6th Grade » Home


Sixth grade is a year in which our students prepare for the transition to middle school. The goal is to provide them with the confidence and skills to excel both academically and socially. To meet the academic component of this objective, we emphasize organizational skills, time management, and test preparation. Critical thinking, problem-solving, student-generated inquiry, and leadership skills are also cultivated. To address the affective needs of preadolescence, discussions and activities focus on relationships, physical and emotional changes, peer pressure, conflict resolution, and goal setting. In culmination of the academic year students prepare a portfolio and reflection to share with their parents during spring student-led conferences.

Subject area educators teach their curriculum to both fifth and sixth graders. This allows the educators in the team the unique experience of looping with the students from 5th to 6th grade. Working closely with the same students for two years in a row, enables educators to have an excellent understanding of students’ needs. At the beginning of their 6th grade year, educators and students are primed to begin the year and continue where they left off. The model works for educators, students, and parents because it builds connections over time.  It provides parents with a variety of connections and relationships between students and educators.  

Students in sixth grade experience increase independence in order to prepare them to be successful here and in the next phase of their lives. Students begin their day in homeroom where Responsive Classroom techniques are infused to build community and encourage students social/emotional development. The remainder of the students’ day resembles a middle school model where core subjects are taught by different educators. Educators provide structure to teach students study skills, help students develop personal goals and write reflectively in all subject areas to record progress towards their goals and in their learning.

In addition, sixth graders serve as representatives of the school community. Sixth graders run the bi-monthly all school meeting and serve as school ambassadors for events like Open House, Grande Friends Day, and Art and Science Nights. 

Parents are encouraged to participate in field trips and sixth grade families participate in a ropes course day. Students also meet with a faculty member once a week for a special Connection Lunch to build bonds between educators and students. 

The 5/6 educator team meets once a week to discuss students, curriculum and ways to move our program forward. 
Language Arts

The fifth- and sixth-grades’ English-Language Arts (ELA) curriculum is a two-year program that is rich in reading, writing, speaking, and integration of subjects. The main focus for these two years is to inspire students to have a life-long passion for books and reading and for them to be confident and competent writers. In class, students have the opportunity to read and write daily with uninterrupted blocks of time. The curricula and the educator are influenced and inspired by best practices from Lucy Calkins’ Reading and Writing Project from Columbia University and Nanci Atwell, author of In the Middle and founder of the kindergarten through eighth-grade independent school, the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Writing: Students write memoirs, narratives, responses to literature, letters, research, and free writes. Students read, write, and study poetry much of the year, which serves as a vehicle to learn about and use literary elements and devices. They craft multi-paragraph essays with a thesis statement and continue to practice correct usage of grammar, spelling, and punctuation with the help of targeted mini-lessons and individual spelling lists. Rebecca Sitton’s Spelling and Word Skills program is alternated every other week with Vocabulary from Classical Roots.

Reading: Sixth graders continue their study of great literature and the analysis of the author’s craft. There is an emphasis on individual reading of books and sharing these titles in Booktalks in which students orally share a book they enjoyed with the class. This is a time for students to practice public speaking skills, summarize text and literary elements (genre, theme, mood and the craft of writing) and identify other reasons why they enjoyed a book. Students write many letter essays about a book they have read addressed to other students in the class (or the educator), and are a written conversation about literature between the reader and the writer. Students choose the titles they want to read in many of the units of literature study in the sixth grade. Also, there are all-class books read by students with a research component. Sixth graders are exposed to a variety of non-fiction genres including a poet study, World War II biographies, and selections such as "The Diary of Anne Frank". There are also units of study that include short stories, award winning books, historical fiction, dystopian novels, World War II journals, and choice books. Book clubs meet regularly using critical thinking skills, summarizing, vocabulary study, developing questions, and evaluating the author’s craft. Daily read-aloud and silent reading is part of the weekly schedule.

Public Speaking: By sixth grade, students are accomplished public speakers. They present their research to an audience on a Revolutionary War topic, speak at all-school meeting presentations, present poet topics and WWII/Holocaust research and deliver graduation speeches.

The fifth- and sixth-grade math team builds upon and expands concepts students learned in fourth grade through the use of Everyday Mathematics as the core of the curriculum. Everyday Mathematics offers students an appropriate foundation in math concepts and skills and provides them with a direct link between what is learned in the classroom and real-life applications. The program is designed to challenge each student in a nurturing environment. Each grade’s academic goals are organized into six strands, Numbers and Numerations, Operations and Computation, Data and Chance, Measurement and Reference Frames, and Patterns, Functions, and Algebra.

