A Model High School teacher is practicing a nontraditional teaching method by eliminating desks to create what she calls a more communicative environment with better input.

“Levántate (stand up),” teacher Savanna Arevalo told her students.

The freshmen got up and practiced saying Spanish pronouns under the direction of their teacher. Arevalo gave hand signals and instructions in both English and Spanish, which she said has been very helpful to her students.

“The idea is once you understand the language you can comprehend it and produce it,” she said.

Arevalo made the decision to lead a deskless classroom after seeing how fellow Floyd County teacher Heather Brand — she teaches at Armuchee High — as well as Spanish teacher and blogger Alison Weinhold, made the switch. They both had nothing but good things to say about the new teaching style she said.

Eliminating desks has also eliminated cell phone usage in her class because students have no where to hide their devices. It is also more difficult and obvious to try and sleep in class, she added.

The new class format is also very involved because students are constantly engaged in something. Arevalo leads a 10-15 minutes lecture at the beginning of class and then spends the remainder of class doing a mixture of activities where students apply the Spanish. If the work requires writing, Arevalo provides clip boards for the students to use as support.

So far, the students seem to be learning the language at a much faster rate than last year, the Spanish teacher said. The routine of lectures, note taking and vocabulary sheets did not make the language stick last year, said Arevalo. Since going deskless she is having a much better participation rate.

To encourage her students to participate daily in her class, the Model high teacher hands out pesos to students who ask good questions, give good answers or just have overall good participation. Pesos can also be taken away for distracting behavior or lack of participation as well. Arevalo said the pesos are actual points that go towards a test grade at the end of the semester.

To get a 100, students need to present 55 pesos to their teacher by the end of the semester. To teach responsibility, Arevalo has charged her students to keep up with the laminated play money until the end of the semester. Students can also exchange the individual bills for five and 10 notes to make it easier to keep up. The pesos help keep order in the classroom as well as letting students physically see their participation points, Arevalo added.

“The only issue is, I need a bigger classroom,” she said, laughing.

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