Willow Bend students learn elective classes, college terms

Finals and electives aren’t usually a concern for students until at least middle school, but students at Willow Bend Elementary School have been taking both this year.

Sasha Bennett, assistant principal at Willow Bend, said the faculty has been working to familiarize students with going to college someday. As part of that process, they are getting a lot of college vocabulary and experiences.

In every grade level, students are taking short math exams at the end of the six-week periods. Known as four-minute finals, the tests are meant to be short screenings that let teachers know if students are on pace with their math skills.

Bennett said teachers have always screened students in reading at the elementary level, but not in math. The four-minute final is “a glorified universal screening,” she said.

If a child doesn’t pass, the school has a team that intervenes until the student is able to pass, Bennett said.

Randy Harman, Willow Bend’s school counselor, said student interest in math has risen with the four-minute finals because they are allowed to take one one-hour elective course if they pass.

Several students who struggled to pass their first four-minute final in the fall semester passed the most recent one within three minutes, Harman said.

“They were so interested in electives,” he said.

Using electives and finals to teach students a little bit about what they might do in college is part of this year’s push for Willow Bend students, Bennett said. Each teacher’s room is supposed to represent a different college, with teachers decorating with pictures of dorms and playing the fight song for students.

Students are now incorporating a lot of college terms into their daily vocabulary, Bennett said. They even find out which elective they will be taking part in when they get an acceptance letter into the elective class.

“It’s a common language that we all speak now,” she said. “They know it’s getting them ready for college.”

The electives for the past six-week period included cheerleading and dance, construction, Army, a Texas Tech Museum class on dinosaurs, a Zumba class from Bodyworks instructors and a class from United Martial Arts.

Harman was in charge of the construction elective. He was hoping for 10 total students, but 63 signed up to build simple wood kits from Home Depot.

He said he was concerned about the number of students, but he had 14 volunteers show up to help supervise the young hands and hammers.

“When you’re working with kindergartners and a hammer, you need one-on-one,” Harman said. Because the students rotated by grade level in attending the electives, the volunteers helped him achieve that level of oversight.

Elementary students love hammering and gluing, Harman said, noting that it is great motivation for some students.

He said he has used the construction kits as lessons for students for years. Using a nail and glue makes a project stronger, Harman tells his students. This lesson translates to relationships with friends and family, he said.

“When you build a group around you that supports you, then you’ll have success,” he said.

In another elective in mid-December, girls showed up for a dance lesson from former Frenship dancers Lauren Payne and Taylor White.

Before they started teaching the elementary students how to do the dance to the fight song of Frenship High School, Payne and White asked them how they did on their four-minute finals. The instructors shared where they were going to college and told the young students that they had just finished their own college finals.

They also encouraged the elementary dancers about learning the fight song dance, telling them it primarily involves a lot of jumping, kicking and smiling.

You must be logged in to post a comment.