Student observations during astronomy class

Grade 6 Curriculum

Sixth grade is a remarkable time when students enter the realm of abstract thinking, where empathy is enhanced through exposure to important mature topics of social justice, and where students spend their last year being advised primarily by their homeroom teachers. They participate in a robust arts program, try out to participate in interscholastic athletics teams with older students, and spend their first year in an immersive language program. In the fall, sixth graders go off for a 3-day experience at Thompson Island Outward Bound. And in the spring, they write and perform a dramatization of the seminal events in civil rights history, create their own projects rooted in social justice and equity, and learn how music both showcases and complements social movements. Over the course of this important year of adolescence, students grow intellectually and physically and are guided by teachers who appreciate the complexity, challenges, and enchanting opportunities of this age group.

Program Highlights

  • Freedom Night
  • Kindergarten buddies
  • Astronomy Night
  • Solar cars

Specialist Time

  • World language three times a week for 50 minutes
  • Arts four times a week for 50 minutes (music, visual art, theater, woodworking, and technology)
  • Athletics four times a week for 60 minutes

Grade 6 Subjects

Students compile their notes to present to the class

Sixth grade English is an integrated language arts and literature curriculum that aims to enrich students’ appreciation for and facility with all forms of the languages through reading, writing, vocabulary, and grammar study. The literature program fosters the development of reading skills and strategies as well as a love of reading through a rich exposure to multiple genres, authors, and voices. Reading selections often overlap in content with the social studies curriculum. As writers, students experiment with a variety of genres, techniques, and roles as they increase their fluency, improve their mechanics, deepen their vocabulary, and increase in the complexity of their writing style and voice.

Sixth grade students will:

  • develop note taking skills
  • learn strategies for building vocabulary through in-text words and etymology study
  • use the text to analyze, develop, and support ideas and arguments
  • develop comprehension strategies to deepen understanding and support abstract thinking
  • analyze literary elements such as point of view, author intent, and figurative language
  • participate actively in class discussions
  • experiment with various written genres from drama to poetry to non-fiction research
  • understand and apply multiple writing strategies and techniques
  • review and increase the complexity of sentence structure
  • learn strategies for effective editing independently and with a peer or teacher

Our students will read:

  • Beyond the Bright Sea, by Lauren Wolk
  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  • Flying Lessons and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh of We Need Diverse Books
  • King and the Dragonflies, by Kacen Callender
  • Everything Sad is Untrue, by Daniel Nayeri

Other texts include:

  • Assorted coming of age novels chosen by students
  • Graphic novels and novels in verse
  • Collected short stories and poetry

Sixth graders become more effective mathematical thinkers and problem solvers by going beyond arithmetic to apply it to complex challenges including the Math Olympiad. In preparation for pre-algebra and algebra, our students study number theory, mathematical structures and representation, whole/part relationships of fractions and decimals, and integers. Estimation, number sense, mental math, and a sense of magnitude permeate the sixth grade curriculum. Big ideas of ratio and proportion, which underpin later mathematics, are formally introduced. Students study geometry as well, learning precise vocabulary, analysis, and measurement of two dimensional figures. The overall focus is on conceptual understanding to accompany proficiency and clear communication to accompany accuracy.

Sixth grade students will:

  • develop and efficiently use multiple strategies to solve non-routine problems
  • analyze patterns and relationships to increase efficiency
  • appreciate the precision of mathematics and its rules and properties, especially in areas using exponents, order of operations, integers, and non whole-number computation
  • understand the magnitude of numbers, both small and large, and how operating on them will affect their outcomes
  • use number theory to illuminate why mathematical algorithms work
  • calculate the measurement of angles, the area and volume of two dimensional figures and structures, and the perimeter and circumference of shapes
  • understand big ideas of equivalence and proportionality
  • explore the utility of percentages in real world applications and as ways to collect and compare data
  • differentiate between situations when precision and estimation are necessary and useful
  • compute efficiently, confidently, and accurately
  • investigate the difference between theoretical and experimental probability

As citizens of the world, it is incumbent on our sixth graders to understand and appreciate themselves and others. Beginning with the study of religions, students have an opportunity to be self-reflective researchers and presenters. Students then move on to study the civil rights movement through fiction, the legal system, history, role playing, primary sources, music and poetry. Individual projects encourage our students to independently pursue and effectively demonstrate an area of interest in a deep way. Students write a script, act, and incorporate relevant music into an evening dramatic presentation to share their understanding with their families.

Our sixth graders will:

  • learn about themselves and learn to appreciate the perspectives of others
  • research five major religions and understand their tenets while comparing and contrasting them
  • learn how to take notes and collaboratively create a visual presentation using research and technology
  • critically read and analyze information
  • appreciate historical fiction’s contributions to our understanding
  • examine legal precedents and the issues of civil disobedience in the face of inequality
  • learn to use primary and secondary sources effectively including film, memoir, lyrics, interviews and poetry to understand people, times, and events
  • write and present a collaborative script examining the history of civil rights
  • choose, research, and create a compelling project to display understanding of an issue related to equity and social justice

Students record observations in the woodland around campus

The sixth grade science program helps students construct specific meaning through a combination of research and investigation. Students bring both prior knowledge and curiosity to the topics being studied and communicate and reason by observing, hypothesizing, creating experiments, recording results, and delivering presentations.

