6th Grade Course Descriptions
Language arts work forms the foundation of all projects, reports, summaries, outlines, rough drafts, readings, and compositions that are completed in the sixth grade. Work is focused extensively on grammar through proper use and identification of the parts of speech including; the common noun, proper noun, adjective, adverb, preposition, compound preposition and conjunction. Students strengthen their understanding of verbs: main verbs, regular and irregular verbs, auxiliary verbs, verb phrases, action verbs, linking verbs, and transitive and intransitive verbs. Students also work to recognize sentence fragments and form complete sentences. This focused grammar study supports the ability to properly form sentences and build cohesive paragraphs. Weekly spelling work focuses on rules and vocabulary words support writing in the all subjects. When writing, students are expected to proofread and revise their spelling, strengthen their ability to recall spelling rules or in the last resort, use a dictionary. The students learn the Latin roots of words in connection to the study of Ancient Rome. Writing focuses on expository compositions. Work continues to focus on writing excellent full paragraphs and the use of topic and supporting sentences to develop a main idea. Writing strategies such as brainstorming ideas from our notes, organizing and prioritizing our ideas according to common themes, outlining, the differences between topic and supporting sentences, and proofreading and revising are covered. Students are guided through the preparation for writing a report and are introduced to introductory and conclusion paragraphs. Students at this age are taught how to craft effective, detailed answers to essay questions, as found regularly on tests. Developing clarity and precision of description in both spoken and written language and the art of letter writing, both personal and business, are other challenges brought to the sixth grader. In literature, students read books and poetry related to chivalry and ballads from Medieval Europe. Literature is chosen to enhance the study of the year’s history and geography main lessons blocks. The sixth grade reads and discusses works such as The Eagle of the Ninth, The Sword and the Circle, and Forestwife. Reading work includes reading comprehension, (summarizing, identifying main ideas of a paragraph or a chapter, and retelling the content), enlarging the students’ active as well as passive vocabulary, fluency, and understanding of historical and geographical references related to main lesson work. Listening and speaking are continually practiced during main lesson discussions. Speech work includes almost daily practice before main lessons, intensive speech work in preparation for our class play and speaking in front of the class, preferably without notes, when presenting their reports. These opportunities allow them develop poise, clear diction and the ability to think on their feet.
Science – Science in the sixth grade supports the growing child by examining the earth upon which we live from many aspects. Geography and Ecology allow us to examine the life on the surface of the earth. Geology and Mineralogy help us to understand what the earth is made of and how it changes over time. The class may also visit the American Museum of Natural History. Through the study of geology students can identify on a globe the continents of Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Antarctica as well as major geological features such as mountain ranges, oceans, rivers and deserts. They learn about the layers of the earth: the crust, mantle, outer core and inner core and how forces deep below create changes on the surface. Students study plate tectonics, volcanoes, mountain formation, glaciers, rivers, earthquakes and caves. The above topics provide a good basis to study and understand igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks, metamorphic rocks and the rock cycle. Through this introduction, the students then begin a full study of mineralogy, including rock formation, crystallization, fossilization, salts and rock identification techniques. In ecology, they learn about the biodiversity within the eight biomes by examining the relationships between organisms and their environments. Through exploring interactions, a picture of the Earth as a living organism can be developed. Students begin to see that each element has an important role to play as a part of an interconnected whole. Topics such as food webs, the importance of biodiversity, the effect of climate on regional ecosystems (biomes), the process of growth over time after disturbances in an area (succession), plant and animal habitats and adaptations, and the changing relationship of human beings to the Earth can be covered. The life cycles of the honey bees and monarch butterflies can be used to illustrate some of the more complex ideas.
Students are also introduced to laboratory science and physics, eager to test their ideas and to form clear and accurate conclusions from the laws of nature. Students are introduced to phenomena surrounding the areas of acoustics, optics, heat, magnetism and electricity. Acoustics explores the nature of sound through experiments and games. We perform quiet listening exercises and discuss sound in nature, music, and human speech. We examine musical instruments and discover qualitative and quantitative lawfulness behind the production of pitch. We experience that sound “travels” through air, metal, wood, water, and other materials, which brought us to the idea of sound conductors and insulators, concepts that aided us with our next chapter, heat. Heat is described first in relation to our own bodies. Various sources of heat were examined as well as the effect heat has on objects. Further demonstrations elucidate convection, conduction and radiation. Optics began with a darkened room and a simulation sunrise where students could experience the emergence of color as light intensity increases. Students are brought to an understanding of basic qualities of Magnetism such as polarity, attraction and repulsion, and the idea of a force field surrounding the individual magnet and the earth as a whole. Electricity is introduced through triboelectricity, static electricity and the phenomena of attraction and repulsion. Students are able to discover a connection between magnetism and electrical phenomena. During this block students are often asked to read a book about a famous person in science and give an oral book report. Main lesson books contain a record of the experiments that are conducted and notes on conversations about those experiments. The goal is to train the students to make careful observations of the physical phenomena around them in order to arrive at valid conclusions.
