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. Reading of the struggles of the Roman Civilization and looking outward to the stars in Astronomy provides outlets for changing emotions. Speech and recitation begin to prepare the students for the more difficult work of the years to come.
MAIN LESSON SUBJECTS
ART, HANDWORK, AND SPECIAL PROJECTS
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.
Students explore the world by looking at the major bodies of water, how they are connected, and how they affect the climate of the continents. The focus sharpens on the European continent and how the Atlantic Ocean affects the land. From the ocean they travel up the major rivers of Europe to encounter the various landscapes and cultures that have developed in that historically rich part of the world. Each student chooses a region or country in Europe or the Mediterranean region to report on. The reports include maps and drawings, and are also presented orally to the class.
Founding of Rome - Julius Caesar
This block begins with the story of Aeneas fleeing from Troy. The block continues with the subsequent founding of Rome, a detailed account of the seven kings and Seven Hills of Rome, the formation of laws, and changing forms of government. The class works on many Roman poems from dictation and each student writes about life in Rome from the perspective of a centurion, a Roman citizen, or a slave. The block concludes with the rise of Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire.
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.
Sixth graders continue to study grammar, writing, and literature. They will read a selection of works such as, Beowulf, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler, Shiloh, Tuck Everlasting, and A Day No Pigs Would Die, 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 appositives, participles, absolutes, and adjectives out of place, as well as reviewing parts of speech (especially pronouns) and sentence structure. They also study newspaper articles and write their own. They write creative pieces, book reports on a book of their choice, letters, and receive a lengthy introduction to essay writing.
Throughout the year, twice a week in skills classes, as well as in main lesson, the sixth graders recite verses, speech exercises, and poems, and improved their language and grammar skills. As part of their recall of the previous day’s lesson, they write compositions for their main-lesson books. Writing exercises, weekly spelling quizzes, composition and creative writing, and note taking are important parts of the weekly routine.
Spanish and German
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 associated with the Spanish from Spain and Latin America and German from Germany. 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.
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 what has been learned over the years, including work with mixed numbers; improper fractions; short and long division; long multiplication, application of measurement problems, money (multiplication and division by 10s), place value, the learning of math tricks, conversion between Celsius and Fahrenheit, and math games.
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. The students convert fractions, decimals, and percentages. The highlight of the block is the creation of an in-class economy; each student has a checkbook, and maintains a balance sheet of daily economic activities, practicing the skills learned in the block.
Sixth grade features an introduction to formal geometry. The students hear stories about geometers from ancient civilizations, some of whom only used strings, shadows, and straightedges to lay the foundations of modern geometry. Each student uses a compass, graphing ruler, and protractor to begin geometric drawing. 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). Next, they learn how to find missing angles within various geometric forms. The block concludes with an introduction to some simple proofs, and a final exam.
Sixth-grade shop activities begin with clay work. The students collect stones from the nearby stream to use as molds for their bowls. Choosing rocks that will provide not only a serviceable bowl, but will also allow the removal of the clay once dry, is no easy task. With the bowl upside down on the rock, a base is attached before setting the project aside to dry.
For their next project, starting with two pieces of milled wood, students gouge out the bowls of two spoons before marking out the overall shape. Once cut out, much rasping, filing, and sanding is required to help the spoons “feel” right in the hands that hold them. The process is finished only after the sanded spoons are soaked in water and re-sanded three times to ensure their continued smoothness through many years of use.
In sixth-grade handwork, the students make animals. 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 two 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 based on the spiral, triangle, square, lemniscates, five-pointed star, six-pointed star (double triangles), and seven-pointed star. 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. They work on team-strategy games like Capture the Flag and Kick the Can. 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.
Faculty Perspective: Mathematics in Grade 6
The first block of the sixth grade often begins with an introduction to formal geometry. The students hear stories of geometers from ancient civilizations, some of who only used strings, shadows, and straightedges to lay the foundation for modern geometry. The students learn to measure and construct various geometric shapes. During the course of this block, the class learns to construct and identify different kinds of angles (right, obtuse, acute, circumflex, supplementary, complementary, etc.) and triangles (equilateral, isosceles, scalene, and right). Next, they learn how to find missing angles within various geometric forms. The block concludes with an introduction to some simple proofs and a test to close the block.
The Spring semester may begin with business math in which students are introduced to the ideas of bartering and trading, buying and selling, lending and borrowing, giving and receiving in order to approach the business math concepts of rates of interest, gain and loss, profit, and philanthropy. Students convert fractions, decimals, and percents. A class economy is created and each student has a checkbook and maintains a balance sheet of daily economic activities.