GRADE 6

In Grade 6, all students are new to the Randolph Campus at SPA. Middle School marks a significant transition for students as they prepare for greater engagement and challenge in their academic studies.

The Grade 6 curriculum includes significant emphasis on organizational skills, study skills, and time management. 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. 

The transition to Middle School in Grade 6 may be more confusing for parents than it is for students. As students try new roles and seek more independence, parents move into a role that is more about support and guidance than direction. Advisors work closely with parents in Grade 6 to create open forums for communication between home and school, but unlike in the Lower School, the student is now involved in the conversation as well. In Grade 6, students become comfortable with the processes of reflection. Teachers will send home completed work periodically to have students review the work with their parents; parents use this opportunity to review teacher comments and feedback, reflect on the student’s preparation for the project or assessment, 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.

An overview of the academic curriculum and areas of focus in Grade 6 is below.

Advisory and Developmental Themes

In Grade 6, 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.

Advisories meet each morning for check-in and each afternoon for a work-study period, providing opportunities for students to interact socially under the guidance and support of an adult who knows them well. They also meet three times per week for structured lessons and exploration of community norms and themes.

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.

Grade 6 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. 

 

Homework

Within the context of our six-day 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 Grade 6 will spend approximately 60–75 minutes each evening on homework; 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 determine if the student is using study time effectively, if he or she is reading the assignment directions thoroughly, or if he or she needs additional help or clarifiction.  

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.

English

English 6 prioritizes students’ development of rich, meaningful reading and writing habits, establishing the habits of mind and learning practices students will develop during their three years in the Middle School. Through a Reading-Writing workshop framework, this course creates the space for students to find, read, respond to, and develop literature that speaks to them, both in and out of class. Students see themselves not as assignment-doers but as people trusted to make literary choices as readers and writers. Consistent, individual, guided choice is punctuated by whole-group learning celebrations: a collaboration with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, an extended residency with a spoken-word poet, book-clubs, the Maud Hart Lovelace reading challenge, and more help to establish class community. Frequent, focused instruction and practice of sentence types and parts pushes students to recognize and manipulate sentences with awareness, flexibility, and purpose. Students write in a variety of modes, from literature response to poetry to memoir. They bring pieces through full writing processes (pre-writing, drafting, conferencing, revision, reflection).

Social Studies

Understanding the world is knowing and appreciating the delicate balance between the past, present and future. That often starts locally and moves to the global and requires a careful deconstruction of historical events. The Social Studies 6 curriculum begins in Minnesota and aims to orient students to its complicated history and how that impacts our lives today. Toggling back and forth between the “then” and “now,” students begin to learn that the history, geography, society, and culture of Minnesota come together in a web of many elements. In all of our units, we will be chewing over large, overarching questions. By the end of the year, we hope that students will be able to answer these questions based on the work done together and using Minnesota as our case study.

How do communities both embrace change and resist change?
How has Minnesota been a place where people have achieved their dreams? How has it hindered these dreams?
How do communities evolve and change while maintaining and creating new traditions and norms?
How has Minnesota’s immigrant communities changed Minnesota and how has Minnesota changed them?

Math

Mathematics Course Placement
Placement in all courses for both new and returning students is at the discretion of the mathematics department. Recommendations are based on past performance in mathematics; effort; level of interest; grades; ERB scores; and placement tests and/or exam scores.

Math 6
In Math 6, students will develop problem-solving techniques that involve making connections between mathematical concepts and the everyday world. Students will be encouraged to ask good questions about the information given in a problem and develop the mathematical skills that can be used to answer questions related to that information. Important topics covered in this course are operations with positive rational numbers, algebraic representations of numerical concepts, ratios, proportions, and two-dimensional geometry. Understanding of these concepts will be developed using concrete and pictorial models (e.g., bar models, algebra tiles, and geometric manipulatives). Students will also practice problem-solving skills in a variety of contexts and learn to use estimation to check the reasonableness of their results. The problems considered will vary in levels of difficulty, giving the students ample opportunity to develop the math skills essential for subsequent courses.

