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Natania’s Declassified Seventh and Eighth Grade Elective Survival Guide

What you need to know to ace your elective classes.

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Band. Art. Spanish. Study Skills. FPS. Choir. Health. Film and Broadcast. French. Speech. Latin. Theatre. Technology. Electives give Seventh and Eighth grade students the chance to explore. It can be a little overwhelming to jump into a new area, but with hard work and these tips, it won’t be as difficult as it seems to take advantage of your electives and learn something new.

During my time in Middle School, I took FPS, Band, Theatre and Latin. Trying new things opened the door to activities I’m passionate about, even now as a Senior. Electives also can be fun and lead to great memories. Although Eighth grade was a really long time ago for me, I still recall the time my best friend tripped and launched her backpack into the gigantic bass drum in the Band Hall, knocking it down and breaking its head. That drum head still hangs in the room to this day.

Taking electives is a great opportunity to enjoy yourself, expand your knowledge and experience things that you will remember years down the road. But getting in the swing of things can take time especially if it’s something you’ve never done before. So here are a few tips about each elective from experienced students and the teachers to help you get off on the right foot.

Intermediate Band

In Sixth grade, Band was more about learning how to play your instrument for the first time. However, Seventh and Eighth grade Band is about actually making music. You will get the opportunity to play a variety of types of songs at many venues. Band members perform at school-hosted concerts several times a year, at two contests (including one at an amusement park), and at pep rallies in front of the entire Middle School.

Because of the number of performances, class time is very valuable. Always be ready for rehearsals, and make sure to practice at home. Mr. Larry Reynolds, Director of Middle School Band, said, “Come to Band with a good attitude and be prepared. Make sure that your instrument is in good working order, and do your SmartMusic assignments.”

SmartMusic is a program that is used often in Band. Mr. Reynolds will assign you a certain part of a song to practice. You then record yourself playing that selection and turn it in. Using SmartMusic is pretty easy, and it is a great way to make sure you know your music and are prepared for class. The majority of grades come from SmartMusic assignments, so make sure you do them.

Bring to class: 3-ring binder with page protectors, pencil, your instrument and any instrument-specific supplies (reeds, oils, polishing cloths, sticks and mallets, etc.)

FPS

Future Problem Solvers is the kind of class that you can actually use in real life. Its basis is helping students learn how to think. If you are taking this class, you will spend a great deal of time researching certain topics, having discussion in a team setting and coming up with creative ideas. There are four FPS competitions, two in the fall and two in the spring, so the class will require some extra work at times (but you will get to miss a couple of hours of school for each one).

Kori Brown, a Freshman who took FPS in Middle School, said, “Actually learn the steps that you are taught in the class, and do research. It really does help.” Take Kori’s advice seriously because it certainly helped her be successful. Last year, she won second place at the FPS State Competition, advanced to Internationals, and won fourth place there.

In order to be successful in the class, be willing to learn new things. Mrs. Trudy Reed, who teaches the class, said, “Students should come ready to work with others, develop their research skills and learn.”

Bring to class: Binder (with dividers), computer and a creative brain (preferably your own)

Spanish

If you’re taking Spanish, remember that technically, you’re taking a high school class. Be prepared for the work, but don’t be scared. Mrs. Allie Cordova offered some tips for her class. She said, “Study your vocabulary every day, even if it’s just for a little bit. Stay on top of your assignments and be mentally present in class.”

Freshman Suzie Brewer took Spanish last year when she was in Eighth grade and made an A in the class. She said, “Take notes in Spanish class and review them. This will help you remember everything you learn.”

Spanish is a year-long course, and at the end, all your hard work will be worth it. Mrs. Cordova said, “I hope that, by the end of the class, students will feel like they could have an interaction with a Spanish speaker and not feel intimidated or unsure of what to say.”  Remember that you must take at least two years of Spanish to graduate from high school (three if you want to graduate with a Distinguished Achievement diploma). Pay attention this year so that you will be adequately prepared to go into Spanish 2.

