The Grammar School
Sixth Grade Curriculum
Sixth grade is the beginning of middle school and marks the threshold where students are recognized as responsible, ethical, and independent learners. The curriculum for sixth grade reinforces, strengthens, and broadens basic skills while developing more sophisticated capacities in creative thinking and problem solving. During this phase of cognitive growth, students are able to take more responsibility for their learning by cultivating strong study skills and developing habits of learning that will carry them through future academic endeavors. As the oldest group of students in the building, they take on added responsibilities as role models for students in preschool through fifth grade by exhibiting kindness, respect, and acceptance for all members of our community.
The sixth grade English curriculum focuses on expanding skills in reading, writing, and speaking. Students practice speaking and listening skills on a daily basis, with all students participating in class discussions. The classroom is a supportive place for the exploration of ideas, and students are encouraged to share their thoughts with others in whole-class and small-group activities.
In early fall, students read short fiction and fairy tales, becoming familiar with the literary elements of plot, setting, characters, point of view, and theme. Students also read selections from memoirs, essays, and articles. Literature selections include Witness (Karen Hesse) and Counting on Grace (Elizabeth Winthrop), both historical novels based in Vermont. In coordination with the year’s Global Education Theme, students will read literature of South Africa. Poetry is integrated into regular readings and assignments, with a special focus during the winter.
Students take part in the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award program by reading at least five books from this year’s selection and voting for their favorite titles in April.
In-class writing exercises give students the chance to use the literary elements from the writer’s perspective. Each student keeps a writing journal for in-class work. Assignments are varied, allowing students to examine and practice expository, descriptive, narrative, and persuasive writing. Students are encouraged to think broadly and stretch beyond their comfort zones in their writing. Students expand their spelling and grammar skills through revision of their own work, group proofreading exercises, and material from Rules of the Game and Painless Grammar. Students gain new vocabulary from weekly lessons in Painless Vocabulary as well as vocabulary from literature selections.
In the spring, in a combined English and social studies unit, students complete independent research (I-Search) projects on topics of their choosing. In the course of this project, students research their topics, write an in-depth report (with multiple drafts), and make an oral and visual presentation to an audience.
Students in sixth grade build conceptual understanding and develop skills in five content areas: the number system, ratios and proportional reasoning, expressions and equations, geometry, and statistics and probability. Proportional reasoning, the major mathematical theme, is addressed through the specific topics of fractions, decimals, percents, rates, ratios, and scale. Students expand their understanding of the number system through work with negative numbers and powers of ten. Students construct and transform geometric figures, as well as find areas and volumes. They work with variables, solve simple equations, calculate landmark data, and analyze graphs. A solid foundation in place value and number sense is emphasized. Students are encouraged to demonstrate their mathematical thinking through writing and sharing their work in small groups or at the board. UCSMP Everyday Mathematics is the primary text used in sixth grade.
Students in the sixth grade meet two to three times a week to study topics related to earth science and experimental design. The goals of the year are to expand proficiency in collecting and presenting data, develop use of the scientific method, and recognize the connections between cycles found in the natural world. Information is gathered through fieldwork, lab exercises, and research. Sources of information include selected readings from the Prentice Hall series of science texts, Dr. Art’s Guide to Planet Earth (Art Sussman), books from The Grammar School’s extensive library, the Internet, and popular media.
The sequence of the science program is:
- Geology of Lake Champlain
- Water (properties, testing, cycle, use and supply, pollution)
- Topography (mapping, watersheds, effect on water supply)
- The Earth’s atmosphere (weather, the five layers)
- Mystery class (photoperiods of the sun, latitude and longitude, geography)
- Astronomy (seasons, the solar system, structures found in the universe)
The overarching goals of the sixth grade social studies curriculum are to provide students with a sense of our proximity to history, particularly that of Vermont, and to give them the tools to make connections between human culture and geographical surroundings.
We begin with Vermont geography. We can connect to our past through our physical location, and then dig deeper, learning about people and events in Vermont history.
Later in the fall, our attention turns to South Africa, the subject of this year’s schoolwide Global Education Theme. Students investigate the history and culture of South Africa and take part in mixed-age activities.
Throughout the year, students use maps as tools to examine geography, history, and the interplay between humans and their surroundings. Sixth graders have multiple opportunities for small research projects and discussion of current and historical events. Students use Junior Scholastic as a springboard for discussion of current events and their connection to historical events. Other resources are: Vermont: The State with the Storybook Past, A Maritime History of Vermont, and age-appropriate web based materials.
