Introducing Thursday Electives for Upper Grades Students at Steele Lane Elementary

A Little Background…

This year my district is rebooting the elementary music program that withered in the massive funding cuts ten years ago. Some of the other elementary schools are doing their band as an afterschool elective. Here at Steele Lane Elementary most of our students ride the bus and leave immediately after school so that wasn’t an option for us. Around thirty students from the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades are particpating in band this year. Having them miss class for an hour every week, while feasible, was turning into a scheduling headache due to grade levels scheduling core subjects at different times of the day.

Our Solution…

We had a lunchtime meeting one day to try and schedule a time that worked for everyone. It was quickly apparent that the only possibility was one day a week in the afternoon, which is where most of us were scheduling time for our new writing program. Someone, I think it was Principal Noble, floated the idea that we make that time an elective time to include all of the students in a fun enrichment activity. With less than two minutes of discussion everyone was on board with the idea. A few more minutes of discussion and we came to a consensus on the schedule and topics for the first cycle of electives.

I built a Google Form that collected the students’ name, homeroom teacher, if they were in band, and their ranked preferences 1-6 for the other topics. All of the students completed the form on Monday and Tuesday and I built rosters in the resulting spreadsheet using pivot tables to do the heavy lifting. All of the students were able to get assigned to one of their top three choices, ready to go for the first session.

Time from the first discussion to the first session with 175 4-6th grade students participating in electives – 9 days.

Thursday Electives…

Each teacher chose a topic in which they had an interest. Our topics for the first cycle are cooking, poetry, art, drama, makerspace, and coding & robotics. We decided to have the sessions last six weeks with all groups making presentations after the sixth session before shuffling the students. We hit the ground running with minimal planning due to the short decision cycle but everyone’s first session came out great!

In cooking they made smiles with apples, peanut butter, and marshmallows. Drama they did some improv and getting to know you activities. Haiku was the style of the day in poetry. African masks were designed in art. Students in makerspace completed the marshmallow challenge. My coding and robotics group got their first introduction to the Blockly coding language through Blockly Games (More on my elective course to follow in a separate post).

Photos From The First Sessions…

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Student and Staff Feedback…

Initial reports from students in all of the classes is that they enjoyed their first session and are really looking forward to next week. On Friday we got a lot of interest from the primary grades teachers about what we were doing in the elective program and several already requested to view the presentations at the end of the cycle. All in all our feedback has been almost entirely positive. I for one am really excited to see what all of the students will produce over the course of the six weeks.

4 thoughts on “Introducing Thursday Electives for Upper Grades Students at Steele Lane Elementary

  1. I think the most impressive thing about this is how quickly you were able to implement this and get it done. Wow! Way to hit the ground running to create awesome experiences for students!

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  2. Micah–this, to me, is an example of change that your staff supported at a basic (beliefs/values) level. I say this because it happened, it “came together” in a short amount of time. That’s awesome. I admire your creativity with the scheduling. It would be interesting to “dissect” why this change worked for your staff–might unearth some shared teaching beliefs and values. AND when/if you hit a road bump (all good) it would be easier to move forward. Keep us posted! #sunchatbloggers
    Throw in a Yoga option 😉

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  3. This is such a real issue in the wake of budget cuts. I applaud you and your staff for finding such an efficient way to navigate the holes that were created. Our kids need these outlets! Nicely written. 🙂

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  4. You have some great options! We currently run a similar opportunity at our school. We call it Exploratory, and it is a way to give students a mid-day break without offering recess. We’ve had options like Get Fit, Marble Madness, STEM challenges, and Digital Cool Tools. I’m jealous that your teachers were so quick to accept this idea. After 10+ years of exploratory, our teachers could use a little inspiration.

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