Sixth Grade math begins by reinforcing the standard algorithms for the four basic operations, while also recognizing when conceptual strategies for mental math are more appropriate. We strengthen our skills with decimal operations and learn how to correctly round and estimate. The concept of percent is introduced and applied to real-world situations, especially in calculations involving money and business. We study number theory, including divisibility, prime and composite numbers, GCF, and LCM. Exponents and roots are introduced, and we recognize them as opposites of each other. We revisit and solidify operations with fractions. In geometry, we learn to classify polygons, as well as calculate their perimeters and areas. We begin to study circles, as well. The concept of a negative number is introduced, and we begin to use ordered pairs to locate points on the coordinate plane. We study the collection of data and how to describe data, including measures of central tendency and variation. We also learn how to use graphs to represent data.
World Geography – In addition to studying world physical geography, including; mountain ranges, rivers, volcanoes, rainforests, and coastlines, students will cultivate the feeling of the majesty, diversity and challenges of different geographic regions, countries and continents. Students learn how people adjust to climate and terrain. They learn about the earliest inhabitants’ migrations and journeys, and the European immigrants that followed Seventeenth Century exploration. In addition, students are often asked to research and prepare and in-depth report on a particular country, region or topic of interest. To better understand the distinct cultures and countries that make up a continent, students learn about the history of the ancient inhabitants, their social hierarchy, customs, religion and places of worship. A deeper investigation of certain remarkable regions or specific countries supports a full appreciation for the place being studied. Main lesson book work includes compositions, map making, drawings and watercolor paintings. The children are asked to conduct library research, craft written reports from their own research notes, draw maps and flags, or create an artistic poster. Students then present oral reports to the class or present their projects at a world food fair held with the seventh grade.
In sixth grade, students consider history as a temporal sequence of cause and effect relationships. The Roman History block spans the time period beginning with the fifty years of peace during the Golden Age of Greece through the 1000 years of Roman expansion. Along the way, the students are introduced to the Kings of Rome, some Heroes of the Republic, the Caesars, and the Emperors. They learn what the Romans admired about Greece and what they developed on their own. They are introduced to Roman art and architecture, laws and wars, the birth and spread of Christianity, and the decline and fall of the empire. Studying the Aeneid, working with Roman Numerals, singing and reciting Latin and reading a novel set during the Roman era are additional activities that may contribute to the experience of Ancient Rome.
Starting with an examination of the various conditions that contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire, sixth graders study the Middle Ages. Following the invasions of both the German and the Asian peoples, Rome collapses. All organized society is torn apart. From the ashes of the Empire arise both the Catholic Church and Islam. The battle for the hearts and spirits of the European people ensues. Through the study of the Crusades in the east and battles for power among ruling families in the west, students learn that European society was re-founded and developed by men and women with great courage and persistence. In addition, a brief history of England and France is brought to life through the lives of historical figures such as William the Conqueror, Louis VII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Richard the Lion Heart. Other biographies which bring to life the traditions and customs of the Middle Ages are Charlemagne, Gregory the Great, Mohammed, and St. Francis of Assisi. In addition sixth graders study the development of feudal society, chivalry, the spread of Christianity and monastic life. To accompany our study, students often learn about the earlier forms of English and memorize poems in both Old and Middle English. The class may also visit The Cloisters in upper Manhattan, where they can marvel at the Medieval architecture, sculptures and art, including the seven world-famous tapestries depicting The Hunt of the Unicorn.
In sixth grade, students practice reading, writing, speaking and listening in Spanish (in some cases, practicing and reviewing these skills from the past five years). They also learn nearly two hundred verbs and learn about the present tense, reflexive verbs, ser vs. estar, gustar, key question words, and more. Students study and master useful vocabulary related to the topic(s) being studied. All class content is delivered and processed through a creative cultural lens. Students are introduced to specific aspects of Latin American and Spanish culture through music, film, stories and biographies. Some examples include reading a short novel from Bolivia or reading a short biography about Latin American and Spanish athletes.
