Sixth Grade

Sixth Grade Curriculum


Sixth grade at St. John’s is an important year. Students home base is now in the upper school building, and they are exposed to different teachers for each subject area. This means students will be expected to demonstrate more independence when it comes to displaying the success traits. Also, sixth graders will participate in a community building trip in the Fall giving them an opportunity to develop social bonds and learn effective ways to support and cooperate with their sixth grade peers. There will also be a more intense focus on developing study skills and implementation of these skills in all subject areas.


The sixth grade English curriculum is intended to improve students skills in analyzing and understanding the themes of characterization and narrative dilemma, using both the oral and written word. Many class assignments emphasize composition and creative writing with vocabulary introduced through literary works. The introduction to literature focuses on character development, which weaves throughout the chosen novels, short stories and poetry. Through the medium of books such as The Lightning Thief by Rick Riodrdan, The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg and The Crispin: Cross of Leadby Avi students begin to uncover the deeper meaning of what creates character, both in literature and the real world. The Success Traits of courage and generosity are witnessed on a daily basis through students reading and writing. To encourage and promote independent reading, a book report will be assigned each trimester.

A key part of the reading process is response through writing. Students will learn to master the five-paragraph essay, and in turn broaden their ideas on paper. The St. John’s writing program emphasizes the six traits of writing:  ideas, organization, style, word choice, voice and conventions. Students are guided throughout the writing process as they pre-write, draft, revise, edit, and publish pieces. In grade six, students write a variety of types of compositions, including narrative, poetry, persuasive, and expository pieces. Students learn to develop a standard five-paragraph essay through instruction, modeling and practice. Rubrics are handed out with each writing assignment so that expectations and evaluation of those criteria are clear. A core aspect of productive writing is the basic understanding of the tools and structure that scaffold it. As such, grammar shall be taught throughout the year. The purpose of English instruction is to promote curious, inquisitive students who can learn to communicate effectively through the medium of their own writing as well as understanding the mastery of others.

Direct writing instruction takes place in all subjects that demand a written response from students. Each of these teachers grades select assignments with content and mechanics feedback. English teachers collect a portfolio of student writing from all subjects for examining progress throughout the year. There are two distinct portfolios: a Comprehensive (or Cumulative) Portfolio and a Showcase Portfolio.

  • The Lightning Thief
  • The View from Saturday
  • Crispin: Cross of Lead
  • Secret of the Scribe
  • Walk Two Moons
  • Show!  Don’t Tell, Secrets of Writing

The mathematics curriculum is a sequential program and builds in sophistication each year. The sixth grade classes are offered on three levels of instruction based on ability and learning style as evaluated by their scores on ERBs, Orleans-Hanna Algebra Readiness test, work habits and recommendations of the students previous teachers. Each class has an average of 12 students, which allows for more individualized attention, customized pacing and cooperative learning. During sixth grade, all students  take basic mathematics using the textbook and its accompanying workbook, Math Connects,Concepts, Skills and Problem Solving Course I, published by Glencoe. They have daily experiences that build competence through practice, repetition, problem solving and real life applications. An enrichment workshop presented by an NSA speaker takes place during the year.

Sixth grade students will become proficient in the following areas:

  • Writing numbers in various forms: written word form, partial word form, expanded form, scientific notation and Roman Numerals.
  • Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing whole numbers, decimals and fractions.
  • Calculating mean, median, mode, drawing and interpreting various types of graphs.
  • Solving problems using ratios, proportions and percents.
  • Converting customary and metric measurements.
  • Determining the perimeter and area of two dimensional figures: quadrilaterals, triangles and circles.
  • Calculating volume and surface area of three dimensional figures: rectangular prisms and cylinders.
  • Introducing operations involving positive and negative integers.
  • Solving simple linear equations.

