In sixth grade, all students are new to the Randolph Campus at SPA. Middle school also marks a transition for all students, as they prepare to become more engaged and challenged by their academic studies.
Sixth grade as a transition year
The sixth grade curriculum includes significant emphasis on organizational skills, study skills, time management, and information summation. Under the guidance of their teachers and advisor, students begin the process of understanding their own personal strengths and challenges as learners. They are asked to reflect frequently on their work, on their role in the community, and on their personal goals for the school year.
During the first week of school, teachers and students engage in a series of orienting and team-building activities. Students have opportunities to meet with all of their teachers, begin to navigate the campus, and meet new friends. After three weeks of school, the sixth grade has a retreat. The class spends two full days building community through team-building initiatives and recreation.
The Advisory Program
In sixth grade, advisories function as a homeroom for students. Advisors play a critical role in orienting the students to the new building, the increasing expectations of middle school, and to one another. They also serve as the primary liaison between home and school.
Each advisory consists of approximately 10 students and one teacher/advisor. Using the Developmental Designs for Middle School model, advisories are a place where students are known, welcomed, included, and periodically given the responsibility of leading the group. The advisor is responsible for overseeing the experience of the whole student at school; advisors track academic progress, encourage student growth, aid in the development of organizational strategies, and advocate for their advisees. They monitor and guide the social and emotional environment.
Each day’s advisory begins with a greeting and daily news. Advisories meet an additional three times per week for 30-minutes, and students have quiet study time daily with their advisor.
Developmental Themes for Sixth Graders
Sixth grade students are at the beginning of their journey towards autonomy on the Randolph Campus. This often means a series of trials and errors in both social and academic realms. They look to adults for guidance, but are ready to be responsible for their own learning.
Themes in sixth grade include:
- Who am I?
- Where do I fit in?
- How do I learn?
- How do I solve problems when presented with conflict?
Students are ready to discover their own voice, listen to the perspective of others, and begin to understand and respect perspectives that are different from their own.
Changing Parent Roles
The transition to middle school may be more confusing for parents than it is for students. As students try new roles and seek more independence, parents move into a support role that is akin to a specialty coach. Parents work closely with advisors in sixth grade to create an open forum for communication between home and school, but the student is now involved in the conversation as well.
Teachers and parents can help their students in this process by encouraging students to reflect on past experiences and to come up with alternative solutions. This shift from adult-generated solutions to adult-guided but student-generated solutions reflects an important developmental change.
The faculty works in close partnership with parents to provide the best possible education for students. We invite parents to contact us whenever we can be of help.
In sixth grade, we want students to become comfortable with the processes of reflection. Teachers will send home completed work periodically to have students review the work with their parents. We ask that parents use this opportunity to review teacher comments and feedback, reflect on the student’s preparation for the project or assessment (e.g., a test or quiz), and jot down any questions for the teacher. Teachers may also send home academic progress reports to note unsatisfactory work, or a sudden change in habit or performance over the course of the trimester. Copies of these reports go to the advisor and to the grade-level team leader, who confer with students.
There are three opportunities for formal conferences throughout the year on days when there is no school for middle school students.
- Advisor/advisee/parent conferences—First week of school.
- Parent/teacher conference—October
- Parent/teacher conference—April.
These formal conferences are on the master calendar, and we encourage parents to make note of these dates in advance to avoid scheduling conflicts.
Sixth grade is the first year students will be issued a laptop computer. Most of the work that students complete at home on the laptops will include word processing, presentation production, audio recording, or information diagramming, none of which require a connection to the Internet. There are times when students will be asked to conduct research on their laptops, participate in an online class discussion, or retrieve information from a website. These activities do involve the use of the Internet. Most of the research assignments will involve the use of library databases and can be accessed from the SPA library web page.
Sixth grade tends to be a year when students’ awareness of their peers is heightened. They find that their laptop is a wonderful resource for social interaction. This can be a powerful distraction for many students when completing homework on the Internet. We recommend that when your child is doing homework involving the use of the Internet, that it be done in an area where the screen is visible to an adult.
Students are required to back up all work to their flash drive or to the network. Laptop computers should be brought to school everyday. Laptops needing repair should be turned in immediately so the student can obtain a loaner laptop.
Within the context of our block schedule, students have two or three of their academic classes each day and can expect to have 20–25 minutes of homework in each of these classes. Students in sixth grade will spend approximately 60–75 minutes each evening on homework. We realize that some students complete the homework more quickly, while others may take longer to complete their work. Students have a 30-minute quiet study time each day, during which they may meet with their teachers for assistance as needed.
If a student is spending a particularly long time on his or her homework, parents can assist by determining what the obstacle may be. It may be helpful to consult with the advisor to ask the following questions:
Is the student using his quiet study time effectively?
- Does she need to meet with a specific teacher for clarification on a regular basis?
- Is he reading the assignment directions accurately?
- Is she stuck on one problem and needs encouragement to call a friend or teacher for help?
Homework as a process is multifaceted. Parents can assist by checking in with their child on a regular basis, limiting extraneous distractions for students while they are working, and arranging a consistent location for students to complete their work each evening.