Drawing is treated as a communicative language and incorporated into every academic class and several specialty classes, rather than existing as a separate subject or as a stand alone class. Drawing fluency is developed along with all other learning and is appreciated as a way to transcend, to accentuate, to compliment and to demonstrate comprehension of a given subject. Watercolor painting is studied alongside drawing and students develop a strong sense of color and learn to create form through color. Students also learn to sculpt in clay and other mediums.
In the sixth grade handwork class, the teacher works closely with each child to help pick and draw an animal, from which the student will create a three dimensional stuffed animal. After drafting the pattern, students transfer the design to fabric and begin sewing by hand. Each student researches his or her animal and is responsible for a brief oral presentation about the animal. This project develops patience, perseverance and comfort with textiles and fabrics.
The Middle School Chorus is a hands-on class designed to teach the basics of choral singing and musical literacy through the study of diverse repertoire, music theory and music history. All students in grades 6, 7 and 8 combine to form one singing ensemble, which meets twice a week. Recently, the Middle School Chorus has worked on and performed some challenging choral pieces; including “Psallite” by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621), “Bonse Aba,” a traditional Zambian song arranged by Andrew Fischer, and “Da Pacem Domine,” a traditional Latin hymn. Students will perform at various school day assemblies throughout the year as well as special out-of-school performances in and around Brooklyn and New York City. Students must also complete two written projects during the year – one during the first semester and one during the second semester – on a variety of topics chosen by the students.
Music is an important element of the Waldorf curriculum and making music is an essential experience at the Brooklyn Waldorf School. All students in grades 6, 7 and 8 continue (or if they just joined the school, start to learn) to play a string or woodwind instrument, participating in orchestra and performing in ensemble and solo concerts throughout the year. Grades 6, 7 and 8 combine to form one orchestra called the Claver Castle Orchestra, which meets twice a week. The Claver Castle Orchestra works on and performs challenging music such as Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerto Grosso and Karl Jenkins’s Palladio. During rehearsal time, students learn about musical phrasing, articulation, and dynamics, note-reading, ensemble playing and listening to each other, as well as discipline, focus and determination. In addition to orchestra class, students take private instrument lessons after school where they can focus on the intricate technical elements of playing an instrument. The one-on-one attention—with focus on details of playing, note reading, and musicianship—enables the student to experience the school’s orchestra program on a deeper level, making it a life-forming experience. Students are required to practice their instrument at home for a minimum of 20 minutes five times a week. In addition to performing in the Claver Castle Orchestra, each student performs two solo pieces with piano accompaniment a year, during a lunchtime concert or solo recital. Solo pieces provide an opportunity for the student to enhance his/her individual music skills; focusing on intonation, accuracy and steady rhythm. It also gives the student an opportunity to explore his or her own interests in musical styles which might be different from the styles played in the orchestra.
The sixth grade physical education curriculum is made up of various fitness activities, with an introduction to team sports (volleyball, basketball, handball, badminton, fencing, floor hockey, running, ultimate football, soccer, softball, etc.), games, dance activities, Circus Arts and Bothmer gymnastics. Different activities for these sports are taught at different grade levels. These activities have the goal to both enhance fitness of the participant and to inspire a lifelong enjoyment of joyful and graceful movement. Assessment includes a threefold view of demonstrated behavior in class: (1) self direction, (2) responsibility for self and others, and (3) collaboration and quality of work. Students should demonstrate perseverance in learning, using appropriate resources for problem solving, and readiness for class instruction. They must also demonstrate a stewardship of school resources and facilities, responsibility for personal actions, positive contributions to class and ethical and respectful behavior towards others. Lastly, students must be able to work within groups to achieve group goals and to show effective and responsible use of time.
The sixth grade eurythmy class is an opportunity for students to understand how all the parts of their physical bodies – the respiratory system, the circulatory system, and the muscular system – can work together and portray art in a beautiful and graceful way. In musical terms, students learn how eurythmy can use gestures and movement to communicate the “tonic” or the first note of the scale. Students also learn other gestures and movements to show other musical intervals – the major second, the major third, the perfect fourth, the perfect fifth, the major sixth, the major seventh – and finally, the octave, which is the same as the tonic but at a higher register. Students also work collaboratively transforming geometric forms into group movements and learn how these geometric forms fit into a well-defined space. Exercises with throwing, passing and balancing copper rods, which are practiced throughout the entire year, are essential as students strive towards preciseness and dexterity of movement.