Honors Math 6
In Honors Math 6, students will explore and develop advanced problem-solving techniques that involve making connections between mathematical concepts and the everyday world. Students will be encouraged to ask good questions about the information given in a problem and develop the mathematical skills that can be used to answer questions related to that information. Important topics covered in this course are operations with positive rational numbers, algebraic representations of numerical concepts, ratios, proportions, two-dimensional and three-dimensional geometry and/or statistics. Understanding of these concepts will be developed using concrete, pictorial and abstract models (e.g., bar models, algebra tiles, and geometric manipulatives). Students will also practice problem-solving skills in a variety of contexts and learn to use estimation to check the reasonableness of their results. They will progress through the material at an accelerated pace and use enrichment materials to explore advanced problem-solving strategies.

Science

Science 6 is an integrated course, tying together topics in geology, biology, and physical science. The year begins with a focus on Minnesota geology and the effects of glaciers on the landscape. From there the course moves to an inward focus on human bodies, exploring cell biology and how several organ systems work together to maintain homeostasis. The year ends the year learning and applying Newton’s Laws of Motion in rocket building engineering challenges. Throughout the year, there is intentional scaffolding of both student skills and science laboratory and communication skills. Students practice observing, recording, and analyzing data. Students develop presentation and writing skills as they communicate results. Each unit has hands-on lab activities and engineering challenges.

Music

All students in Grade 6 take a music class every day, in a band or orchestra instrument of their choice or in the boys' or girls' choir. 

Beginning Strings
The Beginning Strings course allows Grade 6 students to develop instrumental and musical skills so they can enter into the Middle School Orchestra the following year. The following string instruments are offered: violin, viola, cello, bass. Students participating in this class are encouraged but not required to take private lessons to accelerate their skill development to make them more confident when they join the orchestra classes. All students perform in a Winter and Spring Concert each year. Note: Grade 6 students with more proficiency and experience in a string instrument may join the Middle School Orchestra at the discretion of the Middle School music faculty.

Beginning Instruments
The Beginning Instruments course allows Grade 6 students to develop instrumental and musical skills so they can enter into the Middle School Band or Orchestra the following year.The following wind instruments are offered: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, trumpet, French horn, trombone, baritone horn, and tuba. These classes include both small-group instruction on similar instruments and beginning ensemble work as a band. Students participating in this class are encouraged but not required to take private lessons to accelerate their skill development to make them more confident when they join the band classes. All students perform in a Winter and Spring Concert each year.  Note: Grade 6 students with more proficiency and experience in a band instrument may join the Middle School Band or Orchestra at the discretion of the Middle School music faculty.

Middle School Girls’ Choir and Middle School Boys’ Choir
The Middle School Choir Program is designed to teach students how to sing with healthy vocal technique through age-appropriate choral literature for both Middle School Choirs. The Middle School Boys’ Choir and the Middle School Girls’ Choir both study and perform music from various genres, learn about music theory and vocal terminology connected with the choral curriculum, and perform in a Winter and Spring Concert each year.

Middle School Orchestra and Chamber Ensemble
The Middle School Orchestra is open to players of string, woodwind, brass, percussion, and keyboard instruments at intermediate to advanced levels. A wide variety of high quality literature from classical to pop to movie music is played while the students develop musical and ensemble skills and technical proficiency. High emphasis is placed on team spirit and an awareness of others within the ensemble. The orchestra will give two concerts during the year. In addition, the most advanced string students have the opportunity to participate in the Chamber Ensemble. The most advanced woodwind players will be given the opportunity to play in the Chamber Winds ensemble. 

Middle School Band and Jazz Band
The Middle School Band is open to woodwind, brass, and percussion players of intermediate to advanced skill.  In addition, bass, guitar and keyboard players may participate in Jazz Band. A wide variety of high quality literature from classical to pop to movie music is played while the students develop musical and ensemble skills and technical proficiency. High emphasis is placed on team spirit and an awareness of others within the ensemble. The Middle School Band plays two concerts during the year. In addition, the most advanced players have the opportunity to participate in the Jazz Band.


Fine Arts

Grade 6 students rotate through two trimester-long fine arts classes over the course of the year.

Art 6 is a visual arts course that sixth-grade students take for one trimester. The course emphasizes the fundamentals inherent in creating 2D and 3d projects. Students are introduced to a variety of projects, beginning with collage, drawing, 3d wire sculpture, watercolor painting, and hand-built ceramics. The goal of the course is to give students a broad range of experience to further their technical, aesthetic, and creative abilities. All projects are introduced demonstrations of technique and process. Each student is assessed by the same criteria we would like them to use to evaluate themselves: a personal commitment to their process, constructive participation in group discussions, and a willingness to stretch their potential.

