What to Expect
Sixth Grade Reading and Writing: What to Expect
English Language Arts, the only subject required every single year from kindergarten through twelfth grade, becomes especially important in the middle school years. Elementary teachers typically spend a large part of the day on English, usually integrating it into a wide variety of subjects. In sixth grade, we will usually focus hard on skills, knowing that reading, writing, and communicating will be important for success in all subjects.
Reading. It's not just something you learn in first or second grade - it’s a highly complex skill that kids will hone over a decade. We will heavily emphasize comprehension—what happened in that story? What does it mean? How does it remind you of your own life? They'll also link to themes in writing such as style, tone, point of view, and credibility—nuances which are generally beyond the reach of younger, more literal-minded students.
Writing. As your child advances in school, writing will become more and more important. Back in the early grades, teachers may have just wanted to encourage “production,” but middle school standards call for kids to manage several kinds of writing, and to do it with correct grammar and punctuation. Expect practice with different sentence structures, especially compound ones, and with all forms of punctuation. Expect your child to complete more than one draft of any important piece of writing, and to be responsible for identifying any errors in verb agreement, tense, and spelling as well. In particular, expect that sixth graders will practice writing short essays of more than one page, in which they take a point and argue it to conclusion. In addition, most sixth graders will do at least one assignment requiring research. Want to help? If a kid hands you a piece of writing, try not to put your own pen to your kid’s paper. Talk with your child, brainstorm changes, but make sure she is the author, and feels proud of it.
Vocabulary and Word Use: Vocabulary is a powerful link between reading and writing. In sixth grade, expect teachers to go deeper than before, introducing literary concepts such as connotation, denotation, simile, metaphor, and allegory. Although you may also see formal vocabulary lists, you should rejoice if they are linked to actual reading and writing assignments. Research shows that this practical, “integrated” approach is the best way to help kids not just learn new words, but put them into use. Whatever the instructional method, celebrate any time your kid tries out a new word, especially if that includes playing around with more than one meaning or context.
"There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
-- Edith Wharton