Parent Guide to the Curriculum: Sixth Grade

The sixth grade offers new and exciting challenges. For the first time in their academic careers, students are in an environment of multiple classes, different students to work with, multiple teachers, and an increase in responsibility.

At the middle school, students have the opportunity to be involved in many activities beyond the classroom. In addition to our athletics and music programs, the middle school offers a variety of clubs. We strongly encourage students to take advantage of these opportunities.

One of our main areas of focus is character education. Throughout the year, we recognize the accomplishments of our students through Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) Gotcha Tickets raffles, monthly PBIS incentive awards, the student of the month program, and quarterly town meetings.

The middle school prides itself on addressing the “whole child.”  We hope to bring out the best in all of our students, academically, emotionally, and socially, through a challenging, yet caring, environment.

English Language Arts

Highlights of what your child will learn in sixth grade include:

  • Reading and comprehending a variety of literary and informational texts.
  • Reading closely, making logical inferences and drawing conclusions.
  • Drawing evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • Determining central ideas or themes of a text and analyzing their development.
  • Interpreting words and phrases as they are used in a text.
  • Writing arguments, narratives and informative/explanatory texts.
  • Producing clear and coherent writing in which development, organization, and style are appropriate to the task, purpose, and audience.
  • Developing and strengthening writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
  • Preparing for and participating effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners.
  • Applying knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts.

Characteristics of texts read in sixth grade*

  • Informational texts, high fantasy and science fiction, realistic fiction, traditional literature (including myths and legends), biography, memoir, autobiography, historical fiction, mysteries, satire, parody, allegory and monologues
  • Fictional texts with structures that are unusual (e.g., flashback, flashforward), elaborate plots and subplots
  • Nonfictional texts with a variety of formats (question and answer, paragraphs, boxes, legends, and call-outs)
  • Text content that requires knowledge of history or current world events and may require the reader to take on diverse perspectives
  • Textual themes that include the understanding of cultural diversity; complex themes that focus on human problems (war, hardship, social class and race barriers); and themes that present societal issues, especially those important to adolescents

Characteristics of sixth-grade readers*

  • Able to process and understand a wide range of texts, including all genres
  • Most of reading is silent; fluency and phrasing in oral reading is well-established
  • Can remember information and connect ideas over many days of reading
  • Able to process a heavy load of content-specific and technical words that require using embedded definitions, background knowledge, and readers’ tools, such as glossaries
  • Readers search for and use information from texts in an integrated way to better understand deeper levels of the text (e.g., themes, multi-dimensional characters)
  • Able to apply prior understandings in a critical way when reading fiction and nonfiction texts
  • Developing an understanding of abstract forms of literature, such as satire, parody, allegory or monologue

Source: Pinnell, G. S., & Fountas, I. C. (2011). The Continuum of Literacy Learning (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

Mathematics

In sixth grade, your child will learn to:

  • Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication and division to divide fractions.
  • Compute fluently with multi-digit numbers.
  • Find common factors and multiples.
  • Apply and extend previous understandings of numbers to the system of rational numbers.
  • Apply and extend previous understandings of arithmetic to algebraic expressions.
  • Reason about and solve one-variable equations and inequalities.
  • Represent and analyze relationships between dependent and independent variables.
  • Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving area, surface area and volume.
  • Develop an understanding of statistical variability.
  • Summarize and describe distributions of data.

Social Studies

Why is history so important? How do we learn about the past? How do we research history? These are essential questions sixth-graders explore while studying ancient history. Students study the environment, natural resources, physical features, time periods and people of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China, Greece and Rome, as well as medieval Europe.

The priority standards of sixth-grade social studies are:

  • Geography, Humans, and the Environment of the Eastern Hemisphere
  • Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures (First humans through the Neolithic Revolution)
  • Time, continuity, and Change (Early River Valley Civilizations)
  • Development and Transformation of Social Structures (Comparative world religions)
  • Power, Authority, and Governance (Comparative classical civilizations)
  • Global Connections and Exchange (Mediterranean World: Feudal Western Europe, The Byzantine Empire and the Islamic Caliphates)

Science

Sixth-grade science students analyze and interpret data as they participate in science activities and practices. Students explore concepts that cut across a number of scientific disciplines and cover a variety of topics, including:

  • Structure and properties of matter
  • The universe and its stars
  • Earth and the solar system
  • The history of planet Earth
  • Earth’s materials and systems
  • Plate tectonics and large-scale interactions
  • The role of water in Earth’s surface processes
  • Natural resources
  • Natural hazards
  • Weather and climate

Students also use skills that scientists and engineers use every day to investigate and solve problems, such as asking questions, developing models and interpreting data. Students’ understanding grows as they begin to see the connections between what they learn from one year to the next and across subject areas.

