditional teaching methods

Boys in Ginny Stevens’ third-grade classroom spent the school year without desks. It wasn’t because of budget cuts —- it was action research.

Stevens and about 80 other Clark County School District educators displayed their findings after months of unorthodox teaching practices May 13 as part of the fifth annual Best Practices Action Research Data Fair at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd.

Stevens’ class of 22 boys had small, portable desktops to work on, but how they positioned themselves and where they sat, or lay, was up to them.

“Furniture really does get in the way,” Stevens said. “They like free seating, and it offered a lot of flexibility. Boys need more space than girls. They like to stretch out.”

Stevens approached principal Joanie Monroy of Sunrise Acres Elementary School, 211 N. 28th St., with the idea before the school year.

“I’m very happy with how it turned out,” Monroy said. “The kids had a ball. We’d do it again if a teacher wanted to.”

Stevens believes the no-desk scenario was particularly effective with the boys and that she had fewer discipline problems than in the past.

She couldn’t quantitatively measure whether achievement improved, but she believes it could positively impact test scores.

Teachers Shelly Poss and Olga Ramsey from Mendoza Elementary School, 2000 S. Sloan Lane, worked together to offer parent literacy workshops.

Parents of their second-grade classes were invited to the school for hour long sessions every week from October through March. Poss and Ramsey demonstrated home teaching strategies to work with their kids to improve literacy skills.

Ramsey translated for many parents who spoke only Spanish.

“Parents were excited to have strategies to work with younger kids,” Poss said. “Literacy at home is important.

“On average, students of parents who attended regularly had better (test) results,” she said. “We measured about 10 months of growth versus six months. When a parent’s involved, their kid’s literacy skills are going to grow faster.”

Physical education teacher Dennis Sizemore of Dickens Elementary School, 5550 Milan Peak St. in North Las Vegas, spent a few months of the school year seeing if students could benefit physically from using a Nintendo Wii in a comparable fashion to traditional P.E. classes.

Sizemore studied students with autism and integrated some Wii time into their activities. Students were most fatigued after playing the Just Dance Kids and NFL Training Camp games.

Not only were they able to get a healthy amount of exercise, but he said they seemed more engaged and open to instruction, with less resistance than in the past.

Sizemore would like to expand the program to incorporate more students and try to determine if Wii use can increase skill levels in traditional sports.

Special education teacher Michael Padeken of Hughes Middle School in Mesquite developed an alternative way of teaching math facts called “finger popping.”

For two minutes a day Padeken worked with his students to learn multiplication tables, using his interactive hands method. He developed the strategy more than 20 years ago and believes it can help kids, specifically those with special needs, improve their basic math skills in multiplication and division.

CCSD Superintendent Dwight Jones came by the fair to look at some of the projects and talk to the teachers about their research. Teachers said Jones was happy to see this kind of internal innovation taking place in the district.

Event co-coordinators Brett Campbell, who works for the district, and LeAnn Putney, a University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor, expect the program to continue, so long as funding is available.

Teachers, they said, are always trying to tweak their craft.

“Teachers have a specific challenge or problem they’re working with,” said Campbell, “and they want to address it themselves, as opposed to having someone come in and tell them how to fix it. So they’re looking to improve the practice, becoming better teachers and teach more effectively and efficiently to reach students.”

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.