Sixth grade students begin the year studying the solar system and go on to study electricity, Newton’s laws, and simple machines. Students’ understandings of these topics are consolidated and, along with investigations of energy transfer, gear ratios, friction, and the employment of precise measurement, contribute to the ability to construct solar cars. The project allows students to design, test, and refine their vehicles for their greatest efficiency and speed. The sixth grade year in science culminates with the study of water.

Sixth grade students will:

  • explore a wide variety of scientific topics through hands-on projects and investigations
  • learn how to ask and answer both specific and general questions
  • observe carefully and take helpful notes
  • make hypotheses, listen appreciatively to others’ conjectures, and engage in effective communication
  • provide evidence for thinking
  • add to the body of scientific knowledge that they possess
  • research and communicate effectively, being able to identify and connect important information
  • experiment and use results of any experiments to modify current conjectures and future designs
  • apply mathematics to scientific concepts
  • learn and apply components of formal lab observations, recording, and procedures

The sixth grade world language program offers the opportunity to either continue the study of French or begin the study of Spanish or Latin, after a short introduction in the previous year. The middle school world language program develops general language skills, intellectual discipline, and the vocabulary, grammar, and basics that allow students to continue language studies at an advanced level in high school. We support the development of our students as citizens in the diverse community of Belmont Day and in the world. Exposure to broad cultural experiences nurtures curiosity and joy.

The sixth grade French, Spanish, and Latin programs are taught three times a week. The students work in small groups, play language based games, participate in video work, create art projects, read poetry, and utilize multimedia to develop verbal and written fluency.

Sixth grade students will:

  • develop and practice basic communication skills: listening, speaking, writing, and reading
  • learn vocabulary and basic grammar concepts
  • practice conversation and correct pronunciation
  • learn language study skills, such as note taking, vocabulary acquisition, and language textbook use
  • develop curiosity about and understanding of French- or Spanish-speaking cultures

During the sixth through eighth grade program, topics of study may include:

  • family
  • food
  • weather
  • likes/dislikes
  • geography
  • descriptions
  • hobbies and sports
  • clothing
  • travel
  • cars
  • poetry
  • house
  • towns
  • weekend and vacation activities

During the sixth through eighth grade program, the development of grammar includes:​

  • sentence structure
  • verb conjugation
  • adverbs and adjectives
  • pronouns (subject, object, reflexive)
  • prepositions
  • questions
  • negation
  • present, past, and future tense

A student works on a sketch

Students in sixth grade continue to explore a wide variety of materials and processes. As they engage in visual expression, students learn about artistic concepts such as color, shape, texture, contrast, form, and pattern. They draw, sculpt, paint, print, and combine materials to create two and three-dimensional artworks. Self-expression and connections between visual art, nature, daily life, other artists, and cultures are explored as students design and develop their artworks.

Artists construct their own sketchbooks in which they draw from observation and imagination. Students investigate more sophisticated techniques and create more elaborate artworks by combining materials to create sculptures connected to classroom curriculum related to social studies, printing repeated patterns based on design principles, and learning about different artists and cultures that inspire their artworks.

Past sixth grade projects include:

  • scaled portrait drawings
  • silk screen printing
  • clay sculptures connected to Civil Rights Unit
  • group design projects inspired by Islamic design
  • advanced drawing techniques
  • dot paintings inspired by Pointillist Painter Georges Seurat

A girl presents a solo at the Winter Concert

The sixth grade music program is organized into units that introduce students to bucket drumming, ukuleles, and composition. Every student learns about the basics of drumming technique and choreography. The drumming unit ends with a group drumming project that incorporates technique. Every student also learns about ukuleles and basic strumming patterns, chord charts, and chord progressions. The unit ends with a ukulele cover project in which students perform a cover of a song of their choice. Students also learn how to compose in 4 parts by learning about harmony, motif, and chord structures. The composition unit ends with students showcasing their composition on Noteflight.

Sixth grade students will:

  • Learn about basic drumming technique including single stroke, double stroke, flam, and multiple bounce strokes
  • Learn about choreography such as line and circle formation
  • Compose a complex drumming routine in a group and perform it
  • Learn about how to read chord charts and lead sheets for ukulele
  • Learn techniques such as strumming patterns, and individual plucking patterns
  • Perform a cover of a song of choice
  • Learn about how to incorporate motifs, instrumentation, harmony, and chords in a composition
  • Practice applying notation through instrumental composition

A student in theater arts class

In sixth grade students build on the fundamental skills of theatricality they acquired in fifth grade. They continue to practice the public speaking skills gained in previous years and present original biographical and descriptive speeches. Through the use of drama games, creative movement, poetry, and theatrical critique, students continue to expand upon their performing arts skills. Performing arts classes support the devised theater process students engage in during social studies class for Freedom Night.