Organizational study skills are presented and emphasized during the sixth grade year. Students are expected to keep an assignment book and updated notebooks for each subject. As the year progresses, students are required to plan for longer projects and extended assignments. They can expect homework in all their subjects, with an average of one hour of homework each day. In addition, they are encouraged to read regularly.
The social curriculum at TGS is designed to complement the academic curriculum and help maintain a healthy social and learning environment. We define a healthy school community as a place where people have a sense of belonging, where adults and students extend and receive respect in their relationships with each other, and where people feel both a sense of support and personal challenge to help them learn and grow as human beings. In sixth grade the focus is on themes of inclusion, friendship, and self-awareness.
The sixth grade year fosters students’ burgeoning sense of independence and leadership via group projects, dedicated critique time, and projects aimed toward catalyzing a sense of identity through inclusion and community. Art classes build upon each student’s knowledge of the elements and principles of design. Sixth graders identify important elements of painting, such as line and texture, and articulate how these elements are used in a composition to express an artist’s idea. Students are given sketchbooks midyear; these become the homework component of the art curriculum and an opportunity to practice working independently outside of class. Sketchbooks are an opportunity to practice drawing at home and to sketch ideas for projects that they would like to explore further. We review and practice two-point perspective and students are encouraged to discuss work in terms of positive and negative space, scale, gesture, and proportion. Student projects include sewing, life-sized self-portraits, optical illusion drawings, costume designs for Mardi Gras in conjunction with Foreign Language, and Lewitt-inspired sculptures. In the spring, an integrated unit on Islamic art combines the study of art with math, and a short drawing intensive bolsters students’ growing observational drawing skills, culminating in a six-stage crushed can drawing that reflects back to students their growing understanding of form, light, and value.
The 4-6 Chorus meets weekly throughout the year and performs at the K-6 Spring Concert. Additionally, the 4-6 program includes one session per week of recorder and one general music class, which alternates at different times of the year between music composition and dance. In music composition, students compose melodies while developing their knowledge of rhythm, key signatures, major and minor modes and scales, chords and chord progressions and theme and variations form. In recorder, students choose between soprano, alto, tenor, or bass recorder and trios or quartets are added to their ensemble repertoire.
In sixth grade, we use the book Amis et compagnie, Level 1, starting at Chapter 6. A fun series from French authors that builds on the story of the Three Musketeers, each chapter presents a few new verbs and a variety of vocabulary that is revisited throughout the book. Native French speakers present the material and activities on a CD, while an accompanying workbook affords a related series of written exercises. The series fosters development of the four skill sets: speaking, listening comprehension, reading, and writing. Topics in this series include school objects, family, tastes, activities, towns and schedules, and much more. There is regular homework. Class meets three times a week in the French room.
In sixth grade, students continue to learn Spanish in a fun and interactive way. We begin the class with an array of Spanish games and poems. Students begin to learn more vocabulary, regular and irregular verbs, and TPRS (Total Physical Response through Storytelling) is intergrated into the lessons. This is a teaching method that uses listening and responding (with actions) to mini stories and skits. TPRS is a valuable way to learn vocabulary, especially idiomatic terms, and the syntax of the language. Students conduct an extensive study of all the Spanish speaking countries, with a specific focus on Mexico and Latin America. Students also read liteature and short stories to gain more vocabulary and grammar. Throughout the year, students are expected to complete a variety of creative projects that reflect their learning. We also have the opportunity to meet Spanish-speaking people in our classrooms. At the end of the year, students are comfortable with speaking, writing, and listening in the present tense. Students meet three times a week.
The sixth grade will evaluate literary materials by text, illustration, and information through their participation in the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award program. They use the library to choose materials from a variety of sources to support their research projects and Journey North Mystery Class programs, as well as reading for pleasure.
Students learn keyboarding through the UltraKey program. For the first half of the year they work daily to develop touch-typing. Additionally, each student learns the basics of file management and information storage. Further uses of technology are explored and learned within the context of each subject.
Physical Skills Development (PSD)
In sixth grade, the PSD program is designed to give children the chance to develop physically through play, games, skill tasks, core exercises, and movement activities. Activities highlight various themes of the program: strength, endurance, coordination, game skills, sportsmanship, and social interaction. The daily program varies in size and structure of the groups. After-school cross-country running practices and meets are scheduled through the fall, as well as soccer practices and games with other schools. In winter, students have the opportunity to skate and XC ski, as well as take part in an extended day program of skiing or snowboarding. An after-school Putney Bill Koch League program in winter offers more training in XC skiing, and the opportunity to compete in races with skiers from other clubs.