In Drama 6, students focus on the convention of theater such as understanding the actor's job, the role of the audience, stage directions and the importance of collaboration. Units include body movement and mime, improvisation and script interpretation/performance. The students will participate in a variety of theatre games and improvisations, rehearse/perform a mime routine and their scripted scenes will be shared with the class.

World Language

French IA
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving personal identity, family, school and daily life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Bien di ! Level 1 and Voces Français 1 series. After successful completion of French IA, students will move into French IB to complete Level I.



German IA
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving personal identity, family, and daily life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Deutsch Aktuell series. After successful completion of German IA, students will move into German IB to complete Level I.



Chinese IA
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving personal identity, family, and daily life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Radicals, the principles of stroke order, the Pinyin romanization system, and tones are introduced in studying simplified Mandarin Chinese. Chinese IA is for beginners with no previous exposure to Chinese or students with limited exposure to reading and writing. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Zhen Bang I (真棒) textbook. After successful completion of Chinese IA, students will move into Chinese IB to complete Level I.



Spanish 6

Note: Students with no prior Spanish experience may begin their study of the language with Spanish IA. Most students who come from the Lower School have completed the equivalent of Spanish IA, so they typically enter Spanish IB in Grade 6.

Spanish IA: Beginning Spanish
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving personal identity, family, and daily life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Students in Spanish IA converse, create presentations, interpret authentic materials and play language games in Spanish. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Avancemos 1A textbook. After successful completion of Spanish IA, students will move into Spanish IB to complete Level I.

Spanish IB: Advanced Beginning Spanish
By the end of this course, students can communicate about and identify the main idea and a few supporting details of short written and spoken messages on highly predictable, everyday topics on familiar themes involving personal identity, family, and daily life. They can use simple sentences that have been encountered, memorized, and recalled. Students completing this course typically demonstrate proficiency in Novice Mid to Intermediate Low range in all modes of communication based on ACTFL guidelines. Students in Spanish IB converse, create presentations, interpret authentic materials and play language games in Spanish, building on the information and vocabulary that they acquired in Spanish IA. Most teaching materials consist of authentic and contemporary resources (interviews, news articles, videos, songs); however, themes and grammatical structures align with the Avancemos IB textbook, including narration in present and simple future time frames. After successful completion of Spanish IB, which completes Level I, students move into Spanish IIA or Spanish II.

Technology

All students in Grade 6 have and bring home their own laptops which they use in all of their academic classes.  The Technology 6 course focuses on three areas: care and use of the technology, technology skill development, and personal responsibility and digital citizenship (“Wellnology”). In addition to the formal technology course, instruction in these three areas is integrated throughout the academic and advisory program at each grade level. 

Computer Science

Based on concepts in the CSTA Standards for grades 6-8, Computer Science 6 is a trimester-long course taken by all sixth graders. In this course, students will explore introductory concepts in computational thinking and computer science as they design a game in MIT StarLogo Nova, pitch an idea for a Zooniverse, and create/program a computer-controlled artifact with a Microbit. Students who have successfully completed Computer Science 6, 7, and 8 in the Middle School have met the outcomes of the Upper School introductory course called "Programming and Problem Solving" and are prepared to take any Upper School elective for which it is a prerequisite.

Compass

The purpose of sixth grade Compass is to explore and practice skills that lead to personal and academic growth throughout middle school. With a dual focus on social skills and academic strategies, students gain a better understanding of what constitutes healthy balance. Our time together is playful and interactive, and the students are challenged to examine how they can thrive in both work and play. With no take-home assignments or tests, the evaluation of a student's performance in Compass depends on class involvement and effort to support an atmosphere of mutual learning.

Physical Education

The Middle School Physical Education program is designed to expose students to a wide range of individual and team sports as well as fitness and athleticism activities. Skills, strategies, and safety are taught while instilling self-discipline, cooperation, and sportsmanship as life skills in sport. A positive self image is nourished by developing students' full range of physical attributes to include: muscular strength, endurance, coordination, flexibility, grace, and agility.
1150 Goodrich Avenue, St. Paul MN 55105
Main school line: 651-698-2451
Goodrich front desk: 651-696-1560 
Goodrich attendance line: 651-696-1414
1712 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul MN 55105
Main school line: 651-698-2451
Randolph attendance line: 651-696-1410
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