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Electives in the Middle School

Electives are a place where students can apply what they have learned ... using what they have learned in several different subjects. Electives are a great addition to the middle school schedule. You can offer them one or more periods a week, depending on your school’s schedule. Electives work much like sectionals at teacher conferences. Students choose electives they want to take. It is a good idea to have them rank at least three electives in order of preference. Some electives will be limited in the number of students that they can handle.

Middle School Electives

The Middle School Electives Program is offered on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday for students in grades six through eight. This program provides an opportunity for students to choose from a variety of topics and activities to “round out” their education.

  • Classes meet during the last period on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
  • Each elective has two class periods per week. For example, a student who chooses choir can also take another elective each trimester. A student who does not choose choir will need to choose two electives.
  • Electives are scheduled on different days in different trimesters to allow choir members more choices.
  • All electives classes are graded with letter grades that will be included in the student’s GPA.
  • Choir* is a yearlong commitment and students are committed to attend performances during St. John’s worship services.
  • Students will be placed into classes based on:
    • Prompt return of the form
    • Grade Level (8th grade students may receive first choice, etc.)

*Choir - (Trimester 1, 2, & 3) All students in middle school are invited and encouraged to join Joyful Singers. Choir members will grow musically as they work on vocal technique, ear training, and music reading skills. Repertoire will include challenging music, much of it in parts, as is appropriate for the ability of the choir. They will have opportunities to share their music in worship and in the community. This group sets high standards for music at St. John’s Lutheran School. Join us!
Game Design - In this elective, students learn basic computer programming skills. We use Scratch, a programming language developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. Scratch allows users to create interactive stories, animations, games, and art. (Trimester 1 & 2)

STEAM - In STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Math), students work with a group to try to creatively solve challenges. (Trimester 1 & 3)

Cryptography - Can you read max tkm hy pkbmbgz hk lheobgz vhwxl? You probably cannot because it is written in code. Cryptography is the art of writing and solving codes. In this elective, we look at how to create codes and how to break them. (Trimester 2 & 3)

School Newspaper - Students may sign up for this class one, two, or all three trimesters. Students participating in this course write articles, design layouts, and publish a monthly school newspaper. Students also take photos of school events to use in the publication. Students elect an editor-in-chief who will work with a teacher to ensure that publications are credible, relevant, grammatically correct, and reflective of the student body. (Trimester 1, 2, & 3)

Study Skills - This elective focuses on techniques and learning strategies to improve students’ study skills. Emphasis is on students taking organized notes, time management, test-taking strategies, and active listening. In addition, students have ongoing opportunities to apply these skills to their daily class work and receive feedback to enhance their study habits. This class is highly recommended for sixth grade students. Seventh and eighth grade students who would like to improve their skills may take this elective also. (Trimester 1 only)

Movie Making - Students taking this course learn to tell stories through making short movies. They follow this process to create their films:

  • Conceptualization: brainstorming, planning, assigning jobs/roles
  • Pre-production: scripts, storyboards, small sets, costumes, props, rehearsals
  • Production: Lights, camera, action
  • Post-production: editing, reshooting scenes if necessary, add special effects, add music, add credits
  • Sharing with others (Trimester 2 & 3)

The sidebar is an example of what we publicized and used one year at St. John’s, Elgin, Ill.

two girls studyingThese were just some of the electives that we offered. That year, the electives met twice a week. Other years the electives met once a week. Alternative electives included current events, creative writing, cooking, acting, first aid, jewelry making, chess, computer programming, music history, and personal finance. Of course, electives are not limited to any of those named. Also, if there is an expense for supplies, it is appropriate to charge a fee for that elective.

While electives look interesting, how do they fit in with the education of the students? God blessed every one of us in unique ways. When students get to middle school, they are beginning to understand their own God given gifts. They know whether they are good in music or not. They know if they are good in sports or not. In educational terms, there are Howard Gardner’s seven different types of intelligence: naturalistic, musical, logical-Electives may let students explore an area that they may want to try to see if they like it. mathematical, existential, interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, and linguistic. Electives allow students to explore their interests in depth. Also, electives may let students explore an area that they may want to try to see if they like it.

Do not limit the electives you offer to the interests and abilities of your faculty. Look to parents, grandparents, church members, and to the community for elective instructors. Background checks are a must. This exposes your students to other adults besides their teachers, and it exposes these adults to your school in ways that they would not normally experience. This strengthens your school ties to your parents and grandparents, to your church, and to your community.

science atomElectives are a place where students can apply what they have learned in the core classes. This sometimes involves using what they have learned in several different subjects. Another benefit of the elective program is the students are getting a taste of having to select classes. They have to decide what to take and what can fit into their schedules, which is something that they will need to do in high school.

I have heard some complain that electives are just “fill and fluff.” Realistically, every schedule usually has a need for some fill. The question is what you fill it with. This is where electives are a good solution. They are not “fluff.” I hope that I have convinced you that they are anything but “fluff.” They are a great learning experience for students. They are engaging and interesting to students. Learning can be fun!

When you consider what electives to offer, your imagination and resources are your only limits. This is definitely a time to be thinking outside of the box. Electives can make a real difference in the school culture.

Verne Schultz is a second career teacher having spent the majority of his working life in the computer field. In 2017, he was the recipient of the LEA New Middle School Teacher Award. Now after five years teaching mathematics in the middle school at St. John’s Elgin, Ill., he is recently retired.

Photos © iStock/People Images, SDI Productions