Educators supplement the math program with other developmentally appropriate resources such as Mangahigh, Khan Academy, Math Olympiad, and iPad apps for math practice and manipulatives to enhance student learning. The math educators challenge each student, foster perseverance, build solid math self-esteem, offer differentiated learning opportunities, and challenge students to become confident learners, mathematical thinkers, and creative problem solvers. A variety of instructional settings are utilized by educators including whole class instruction, small flexible groupings, independent extension projects, and remediation. Each math lesson incorporates an exploration opportunity for learning partners to share and discuss strategies on how to solve the problem. Daily independent lesson practice offers opportunities for application of concepts and requires that students develop written responses to explain their mathematical thinking.

The sixth grade curriculum spends much of the year reinforcing and developing an understanding of number theory--operations with decimals and fractions, rational numbers, and powers of 10--algebra concepts, and computation. Additionally, students deepen their knowledge of reading and interpreting data, formulas, rates and ratios. the Everyday Mathematics curriculum offers many opportunities for students to review and practice their computational skills with games and deepen their critical thinking skills by explaining their reasoning and procedures in deriving a solution.

It is also the intent of the program to prepare students for the transition into a variety of seventh grade schools. To do this, skill building exercises are integrated into the Everyday Mathematics curriculum. Additionally, there is a continued focus to model strong organizational and study habits in sixth grade. Students who completed the accelerated program in the fifth grade often continue in the sixth grade accelerated program covering most of the McDougal Littell Pre-Algebra textbook.

Social Studies
The social studies curriculum continues to build upon what was taught in fourth grade at a developmentally appropriate level for students. Themes and essential questions have been chosen to provide continuity between years of study and the building of geographical understanding, historical knowledge, and study skills. The curriculum uses a variety of instructional methodologies including lecture-discussion, simulations, project-based learning, role playing, and collaborative learning.

Students learn the skills necessary to research, present arguments and evidence, evaluate primary or secondary sources, distinguish between credible sources, as well as select appropriate tools and digital resources to engage in learning. The students express an understanding of the geography and history of the United States while honoring the many diverse peoples and perspectives to help them understand their place in society and encourage their participation as citizens of the United States and the world.

During the sixth grade year students are looking to answer these essential questions: (1) How are the ideals of the United States expressed? (2) How should government balance the rights of individuals with the common good? and (3) How can we make an impact on our community? Sixth grade students build upon the knowledge gained from the fifth grade curriculum as they compare and contrast their personal viewpoints with those of colonial settlers, examine the push-pull factors that led to the American Revolution; and read biographies, evaluate primary resources, and uncover themes in art and music that depict the ideals of those who founded the United States. After developing a chronological awareness of the beginnings of our nation and the American Revolution, students explore the key principles outlined in the United States Constitution. Class topics include discussions about of the significance of the U. S. Constitution, the balance of power among the three branches of government, and how this document guides the balance between individual and common good. Students also tour the Roundhouse, New Mexico’s state capitol building, to witness legislative sessions in both the senate and house, and study the state government of New Mexico. Students also learn about other forms of government. They create a made-up nation with laws, customs, maps, and philosophies and participate in a mock United Nations. Lastly, students develop a student led project focused on change within their community. This is an opportunity for students to use their skills in a culminating project of their own design.

The goal of the science department is to produce graduates who enjoy and are inspired by science. Students should leave RGS feeling that they like science, are interested in scientific concepts and discovery, and look forward to seeking opportunities to learn more. Students develop close observation and recording skills, and the ability to deeply analyze and manipulate variables, and to synthesize information. In the lab, students practice observation, patience, perseverance, communication, and collaboration. 

Science meets three times a week for one hour for a total of three hours per week. Students use investigations, activities, and experiments in order to explicitly test how variables affect the output of a system. They use the scientific method to design fair tests, follow procedures, conduct experiments, and record and analyze findings.

Fifth- and sixth-graders construct more knowledge on their own than they did in previous years. Some of their investigations are student-led and help to answer a question the student has about a topic. Students also conduct much of their own research and compile the information as a group or class to better understand a topic or concept. Upper 

elementary students also spend a lot of time focusing in rewriting labs as multiple drafts are necessary to communicate finds more clearly, provide additional detail, and generate more thoughtful conclusions.

At this developmental stage students should explore and challenge their understanding of the natural world; they have a rich and meaningful understanding of science concepts in the disciplines of physical, life, earth, and space sciences.

Essential Questions:

  • What is energy?
  • What are the interactions between the Earth and Sun?
  • How do plants and animals use the sun’s energy?
  • What is climate change?
  • What are our alternative resources?
  • What is electricity?
  • What is sound?
  • What are the parts of and functions of the human brain?
Service Learning
The sixth grade Service Project is connected to our themes of citizenship and environmental stewardship. Much of their work takes place on the school's adopted section of the Santa Fe River. The members of the sixth grade learn to appreciate and preserve their surrounding through the maintenance and enhancement of the RGS campus.