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The Guide to 6th Grade

The Guide to 6th Grade

Review general curricula for 6th grade, what to expect for each subject, and activities that can be done at home to support learning in the classroom.
 

Introduction: 6th Grade Curriculum

In their first year of middle school, 6th graders embark on a new journey in their schooling and with that comes new challenges and changes. In many ways, 6th grade is a year of significant transition for students as they use the skills they have previously learned and apply them to more complex and independent learning in deeper and more rigorous ways. The specific texts and topics studied in 6th grade vary across states, districts, and sometimes schools. Consult your local state standards, school, or teacher for more details regarding the specifics of the texts and topics your child will be studying. In addition, see the guide below for sample texts recommended by the common core for 6th-8th graders.

Very often the structure of a school day for 6th graders varies greatly from that of elementary school. Rather than being taught by one (or mainly one) teacher, teachers in middle school often vary by subject and the students switch classrooms. With this new structure, students must be more aware of their own schedule and belongings than they ever were in elementary school.

While collaboration and group work may still be an important part of the curriculum, students are often required to produce more extensive independent work, specifically in writing, as students will write formal essays for both Social Studies and English class.   This calls for greater independence and organizational skills and may certainly require some adjustment and practice in the beginning of (and for some, throughout) the school year. Just this one change can be a major one for middle-schoolers. In addition, students in middle school often transition from being the oldest kids in school to the youngest. (Although this certainly doesn’t apply to all middle schools as some begin in 5th grade).  Again, this one fact may require a big adjustment as 6th graders interact with and are perceived differently by the other students in the school. 

Reading: 6th Grade

The ultimate goal of 6th grade reading curriculum is for students to read increasingly complex texts over the course of the year and ultimately prepare them for high school, college, and careers beyond. Students read a variety of texts and different genres, including fiction, drama, poetry, and non-fiction. There is a specific emphasis on and increase in the reading of non-fiction texts in order to prepare students to read, write, and research across subjects. As students read more complex texts and analyze and understand them in deeper ways, they strengthen their knowledge of all subjects including science and history.

For Scholastic’s recommended reading list of books for 6th-8th graders click here.

In order to build reading skills, your 6th grader:

  • Uses evidence from the text in order to summarize the plot, make inferences about and analyze the text, and determine the central theme or themes in a text.
  • Understands and explains the point of view in a text as well as the significance of certain words and passages in a text.
  • Understands and relays the main thesis or claims of a non-fiction text and its supporting evidence.
  • Reads and compares different texts and different genres of texts which address the same topics.
  • Uses a variety of media and formats, including video and audio, to further enhance his/ her understanding of a topic or text.
  • Participates in class-wide and group discussions expressing the ideas and skills learned.
  • Practices a variety of vocabulary skills, including using the context in which a word is found to determine the meaning of words, recognizing roots of words, and using digital and physical reference materials (dictionaries, thesauruses, and glossaries).
  • Gains an understanding of and the ability to explain figurative language in a text.  

Writing: 6th Grade

In middle school, 6th graders are encouraged to push themselves further in their writing and write with increased complexity in terms of  length, topics written about, vocabulary, and general writing techniques. At the same time 6th graders practice and refine many of the skills previously taught to them while enhancing them with the new skills and techniques they learn. 

For sample writing pieces that align with the Common Core State Standards, click here.

In order to build writing skills your 6th grader:

  • Writes using more complex vocabulary and about more complex content.
  • Writes for an extended period of time such as long-term research or writing pieces that may take a week.
  • Writes for short amounts of times, such as in one sitting.
  • Writes a variety of genres for a variety of audiences.
  • Writes structured and well organized opinion, research, and informative pieces that:
    • Use supporting claims and evidence that are based on credible texts and resources.
    • Include an introduction, conclusion, and transitions.
    • Integrate other forms of media and formats, such as graphs, charts, headings, and audio or video when appropriate.
  • Writes well-structured narratives (both true and fiction) that include:
    • Descriptive detail of characters, settings, and experiences.
    • Dialogue.
    • A clear structure with a logical order and flow, dialogue, and details and descriptions of characters, setting and experiences, thought-out word choice, and a conclusion.
  • Plans, revises, and edits writing, specifically with guidance from teachers and peers.
  • Writes pieces that express the reading skills achieved, including analysis of text, making comparisons and claims, and developing  arguments using specific evidence.
  • Uses technology and the Internet to produce and publish writing, work with others, and type a minimum of three pages in one sitting. 

Math: 6th Grade

Math in 6th grade focuses on the following areas: ratios and solving equations using ratios, division of fractions, statistical thinking, and working with negative and rational numbers. Students in middle school continue to deepen their understanding of mathematical concepts and explain how they solve equations through writing, discussions, and completing equations.

In order to build math skills, your 6th grader:

  • Divides fractions by fractions.
  • Solves equations using ratios and rates or percentages.
  • Solves equations with negative numbers.
  • Multiplies and divides multi-digit numbers.
  • Finds common factors and multiples.
  • Understands and talk about ratios using mathematical language. For example, the ratio of girls to boys in the class is 2:3.
  • Solves algebraic equations with one variable and explains how these equations were solved.
  • Solves geometry equations related to surface area, area, and volume as applied to real-world situations.
  • Develops skills in statistical analysis and applies statistical concepts, including mean, median, variability, and range.
  • Analyzes mathematical data, thinking about how data was collected and looking at patterns in the data, including clusters, peaks, gaps, and symmetry.
  • Explains the process used and thinking behind how problems and equations are solved. 

Science: 6th-8th Grade

Both the Common Core and National Standards specify standards only for middle school students rather than each grade. Below is a list of skills covered throughout middle school. Consult your child’s teacher for more specifics pertaining to the topics and skills covered in his/her science class.

