November 7, 1996 in Washington Voices

Teachers Advised To Be Innovative In Making Use Of Longer Class Periods

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Math teacher Bill Davies told about his “wheel of misfortune.”

English teacher JoAnne Morrow said she starts the year right by telephoning the parents of each student.

And science teacher Bill Wadlington recommended giving high school students a free rein to autopsy fetal pigs.

“Put the fetal pigs up on the counter and give them two days. Are some kids going to become butchers? Yes. Are some kids going to look at the umbilical cord the whole time? Yes,” Wadlington said.

But most will flourish, producing annotated diagrams of the digestive and circulatory systems, he said. Those who aren’t self-starters still will learn, under teachers with the right attitude.

“Some things don’t work. Let’s see why not,” said Wadlington, who teaches in Leavenworth.

Wadlington, Morrow and Davies were among the speakers at a workshop Tuesday for teachers from Central Valley and University high schools.

Teaching under a four-period school day was the topic. The visitors emphasized the projects in which their students thrive, the change of teaching pace and the tricks that make a 90-minute class succeed.

The Central Valley school board voted last spring to shift the district’s two high schools to a four-period schedule, if the staff is able to meet several requirements, including no change in cost or the number of schedule conflicts for students.

This is the second such training session this year for Central Valley School District teachers.

Now, they will develop their own lesson plans for a Nov. 20-27 pilot of the four-period day in Central Valley and University high schools.

Feedback after that will determine what the district does next in the way of teacher training, said Mike Pearson, director of secondary education.

Interested parents will be invited to sit in on classes during the trial run, Pearson said. That will be organized on a first-come, first-served basis.

Davies, who spoke to a roomful of math teachers, offered a 90-minute class schedule that started off with kids working in pairs on a short series of problems. The concept - factorials, say - might be new to the kids, but by working in pairs, a little each day, Davies can spend his own teaching time on other concepts, he said.

“Then, I have a wheel - the kids call it the ‘wheel of misfortune,”’ said Davies, another Leavenworth teacher. He spins it, and the student whose number comes up must teach for 15 minutes or so on the concept taught a day or two earlier.

“They have to communicate well. The kids will get on them if they mumble. I’m watching, taking attendance, helping kids who are late,” Davies said. It’s another way he’s found of packing more learning into his classes.

More than one teacher in the audience asked Davies if he now covers the same amount of material on a block system as he did before.

“I do now. You’ll lose a little your first year or so, though,” he said.

In another classroom, Morrow and her audience of English teachers talked about how to keep students progressing on project-style learning.

Morrow, who teaches in Vancouver, Wash., ties in English and world studies. She emphasizes today’s world more than ever in her teaching, she said. Plus, she keeps her students all year long.

“I don’t want to have to have a different 80 kids every 18 weeks. I want the same 80 kids,” she said. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to make those phone calls.”

, DataTimes


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