Sixth Grade

Ancient Rome and the Formation of Countries:
What is power?

Core Curriculum

In Sixth Grade the students explore: What is power? Students consider who has power, and how it is used and misused. Students investigate questions of power, and how empires have shaped the notion of the individual, including how individual rights have shifted over time. What is a fundamental human right, and how has the understanding of these rights changed throughout history? Students explore the interplay of power and human rights through several important time periods. Beginning with the rise and fall of ancient Rome, students also look at the impact of world religions on civilizations. They study the impact of colonialism and its implications for the distribution of power, and explore issues of power and human rights surrounding the Holocaust.

This inquiry into power continues with a look at how immigration shapes the racial and cultural landscape of the United States. This study builds on the study of immigration that was begun in Fourth Grade and the study of voice in Fifth Grade to deepen the inquiry by looking at the first peoples of the United States, the transatlantic slave trade, as well as issues of modern immigration. Students take a close look at the dominant “melting pot” narrative for immigration, and analyze the structures of power that dictate either the exclusion or inclusion of various groups of people, and how the interplay of voice and power helps define a culture.

The class engages in reading for information and research, class discussion, and simulations to understand the history and cultures they are studying. They are exposed to the great works of art of these ages and have a chance to research and report on their findings through Google Slide presentations. Oral skills are strengthened through memorization and presentation of poetry and play dialogue, classroom discussions, and oral presentation of research.

The culminating event of the Sixth Grade’s Middle School journey is a 3-day overnight trip to Washington, D.C. which offers students an opportunity to think critically about what forms a society and democratic government. The trip builds on the studies they have experienced through Grades 4-6.

Literacy

Reading: The Sixth Grade uses a workshop approach to reading. Students read and share books as a class, meet in book groups to discuss a chosen book, and read independently at their own levels with coaching from their teachers and peers. Emphasis is placed on practicing and refining the critical thinking skills needed to analyze character and plot and to infer the author’s intent. Students learn important tools for organizing their studies: they keep track of their independent reading and take margin notes in their research materials and reading. Class discussions and written essays help students form and refine thoughts about what they have read. They engage in creative endeavors related to the topic – art, music, drama – that reinforce and deepen their understanding. The Sixth Grade’s culminating event is reading the Shakespeare play they will perform in their Eighth Grade year. 

Writing: Building on the skills learned in earlier grades in narrative, information, and argument writing, and poetry, Sixth Grade students expand their writing repertoire to include memoir and literary analysis. These skills are practiced throughout the year. In their notebook writing, students learn the process of editing and refining their work through multiple drafts. They are also introduced to writing formal outlines as an aid to organizing longer research essays. Peer review and editing and teacher coaching are components of the process. There is a concentration on the study of vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and students begin to learn how to effectively study for and take tests that require longer written answers. Using Chromebooks in the classroom, they compose and share their written work in Google Docs. 

Math

The skills of problem solving, communication, critical thinking, and analysis continue to evolve in Sixth Grade Math. Emphasis is placed on problem-solving processes and sound computation skills. Oral and written communication of mathematical ideas as well as analyzing problems become more important as students transition to more abstract concepts of early algebra. Studies of geometry and probability become increasingly sophisticated as the abstract thinking skills of the students grow. Skills developed throughout the earlier grades are combined with more advanced creative analysis and sequential thinking.

The Sixth Grade math curriculum includes the study of data analysis and graphs; decimal operations; introductory algebra with tables, graphs, and formulas; fraction comparisons and fraction operations; angle geometry and introduction to deductive geometry; signed number operations and order of operations; percent/decimal/fraction conversions and percent word problems; probability including tree diagrams, Venn Diagrams, and counting principles; solving simple equations, distributive property, and collecting like terms; ratios, scale drawings, rates, and proportions; and graphing inequalities. The students’ Enrichment activities involve investigations with Google Sheets.

Text: Everyday Math 6.

