The Guide to 6th Grade

Review general curricula for 6th grade, including what to expect for each subject. Plus, discover at-home activities to support learning in the classroom.



The Guide to 6th Grade

In their first year of middle school, 6th graders embark on a new journey in their schooling, and with that come 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 texts and topics your child will be studying. In addition, see the guide below for sample texts recommended by the common core for 6th-8thgraders.

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 usually vary by subject, and the students switch classrooms. With this new structure, students must be more aware of their own schedules 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 they will write formal essays for both Social Studies and English class. This calls for greater independence and organizational skills, and it may certainly require some adjustment and practice in the beginning of the school year. Some may need the whole year to adjust, and that's alright — even 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 and others in 7th).  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.

Read on to find out what to expect this year — or jump straight to your 6th grade shopping list

6th Grade Reading 

The ultimate goal of the 6th grade reading curriculum is for students to read increasingly complex texts over the course of the year, preparing 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, analyzing and understanding them in deeper ways, they strengthen their knowledge of all subjects, including science and history.

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; understands 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 genres that address the same topics.
  • Uses a variety of media and formats, including video and audio, to further enhance 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.

6th Grade Writing 

In middle school, 6th graders are encouraged to push themselves further in their writing and write with increased complexity in terms of  length, subject matter, 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 over extended periods of time, such as when writing long-term research or expressive 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 based on credible texts and resources.
    • Include an introduction, a conclusion, and transitions.
    • Integrate other forms of media and formats, such as graphs, charts, headings, 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, thought-out word choice, and a conclusion.
  • Plans, revises, and edits writing, with guidance from teachers and peers.
  • Writes pieces that display 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. 

6th Grade Math 

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 and discussions.

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

  • Divides fractions by fractions.
  • Solves equations using ratios, rates, or percentages.
  • Solves equations with negative numbers.
  • Multiplies and divides multi-digit numbers.
  • Finds common factors and multiples.
  • Understands and talks 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 problems 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, including clusters, peaks, gaps, and symmetry.
  • Explains the process used and the thinking behind how problems and equations are solved.

6th Grade Science 

Neither the Common Core nor National Standards breaks down expectations for middle school by grade. Instead, both institutions specify standards for middle school as a whole. 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 her science class.

In middle school, students continue to deepen their knowledge and skills in the physical, life, earth, and space sciences. There is a specific focus on explaining and understanding real-life events and processes 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 (there are many different ways people present "the scientific method," but here's a basic example):
    • Questions, observes, and researches.
    • Develops a hypothesis (based on observations and research).
    • Make 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 cites 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.

6th Grade Social Studies 

The Common Core does not address the specific topics to be covered in 6th grade; instead, it specifies the set skills to be covered in middle school. The grades in which these skills are covered and which topics are included vary according to different states’ standards. Consult your child’s school or state standards for further details on the specific material 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.
  • 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 like ancient and global civilizations to gain 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 that 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 material she learns in science, social studies (including current events), or topics she finds relevant or interesting. 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 assist you in solving it. This may occur in areas such as:

  • Changing the measurements in recipes, especially when it involves adding, 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. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Making short-video book reviews of books being read.
  • Making quick videos (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 she learned. Follow up with questions or comments on what your child sends.

Common Core State Standards: Books for Grades 6-8

Sixth Grade
Age 12
Age 11
Social Studies
Language Arts