Art

The goal of the sixth-grade art program is to help students develop the skills and understanding necessary for them to create original works of art, make visual statements that will convey significant ideas and feelings to themselves and others in a creative way, and learn creative and analytical problem solving. Through art class, students develop a sense of accomplishment that promotes their personal self-worth.

During the 10-week art class, students create art based on aesthetics and using their knowledge of the principles of art and the elements of design. Students learn the historical context in which art is made, the use of different mediums and applications, and the proper vocabulary for art critiques and art appreciation. Students learn more advanced concepts of color theory, line design, technical drawing, art history, sculpture and painting.

Band

Students who took band in fourth and/or fifth grade are automatically enrolled in sixth-grade band. As sixth-graders, students continue to progress on their instruments by taking part in weekly band lessons and participating in a group band rehearsal every-other day.

Students are given several opportunities to perform, including three concerts during the school year, at least one performance for the school, a performance during the annual Senior Citizens Brunch, and a Memorial Day performance. Select students may also participate in the all-county music festival and the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) solo festival.

Students who have not previously taken band may contact Mrs. Jacaruso for information about joining.

Computer Technology

The sixth-grade computer technology course helps students develop 21st-century skills. Sixth-graders develop collaboration, communication, presentation, and digital literacy skills using the following software or applications:

  • Google Suite for Education (including Google Classroom, Google Docs and Google Slides)
  • Home Designer Suite
  • Typing.com (a keyboarding website)
  • 3D design and printing

Health

In sixth grade, students take health class for 10 weeks. Students learn to recognize and understand the importance of decision-making and how it relates to optimal physical, mental and social well-being. Learning focuses on:

  • Lifestyle choices and how they relate to nutritional needs;
  • Substance abuse awareness, centered around the Too Good For Drugs prevention program;
  • The human body, including the circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems; and
  • HIV and AIDS awareness.

Home & Careers

During this 10-week course, students learn food and nutrition skills, including where our food comes from, healthy eating and exercise, kitchen utensils and measuring, and kitchen safety practices.

Music

Sixth-graders take music classes every-other day for one semester. They learn about the following:

  • Reading Music: Students learn about the musical staff, clefs, note names, note values, and other commonly used musical symbols. Each student composes an original piece of music that the teacher performs for the class.
  • Musicals: Students watch and answer questions about “The Sound of Music.” They discuss the historical and social significance of this musical, including World War II and the travels of the real von Trapp family.
  • Instrument Families: Students learn about woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, and keyboards. Students have opportunities to play and hold instruments and learn about how each instrument is constructed.
  • Music History: Students learn about the evolution of music over several hundred years, beginning with the Renaissance and continuing through the present day.

Physical Education

In sixth grade, students participate in a variety of individual sports, team sports, and lifetime fitness activities, as well as Project Adventure activities and cooperative games. Students learn sportsmanship, teamwork, trust, problem-solving, and self-esteem.

Future Cities

Future Cities is a problem-based learning class that was designed around the Future City Competition, a national program that starts with the question, “How can we make the world a better place?” Students are involved in the engineering and design processes as they create a virtual city model based on a proposed dilemma. Possible dilemmas include waste management, urban farming, public spaces, transportation issues, or environmental concerns. Students work together to complete the following steps:

  • Identify the problem
  • Set project goals
  • Create a schedule
  • Start designing a virtual city using SimCity software
  • Write a city description
  • Present their proposed solutions

Additional information about the Future City Competition is available at futurecity.org.

How can you help your child succeed?

You play a very important role in your child’s academic performance. Here are some things you can do to support your child’s learning:

  • Let your child know that education is the foundation for success.
  • Know what your child is expected to learn in sixth grade.
  • Help your child set high short-term and long-term academic goals.
  • Provide a designated time and location to complete homework.
  • Talk to your child about what is happening in school and constantly monitor progress.
  • Advocate for your child.
  • Share your child’s strengths with your child and your child’s teacher.

Questions to ask your child’s teacher

When speaking with your child’s teacher about academic progress, here are a few questions you may want to consider asking:

  • What are the learning goals? Can you show me examples of student work that meets the learning goals?
  • May I see an example of my child’s work? How does it or doesn’t it meet these learning goals?
  • Is my child at or above grade level? What extra support is available? What can I do at home?
  • What classroom routines do you have that should also be used at home?
  • What kinds of questions could I ask my child on a daily basis about your class?

Talking to your child

Good conversations help our children see that we are interested in their lives. Here are a few conversation starters you may want to consider using:

  • Tell me about the best part of your day.
  • What was the nicest thing you did for someone today?
  • What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
  • Can you show me something you learned today?
  • What’s the biggest difference between this year and last year?
  • What rules are different at school than our rules at home? Do you think they’re fair?