Sixth graders are poised between childhood and adolescence. There is an increased sense of self. Grade 6 is a year that finds students expressing stronger opinions. Students question their teachers and argue with passion. They question one another and then, looking inward, question themselves.
Sixth graders continue to study grammar, spelling, writing, and literature. They will read a selection of works of high quality literature, as well as at least one book of their own choosing. Students correct texts and work with dictation. They study the proper way to use subjunctive mood, predicate nominative and predicate adjectives, present perfect tense, independent and dependent clauses, nominative / objective case of pronouns, prefix, suffix, and root – make links to Latin etymology. They also study newspaper articles and write their own. They write creative pieces, book reports on a book of their choice, letters, and receive an introduction to essay writing.
In mathematics, the focus is on strengthening the understanding of concepts associated with the use of fractions, decimals, and percentages. The sixth-grade curriculum also includes review, practice, and reinforcement of what has been learned over the years.
The spring semester begins with business math. The students are introduced to the ideas of bartering and trading, buying and selling, lending and borrowing, and giving and receiving in order to approach the business math concepts of rates of interest, gain and loss, profit, and philanthropy.
Sixth grade features an introduction to formal geometry. The students learn how to measure and construct various geometric shapes, which they compile into a folder of geometric plates. During the course of this block, the students learn how to construct and identify different kinds of angles (right, obtuse, acute, circumflex, supplementary, complementary, etc.) and triangles (equilateral, isosceles, scalene, and right).
History and Geography
After beginning with the decline of the Roman Empire, the sixth graders continue their study of history with the medieval period, which included the spread of Christianity, the migration of peoples, Mohammed and the spread of Islam, the invasion of the Germanic tribes, the feudal manor and monastic cultures, Richard the Lionhearted, chivalry, and knighthood. To enrich their study, the students participate in medieval games and perform a period-appropriate play.
In grades 6-8 the geography curriculum widens to include the entire globe beyond the North American continent. This will include Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. The Arctic regions are also touched on. Teachers may approach this through a study of bodies of water, meteorology, oceans meeting land masses, development of continents, and native cultures and history.
Geology is introduced formally with a comparison of three types of geologically defined rocks: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic, and discussion of the impact that the elements have on and in the earth. The students observe the surrounding landscape and use their knowledge from past studies of geography as the basis of their study.
The goals of the sixth-grade physics block are to develop the students’ ability to observe exactly, to draw conclusions, to weigh previous experiences, and to form concepts. Following demonstrations and experiments on the topics of sound (acoustics); light (optics); warmth and cold (air, liquids, solids); and magnetism, the students write descriptions of the experiments and of the phenomena they observe, write conclusions, and formulate specific principles in physics.
German and Spanish
In the sixth grade, foreign-language learning continues through the use of singing and speech work. Embedded in this is not only work on the proper pronunciation of the language, but also important elements of the histories and cultures. The students practice improving their vocabulary development, deepen their understanding of grammatical structures, work on conversational Spanish and German, and read from a variety of readers.
Sixth-grade shop activities include clay work and woodwork. Students may use local material for some projects and learn skills such as the use of hand tools. They are exploring concepts of concave and convex.
In sixth-grade handwork, the students sew stuffed animals out of fabric. After creating the design and drawing a pattern for the animal, the pattern is placed on the fabric, cut, basted, and backstitched along the outlines. Gussets are added to bring the animal from flat to three-dimensional. The animals are stuffed and shaped firmly with wool, suggesting contours and muscles. Finally, distinguishing characteristics are added, i.e., ears, tails, and so on.
The middle-school chorus meets twice a week, usually with the boys and girls singing separately. This makes it possible to teach the girls and boys their parts more rapidly and to tailor the repertoire to suit the different quality of middle school boys’ and girls’ voices. Sometimes the whole chorus rehearses the music together to prepare for performance. The students sing in the annual spring concert as well as learning movements from Handel’s Messiah at Christmas. The main focus in this chorus is to develop a choral sound, and the skills needed to sing choral repertoire.
The sixth-grade orchestra meets once a week. They work on repertoire appropriate to the particular abilities of the group of students.
In the sixth grade, students begin to explore more complex spatial forms. These forms are moved to spoken language and music. Students also create complicated geometric forms, which relates to their study of geometry. The movement in spatial forms challenges and enhances the capacity for flexible, creative thinking while strengthening social awareness and self-discipline. The lessons also include rhythm exercises, concentration exercises, Apollonian forms, alliteration, the musical interval of the octave, big limb movements like leaping, and other exercises for dexterity, flexibility, and coordination.
In the sixth-grade movement classes, students gain a sense of growing strength and flexibility. Over the course of the year, students build the stamina to run a timed mile. Throughout the year, they practice sport-specific skills and play games such as volleyball, floor hockey, basketball, softball, and dodgeball. In the spring, the students participate in the “Medieval Games,” which include team-building games as well as archery and throwing the javelin. Physical education involves myriad sports throughout the year, as well as warm-up exercises at the beginning of each lesson. Many fundamental skills are taught before playing each game. A strong emphasis is placed on balancing the teams to encourage fair play, and to challenge the students.