Science

Keeping with the themes of expansion, migration, and survival in a new environment which are introduced in the Sixth Grade study of Rome and the Middle Ages, the science curriculum involves the exploration and potential pioneering of Mars. In the Sixth Grade science course, “Matter and Energy in Our Lives: An Exploration of Earth and Space Systems,” students use math and science skills to complete “authentic space mission tasks” in the classroom and at The Buehler Challenger & Science Center.

In addition to successfully completing their space missions at Buehler, students determine whether or not it is possible for humans to get to and live on Mars. In answering this research question, students study the history of Earth, evolution, energy, phases of matter, gravity, orbits, force and motion, rockets, climate, and the atmosphere. Students explore the Wetlands Habitat to learn about photosynthesis and the sources of oxygen on our planet, such as plants and cyanobacteria. Students also work to perfect their science and engineering practices by designing, making, and testing models of rockets and landers. In carrying out these scientific investigations, students ask questions and define problems; formulate hypotheses; select independent, dependent, and control variables; collect, analyze, and present their data; draw conclusions and write explanations based on the analysis of their data; create sound scientific arguments; and engage in the same iterative design process that is used by scientists and engineers.

World Languages

French and Spanish: In the Sixth Grade French and Spanish classes, students continue to use storytelling techniques, personalized conversations, songs, and communicative games to develop reading, writing, listening comprehension, and speaking skills. They acquire new vocabulary related to shopping, physical description, pets, clothing, food, the home, and the classroom. They also learn to use numbers from 0-100 and to tell time. In the French class, students communicate with a partner school in Brittany, France through several video conferences and pen pal letters. We will be expanding the Spanish pen pal program as well. The classes also read the French novel Isabelle Capture un Singe Hurleur and the Spanish novel Isabela captura un congo. Each chapter is read chorally, and students act out the scenes to gain further meaning of the text together. While reading these novels, students learn about the cultures of French Guiana and of Costa Rica.

Performing Arts

Group: In Group, students rehearse for the music that they sing during traditions at Far Brook. This Upper School choir includes all students in grades 6-8. The ensemble prepares the music of the Thanksgiving Processional, Stabat Mater and Other Voices, and the Spring Concert. During their Sixth Grade year, students perform for the first time in a leadership role for school events. 

Boys’ Choir: Boys in Grades Six, Seven, and Eight and sometimes the men of the faculty and staff meet regularly to receive guidance and support for the changing voice. Repertoire is selected specifically for the musical range of male voices. The students sing in Morning Meeting and perform at the Spring Concert. 

Orchestra: Students join the Far Brook Orchestra once they reach a certain level of proficiency in their musical skills. The Orchestra plays in Morning Meeting and at the spring concert. Many students who participate in Orchestra also perform in the annual Recital Night in the spring. 

Drama: Rome and the early Medieval eras are part of the studies during the Sixth Grade year and the class play is chosen from a library of Shakespeare’s plays with Roman or early Medieval settings, and from Ancient Roman comedies. The work challenges the students to imagine themselves living in another time. As the students take on more complex and challenging texts — Shakespeare plays set in Roman or early Medieval times such as Julius Caesar, King Lear, Cymbeline, and the Roman comedies of Plautus or Terence such as Phormio or Epidicus — the technical elements supporting the production, especially period costuming, become a larger part of the process, helping the students enter into the details of these historical periods.

Dance Choreography: The Dance choreography workshop builds on the skills and creative experiences the students have in Dance during their previous years. Students take inspiration both from their classroom learning and from instruction in dance to create their own movement in small groups that will be woven into the larger structure of group choreography. 

Fine Arts

Art: In Sixth Grade, students immerse themselves in the art of still-life painting. While looking at famous still-life paintings from relevant historical eras, students become familiar with the formal issues that have evolved throughout art history including perspective, color theory, shading, composition, and light. Students develop important painting skills like color mixing, underpainting, blocking and masking, and detailing. Students also learn how to read and interpret light and shadow in a still-life and how direct observation influences accuracy and believability of painted images.

Woodshop and Design Thinking: In the woodshop mini, students produce and film their own how-to videos for the tools. Throughout filming, students display their knowledge of the tools and techniques and are able to use their voice to share their expertise. This leadership role helps their peers as well as younger students learn how to properly use the tools and will be a lasting resource. 