Bring to class: Something to write with, paper and workbook

Health

Health with Coach Shanon Purcell is a fun, informative class. By taking it in Middle School, you are already fulfilling one of the many requirements for graduation. So essentially, you’re one step closer to finishing high school than everyone else. Congrats.

Through Bible verses, videos, discussion questions and more, you will get to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. What makes Coach Purcell’s class unique is the way he emphasizes all the aspects of health – the physical, mental, and spiritual. While Health is not a particularly difficult class, there are certain things you must do to get an A. Complete textbook readings when they are assigned, even if they seem really long (it will help you) and keep track of the handouts you are given. Pay attention in class, and you will be good. This is the ultimate key to success in Coach Purcell’s health class.

Bring to class: Something to write with, handouts and computer

Speech

Did you know that the number one fear in America is public speaking? Perhaps you are one of the many who don’t like the idea of speaking in front of a large group, and you might be kind of nervous about taking a class that is literally called “Speech.” But don’t worry. Speech is probably easier than you are picturing it in your head. If anything, it may even help you overcome your fear of speaking.

In the class, you will probably make about four speeches during the semester. Mrs. Kim Stidham, who teaches the class, will explain the different types of speeches and how to write them in the most effective manner. You will also get to see examples of speeches through videos and movies. The homework load is not too heavy; however, you should use the time you have in class effectively to write your speeches and study for tests and quizzes.

Bring to class: Computer

Study Skills

If you are in Study Skills, do not get confused – it is not a study hall, contrary to popular belief. Study Skills is a class where you learn how to be a better student through organization skills and studying methods. It is taught by Coach Jillian Jeffcoat.

Make good use of the class, because the lessons you learn will be invaluable as classes get harder and time gets increasingly scarce. Anything you can learn about studying effectively will help you make the most of your day and get the most out of school. Freshman Kate Follett, who took Study Skills last year, said, “Pay attention because there are a lot of tips to learn. It helps you prepare, be organized and manage your time, which is really helpful, since that’s hard to do in school.”

Bring to class: Notebook paper, binder, something to write with

Choir

Whether you are a great singer or not, you can learn something in Choir. Through this class, you are given an opportunity to grow musically and as a person in general. You also can bless others with what you learn in class, whether it is through encouraging a classmate, singing at a choir concert or leading Middle School Jam at the end of the school year.

In Choir, there is something everyone can learn. And don’t be worried if you feel like you can’t sing. “Don’t be nervous. Students are more alike than you think, and everyone feels that way. We can all come together and grow together, so be open to try new things and challenge yourself. Making mistakes is good because they teach you if you let them,” said Mrs. Lisa Gervig, who teaches the Seventh and Eighth grade Choir class.

So what should you do to be a great choir student? Freshman Ashlyn Rodgers, who took Choir in Middle School, said, “Pay attention in class, participate and care about Choir.” Mrs. Gervig said, “Practice. After all, practice makes perfect. And don’t compare yourself to others. God made you unique for a reason.”

Bring to class: Choir folder, pencil and a good attitude

Art

Taking an Art class in Middle School can be a way for you to develop your skills as an artist. By learning the basics, you can figure out whether Art is something you are really interested in, and then you can take this interest to a new level, maybe even all the way to AP Art. But it all starts with a Middle School Art class.

Grace McCraw, a Senior who has won numerous awards, including a college scholarship for her Art, remembered her Art electives in Middle School and how they impacted her. She said, “Middle School Art classes taught me all the basics, such as the art principles, so I could understand how to make better pieces and know what good Art should look like. This also helped my appreciation for Art grow.”

So, make the most of your Art class. Use it as an opportunity to learn, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Grace said, “Always try, even when you mess up or don’t think you’ll be good at something. You might develop a passion for it and actually be really good at it.”

Ms. Abbye Clevenger, who teaches Middle School Art, hopes that the students who are taking her class will not be afraid to take on a challenge. She said, “Think outside of the box and go for something that seems impossible or too hard for you to create. It’s better to try and fail than to never try something difficult – that is how we grow, change and get better.”

