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Sixth Grade

Teaching changes significantly in the sixth grade to address new conceptual capacities that are awakening in the children as they approach adolescence.

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The curriculum, as well as the needs of individual students, becomes increasingly complex through the next few years. The newly and often chaotically emerging individuality of the pre-adolescent yearns to find a place within the world that is unique and recognized and respected by others. The sixth grade is a firm, intentional step into the outer world. It is an arrival upon the earth. Changes in the physical body as the children approach age 12 become noticeable. There is an increased awareness of gravity and weight; hormones begin to affect the feeling and emotional life as well as physical maturity; and differences between male and female development become a source of interest. The themes explored over the course of this school year are chosen expressly to assist both the inner and outer questing of these young people.

Sixth Grade Curriculum

Rhythm of the Day

Each day begins with Main Lesson. The main subjects, such as history, language arts, science and mathematics are taught in blocks of 2 hours per day, with each block lasting from 3 to 6 or even 8 weeks long.

The sixth grade mornings continue to include movement and speech work: handclap, beanbag, drama and movement games.

After Main Lesson the children have a hearty snack (brought from home) and time to play outdoors.

The afternoon consists of subject classes including handwork, movement, french, music and art, as well as lunch (brought from home) and more time to play outdoors.

Mathematics work continues with all the processes learned in previous years with the addition of ratio, percentage and an introduction to algebraic formulae. Mathematics from real life is explored in depth with the introduction of economics and Business Math, barter and money economies and the moral uses of money. During business math some classes set up a trial business studying banking, interest rates, discount and commission. Some of the first laws of algebra and the processes involved in manipulating a formula to find the unknown are introduced. The students also learn how to read and construct line, bar and pie graphs. The first block of the school year is often spent exploring geometric constructions. Many movements from circle time and Eurythmy are now executed with precision and artistry as geometric forms. While brought freehand geometry work in previous years, the children, now using compass, straight-edge, and lead pencil, learn the importance of following directions and using precision to lay out and describe various geometric problems. The children learn how to bisect a line segment, construct a parallel segment, bisect an angle, construct a perpendicular, construct a square, a pentagon, isosceles and equilateral triangles, and to divide a circle by three, four, five, six, twelve and twenty-four using a compass. This subject allows the children to use logic in exploring necessary relationships in two-dimensional space.

The story curriculum begins where the teacher left off at the end of grade five, often with the story of the Trojan War, this time told from the Roman perspective. The Roman epoch represents in a historical sense what the children are experiencing in their bodies and in the development of intellect. Of all the ancient peoples, the Romans most strongly dominated the physical world. Each student might explore a topic of personal interest and construct a model of something from Roman times. The life of the Roman citizen, the slave and the gladiator are studied. The life of Christ and his followers, the biographies of the Caesars, Peter and Paul in Rome and the early Christian experience, the Crusades, the Feudal system and the Dark Ages, the life of Muhammad and the rise of Islam are all explored in the sixth-grade year.

Reading and writing work in grade six is extensive and varied. Most teachers include daily practice of short quotes or form drawings to improve penmanship and regular dictation from the lessons. Also, there is a greater emphasis on writing and grammar. Students are expected to proofread their own and others’ work and correct their own spelling errors. Each student writes several reports and is responsible for retelling stories from lessons in his or her own words. Basic spelling rules and sentence forms are explored. The eight parts of speech from previous study are practiced, and students learn to write in active and passive moods. The subjunctive mood is introduced. The children often do research and some creative writing. Words with Latin roots are studied. Students practice identifying subject and predicate, proper punctuation and capitalization, compound subjects and predicates as well as work with parts of speech such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc., including phrases and clauses, paying particular attention to prepositional and verbal phrases. Each child usually recites a daily verse, and the class perfects several group recitations during the year. Reading work consists of a combination of whole-class reading assignments and reading-level-appropriate individual reading work. Some classes assist younger students from other grades with their reading goals.

Flute playing is an integral and daily part of classroom life; most teachers switch mid-year to work with alto and/or soprano recorders.

The sixth grade performs at least one play with greater expectations placed on dramatic presentation and complexity.

Painting class often moves from a weekly activity to a biweekly event due to scheduling demands, but an additional upper grades art class begins once each week. Nearly all teachers also do curriculum-related artistic projects throughout the year.

As the child of this age develops more of a sense of self inwardly, a distance is created between the self and the outside world. One result is a sharpening of the powers of observation. Although students of this age may act as if they have seen, heard and experienced everything, they are moved and awed by simple phenomena, such as a candle shining in a dark room or the whirling pattern of convection currents rising in a brightly colored tank of water. Sixth-grade science begins to explore the lawfulness of natural phenomenon through the formal study of physics: acoustics, optics, thermodynamics, magnetism and static electricity. To explore geography, geology and astronomy in grade six, the world is viewed as a whole: from the perspective of the contrasts and configurations of land and water masses, which leads to the identification of continents, oceans, seas, mountain ranges and tributaries; from a historical/conceptual perspective, comparing the perceptions of the Earth of peoples of the past; from the perspective of what we can see with the naked eye from where we stand on the earth (the changes of the sun, moon, stars and planets); and finally, to examine the earth from the inside-out with the study of geology and mineralogy. Here the students experience a reflection of their own process of physical development as they move more fully into their own bodily experience and become conscious of their own circulation, muscles and bones. They take up the study of rocks, rivers, stars, mountains and oceans. A study of the sun and its movement, shown through changing shadows, is recapitulated in physics study and in both drawing and painting work.

Sixth-grade history follows the transition from ancient to modern. The students are, at this age, involved in a parallel transition as they move from a more poetic consciousness to a search for truth in the form of scientific concepts. Twelve-year-olds are ready to grasp history as a sequence of cause and effect relationships.

Some classes host a Medieval Games tournament with a nearby school in the late spring.