Sixth grade students will:

  • further expand their theatrical vocabulary
  • apply physical expression techniques (with focus on Rudolf Laban and Jacques Lecoq methodology) to a variety of characters
  • perform Shakespearean monologues and scenes
  • build upon previously learned improvisation skills to create and perform dramatic events and characters
  • continue to build their confidence as an orator and presenter

A student uses the drill press in the woodworking studio

The sixth grade woodworking class is designed to facilitate the development of independent thinkers. The course’s projects enhance problem-solving skills by encouraging students to think creatively and evaluate their design decisions during the building and testing stages. The process emphasizes communication, establishing skills necessary for working collaboratively within a group environment, and creating a learning atmosphere that emphasizes positive support among peers. Problems have included designing and building a structural support beam, a sorting device, and a model airplane flight.

Sixth grade students will:

  • use tools to cut, measure, smooth, join, and finish projects
  • research, draw, and discuss plans for projects
  • follow a process from design drawing to a finished project
  • collaborate and communicate effectively
  • evaluate and modify projects to make them more successful

Girls' varsity soccer action

Sixth grade students participate in the interscholastic athletics program, which allows athletes to focus on their passions while encouraging a committed approach and strong leadership. Following the middle school model of independence, choice, and responsibility, students are given the opportunity to select which three sports they would like to participate in over the course of the school year. During each season, students further their sport-specific skills, learn in-depth game strategies, and compete against other schools. To round out their athletic experience, students also participate in cooperative games, team-building activities, and fitness challenges in between interscholastic seasons.

Sports offered:

  • Fall: soccer, field hockey, flag football, cross country
  • Winter: basketball, volleyball, fencing, wrestling, P.E.A.K.: physical exercise, adventures, knowledge
  • Spring: lacrosse, tennis, track and field, ultimate frisbee, mountain biking

Sixth Grade athletes will:

  • compete actively and extend their personal limits
  • increase their strength, stamina, and agility
  • acquire sport-specific skills and knowledge
  • learn how to work within a team setting
  • appreciate the school’s six core values

Cross-graded partners

Recognizing that social and emotional growth are as important as academic, artistic, and athletic development, our sixth graders meet with their homeroom teachers, school nurse, school psychologist, and other faculty to have an opportunity to learn about structures and the importance of community, personal relationships, and healthy individual choices. Topics include negotiation skills, conflict resolution, navigating friendships, effective communication of ideas and feelings, and developing leadership skills. The health and wellness curriculum reviews anatomy, addresses puberty, invites discussion about gender identity and bias, looks at media messages about sexuality and health, confronts bullying, provides strategies for challenges, identifies risky behavior, and introduces healthy decisions.

Sixth graders will:

  • demonstrate the elements of positive social skills: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, self-control, and empathy
  • understand that there are similarities and differences in people in terms of needs, emotions, and cultures
  • respect everyone’s personal space and care for their own bodies
  • contribute to the well-being of community members through the use of respectful language, actions, and attitudes
  • differentiate between healthy and unhealthy choices
  • employ effective strategies during challenging times

Topics of study:

Social Competency

  • Building community
  • Classroom expectations
  • Negotiating skills
  • Conflict resolution
  • Being a good friend
  • Communication of feelings and ideas
  • Leadership skills

Health & Wellness

  • Personal identity
  • Social identity
  • Unheard voices
  • Gender and stereotypes
  • Puberty review
  • Self-care

Middle School Research and Collaboration Room

Sixth graders have time during the school day to reach out to teachers and seek their advice, support, and help. Scaffolding for big projects is done in a thoughtful way, and students use a binder system created to help them with organizational skills. In conjunction with the learning specialist, teachers strive to help students with explicit strategies for writing, for studying, and for tackling assessments. The learning specialist works with students as a whole group, in small groups, and individually.

Sixth grade students will practice:

  • homework strategies: understanding expectations, what does “complete” look like, breaking up long-term independent projects, roadblock helpers, and planning
  • executive function strategies: planning and starting with an end product in mind, prioritizing, monitoring and reevaluating, and time management
  • test-taking strategies: organization of materials, what strategy works best for you, difference between short answer and long answer questions, how to study for different types of assessments, and standardized vs. class content tests

A sixth grader works on programming

At Belmont Day, technology learning tools are available in each classroom. Students have access to Apple laptops, iPads, and Chromebooks, exposing them to different platforms and applications. In seventh and eighth grades, students are provided with 1:1 Chromebooks, allowing for seamless integration of technology across all subject areas. Google Apps for Education provides valuable, interactive tools for faculty and allow students to access their work anytime, anywhere.

Belmont Day’s middle school technology curriculum is centered in the IMPACT Lab, a collaborative workspace tailored to serve students as they embark on a wide range of learning experiences, including designing and printing 3D objects; programming with Scratch or JavaScript; developing game apps; linking computers to objects in the physical world using Makey Makeys; building and programming Lego robots; and independent and collaborative problem solving and brainstorming.

Our Teachers

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