Bring to class: your imagination and sketchbook

Theatre

For most students, taking Theatre as an elective in Middle School is the first experience they get of seeing what acting is really like. You will get to study theatre’s origins, from its rich Greek history to the plays of Shakespeare, work on your improvisation skills and learn more about your own dramatic side. At the end of the semester, the entire class performs a play.

The Theatre electives are exciting and informative classes for all students, whether you’ve been in musicals and plays for practically your whole life or you’re just curious about what real drama is.

Middle School Theatre Director Mrs. Meg Parker-Wilson said, “You don’t have to be passionate about theatre or consider yourself a talented performer to do well in the Middle School Theatre class. Having a positive attitude and a willingness to do your best and engage in the activities is more important than being a star. Hard work will get you farther than knowing all of the answers. Everyone can find a home in theatre because it needs all kinds of people and their very specific skills to put on a show.”

Make sure, as class progresses, that you complete all assignments and study for tests and quizzes. Perhaps, most importantly, make sure you know your part in the class play, have fun, and break a leg.

Bring to class: Binder, paper, something to write with

French I

Taking French in Middle School is a great way to get ahead in your foreign language requirements for graduation. Although that may seem really far away at this point, it will come faster than you think.

One of the highlights of French is the teacher, Mr. David Azzi. Lexi Senkel, a Freshman who took Middle School French, said, “If you are not into Spanish, French is the best. It was really awesome because Mr. Azzi is the best teacher ever.”

“French is fun, but make sure to take good notes and listen well, especially at the beginning,” said Christian Skaf, a Sophomore who has studied French for the past several years. Make sure to build a good foundation in the language for yourself – it will benefit you greatly.

Bring to class: Binder, notebook paper, and something to write with

Latin

It may seem kind of weird to you to take a class devoted to the study of a so-called “dead” language, Latin. But the truth is that Latin is the root of much of the English language, including vocabulary and grammar. In addition, the terminology of many other disciplines, including science and law, is based on the Latin language. So having a foundation in it will give you better understanding in many areas.

Latin teacher Ms. Victoria Coltea said, “Latin elective classes are focusing on the character quality of attentiveness this year. God knows best how we can be successful. Students should come prepared to listen with their ears, eyes and heart.”

Although learning another language may seem difficult, there are certain things you can do to make taking Latin easier. Freshman Ishawnia Christopher, who took Latin in Middle School, said, “Take advantage of the textbook, and make sure to study what is discussed in class. If you pay attention, the class should be pretty easy.”

Bring to class: Folder and something to write with

Computer Principles & Skills, Programming & Robotics

Classes in Technology are always useful because the skills you learn there can be used in other classes and throughout life. Middle School Technology electives are being taught by two teachers, Mr. Thomas Merryman, who teaches Computer Principles and Skills, and Mrs. Aubrey Pasant, who teaches Programming and Robotics, and will teach Computer Principles and Skills in the spring.

As you spend a semester in the computer lab, take advantage of the resources available to you. Mrs. Pasant said, “Come to class ready to learn. Technology is changing all of the time, so even if you think you know it, you will always learn something new. By the end of the class, I hope you will gain Technology skills that will help you to succeed in any class or job field that you choose to pursue in the future.”

Mr. Merryman said, “Be patient with the technology and you will come out with life skills you can apply no matter what you do when you’re older.”

Bring to class: Computer, computer charger (for computer principles), pen or pencil, and, of course, a happy heart

Intro to Film and Broadcasting

Everyone videos on their phone, but with this class you can learn how to make real films that tell stories. Mr. Merryman teaches everything you need to know to make quality videos. You’ll learn how to use a digital video camera, filming techniques and how to create a film with video editing software.

Mr. Merryman said, “I tell my students don’t be afraid to be creative and have your project look different from everyone else’s.”

Bring to class: Computer, computer charger and headphones

 

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