Technology

In the Sixth Grade technology mini, students explore robotics and the various electrical inputs and outputs that allow robots to fulfill certain functions. Sixth Graders think critically about the purpose and need of artificial intelligence in our modern-day world and how robots can influence our way of life. Throughout the course, students design, build, and program several types of robots using littleBits, Ozobot Evos, and MakeBlock.

Discussions around digital citizenship will thread throughout their time working on projects during the mini.

Social and Emotional

In Middle School, the Learning Specialist and Literacy Specialist work with students individually and in small groups within various classroom settings. They consult regularly with the classroom teachers to coordinate strategies that take into account students’ specific learning styles.

Students in the Middle School begin to take on more responsibility for their learning. Through support from their academic teachers and the Learning Specialist, students learn organization and time management skills that are reinforced daily, resulting in students who are more independent with homework. Students also learn various study strategies as they prepare for quizzes and tests and memorize lines for their class play. In addition, students learn test-taking techniques for classroom quizzes and tests, and are also afforded opportunities to experience standardized testing. The ERB CTP-5 is administered to the Fifth through Eighth Grade each year.

Opportunity Period allows students to self-select into an activity of choice during the school day. Recent options include Far Brook’s Upper School Orchestra, Green Team (leading the community in environmentally sustainable practices), book club, School newspaper, art, chess, and knitting.

Community Groups: In the Fifth and Sixth Grades, Community groups form to provide an opportunity for small group conversations across the grade levels. Students explore how community connects us to one another through a variety of relationships. Both as an individual and a collective group students have influence as helpers and leaders in their class, the Middle School, the Far Brook community, and beyond.

Classroom Meetings: Sixth Graders periodically have class meetings to participate in discussions that help them assess their progress as a class community. During these meetings the teachers, school counselor or Director of Diversity, Equity, and Community lead lessons on topics such as establishing and respecting community expectations, cooperating and compromising, problem-solving, recognizing and accepting differences among people, mindfulness, positive self-talk, and more. The goals of these lessons and meetings are to create a cooperative classroom environment and to give students the skills they need to solve interpersonal problems and to build positive relationships.

Washington, D.C. Trip: The culminating event of the Sixth Grade’s Middle School journey is a 3-day overnight trip to Washington, D.C. which offers students an opportunity to think critically about what forms a society and democratic government. The trip builds on the studies they have experienced through Grades 4-6. The cost of this trip is included in the Sixth Grade activities fee.

Sports and Wellness

Sports: The Sixth Grade Athletics program includes a combination of cooperative team building activities, fitness and strength development, and participation in a fall and spring interscholastic sport. Boys participate in soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring, and the girls participate in field hockey in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. A co-ed track and field team has been added to the spring program. Students learn the rules and regulations of these games and practice the basic skills and strategies of these sports. Peer leadership and learning to be a supportive teammate is reinforced during every practice and game. The cornerstone of the sports curriculum is character development through demonstrating good sportsmanship. During the sports seasons, students share Sports Reports in Morning Meeting reporting the team’s accomplishments. When not in season, the students participate in activities such as pickleball, ultimate frisbee, team handball, and basketball and various fitness activities. 

Health & Wellness: During the winter session, students participate in sports games, fitness training, and health classes. At the Sixth Grade level students complete the American Red Cross First Aid Babysitting Curriculum. Topics covered include leadership, child safety, and emergency care. This class includes an American Red Cross certification at the end of the course. 

After School Programs

 Spectrum: A Social Justice Discussion Group: As expressed in our Diversity Statement, we believe that being intentional about diversity provides a platform for students to understand, to thrive in, and to impact our multicultural society. Students in Grades Six, Seven, and Eight who are interested in discussing or learning more about race, equity, and social justice are invited and encouraged to attend.

During the second trimester, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grade families may enroll their students in winter After School Programs.

  • The Interscholastic Basketball program offers games against other local independent schools.
  • On Friday evenings in January and February, Ski Club offers all levels of skiers an opportunity to ski and snowboard on Shawnee Mountain.

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