In middle school, students continue to deepen their knowledge and skills in the fields of the physical, life, earth, and space sciences. There is a specific focus on explaining and understanding real-life events and processes in sciences in relation to the concepts and topics learned. 6th-8th graders also focus on applying scientific methods as described below in order to deepen their understanding and work like actual scientists.  

In order to build science skills, your 6th-8th grader:

  • Plans and conducts investigations and experiments.
  • Applies the scientific method in order to practice like a scientist:
    • Observes and researches.
    • Develops a hypothesis (based on observations and research).
    • Make a predictions.
    • Experiments and follows multi-step processes and instructions in order to conduct experiments.
    • Develops a conclusion.
    • Compares the results of an experiment to what is written about the topic in a text.
  • Analyzes and interprets data.
  • Uses measurement and mathematical computations while working with data.
  • Develops and presents explanations for processes and practices used and results obtained.
  • Determines the main ideas of a scientific text and sites specific evidence to support ideas and claims about scientific texts.
  • Learns topic specific science vocabulary.
  • Analyzes relevant charts, diagrams, and graphs about a scientific topic.

Social Studies: 6th-8th Grade

The Common Core does not address the specific topics to be covered in 6th grade but instead specifies the set skills to be covered in middle school. The grades in which these skills are covered and what topics are covered vary according to different states’ standards. Consult your child’s school or state standards for further details on the specific topics your child will study. The following skills have been set forth as essential for social studies and history in middle school.

In order to build social studies skills, your middle school student:

  • Reads primary and secondary sources in order to:
    • Analyze the texts using evidence.
    • Understand the main ideas of the text.
    • Relate the texts to important historical events or concepts.
  • Determines places in a text in which an author’s point of view is presented.
  • Distinguishes between fact and opinion in a text.
  • Uses technology and media to better understand concepts taught.
  • Compares primary and secondary sources about the same topic.
  • Learns about historical events within a context and as related to things such as geography, economy, and social and political factors.  
  • Learns about topics, including ancient and global civilizations, gaining a deeper understanding of history and the present global community. 

Curricular Related Activities for Your Family

Listed below are activities you and your middle-schooler can do at home which will reinforce and further the learning done in school.

  • Shared Reading Experiences: Share and talk about the main ideas of articles with your child that are about topics they learn in science, social studies, (including current events), or topics relevant or interesting to them. Share items in articles having to do with data collection and analysis as studied in math. You can even read the same book that your child is reading for English and form a family book club.
  • Write for Enjoyment: Encourage your child to keep a journal; try keeping one yourself. When you or your child finds a passion topic, write about it in a relevant way. For example, write letters to favorite authors, write letters to publications about articles or even try and submit an article to a local publication or website.
  • Share and Solve Math in Your Life: When you encounter math in your life, show your child how you solved the relevant math equation or have him/her assist you in solving it. This may occur in areas such as:
    • Changing the measurements in recipes, especially when it involves add, subtracting, or multiplying mixed fractions.
    • Computations having to do with creating and working with a budget.
    • Figuring out distances when traveling or sales prices when shopping.
    • Data collection or analysis.
  • Use Technology to Enhance Your Child’s Learning: Since most middle-schoolers are technology fans (and experts), encourage your children to use technology to "show what they know" or further their learning. Of course, as with any use of technology, be sure to monitor your child’s technology use, access, and communication with others.
    • Making short-video book reviews of books being read.
    • Making quick video lessons (or using one of many various apps) for presenting short narrated lessons about topics being learned so that your child can teach you!
    • Create photo collages or scrapbooks of work completed and or books read.
    • Create a continuous conversation via email or another technological format in which your child sends you quick snippets (pictures and or texts) of something interesting s/he learned. Follow up with questions or comments on what your child sends.

Common Core State Standards: Books for Grades 6-8

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Little Women
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Little Women is an American classic, adored for Louisa May Alcott's lively and vivid portraits of the endearing March sisters: talented tomboy Jo, pretty Meg, shy Beth, temperamental Amy.

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain

This irresistible tale of the adventures of two friends growing up in frontier America is one of Mark Twain's most popular novels.

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Dragonwings
Series: Golden Mountain Chronicles, Book #5
by Laurence Yep

Moon Shadow is eight when he sails from China to join his father, Windrider, in America. Windrider lives in San Francisco's Chinatown and works in a laundry. Moon Shadow has never seen him.

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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
by Mildred D. Taylor

The land is all-important to the Logan family. But it takes awhile for Cassie and her three brothers to understand just how lucky they are to have it.

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave
by Frederick Douglass , Zarle Williams Illustrated by RICK POWELL

Written more than a century ago by Frederick Douglass, a former slave who went on to become a famous orator, U.S. minister, and a leader of his people, this masterpiece is one of the most eloquent indictments of slavery ever recorded.

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by Lois Lowry

Jonas's world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community.

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A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle

Everything is wrong in Meg Murray's life. In school, she's been dropped down to the lowest section of her grade. She's teased about her five-year-old brother, Charles Wallace, who everyone mistakenly thinks is dumb. Not to mention that Meg wears braces and glasses and has mouse-brown hair.

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Hatchet
by Gary Paulsen

Winner of the 1988 Newbery Honor

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Holes
by Louis Sachar

This winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award features Stanley Yelnats, a kid who is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats.

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Flipped
by Wendelin Van Draanen

The first time she saw him, she flipped. The first time he saw her, he ran. That was the second grade, but not much has changed by the seventh. She says: "My Bryce.

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When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead

Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.

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Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson Illustrated by Donna Diamond
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