The Houghton Mifflin Science textbook provides the foundation for the sixth grade Science program. Units are selected with the sole purpose of rounding out and filling in the elementary curriculum. Organizing facts and information are an integral part of this program. To that end, Science projects and a study of the scientific method are stressed for the first time in upper school. The year begins with a discussion on the characteristics of a scientist and learning the names of the lab equipment they are using.

The forces and motion unit provide an opportunity to review the metric system and practice measuring before going on to a study of speed, velocity and to Newton’s Laws of Motion. Through hands-on activities, students experience such concepts as friction, momentum, air resistance, gravity, mass and inertia. Parachutes are made and dropped from the balcony in the main hallway. Practical applications include a discussion of the importance of seat belts and appropriate braking distances for cars. The culminating activity is the creation of an amusement park whose rides implement the concepts learned in the unit. The students are responsible for gathering materials and designing a plan for their ride.

The unit on the composition of matter focuses on elements and compounds and the characteristics of each. Procedures for measuring mass and volume in the metric system are introduced at this time. The symbols for the elements and the organization of the periodic table are studied before they experiment with different chemical reactions and physical changes. Differences between mixtures and solutions are also discussed in this unit.

Drugs and the effects of drugs on the body are the main focus of the drug unit.  Films and a guest speaker supplement the curriculum.  The Weekly Readerbook Get Smart About Drugs is used as a source of printed material for the study. During a lab period, the students test fake over the counter drugs for the presence of an illegal substance.

There is a mini unit about different species of worms and their characteristics. The earthworm is the main focus and the living worms response to stimuli is observed. The systems of the earthworms body are learned and a preserved earthworm is dissected. At this time, the students learn the names of dissecting equipment and how to use the different tools.

Environmental Studies

In addition to the sixth grade science course, the students meet twice weekly for environmental studies. The students study the structure of ecosystems, animal needs and roles in ecosystems, and human impact on the environment and the Chesapeake Bay. Part of the year is devoted to preparing for the seventh grade trip to Wallops Island in the fall.  A variety of teaching methods are implemented with an emphasis on helping students develop a life-long interest in being active caretakers of our planet.

Social Studies: Ancient World History

Harcourt’s Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations, provides the core curriculum in sixth grade and is a continuation of the series used in third through fifth grades at St. John’s Episcopal School. Students study ancient history from the earliest humans through the fall of the Roman Empire.

The sixth-grade curriculum is broken down into the following units:

  • Early humans and the development of culture to include the lives of hunters and gatherers, farming, the beginning of cities, and how modern scientists and archaeologists study these ancient events and people.
  • Ancient Mesopotamia including the origins of a society, geography of the Persian Gulf region, and rulers of the Fertile Crescent.
  • Ancient Egypt including the region of the Nile River, pharaohs, pyramids, and Egyptian daily life and religious beliefs.
  • Ancient Greece including city states, Athens, Sparta, Alexander the Great, and Classical Greece.
  • Ancient India including geography of the Indus Valley, the arrival of the Aryans, Buddhism, and Hinduism
  • Ancient China including the age of Confucius, unification of China, and the Han dynasty.
  • Ancient Rome including the rise of the Republic, the Punic Wars, Julius Caesar, and the fall of the Roman Empire.

In addition to the study of specific historical events and people, students also grow as scholars in sixth grade social studies. Emphasis is placed on organization and reading comprehension strategies. Skills covered in the sixth-grade course include reading and interpreting various maps, comparing and analyzing information in tables and infographics, interpreting primary and secondary sources, and identifying causes and effects. Students regularly follow current events to foster understanding of contemporary events and how they relate to history.

Global Education

Upper School students participate in a variety of programs designed to engage and enhance their involvement in global education. During our annual multicultural immersion week, fifth through eighth graders will have the opportunity to represent a variety of countries.


In sixth grade, students move from the elementary level to an intermediate level of Spanish. Lessons introduce new adjectives, locations, times of day, workplaces, parts of the body, numbers 21 – 69, bedroom and bathroom objects, rooms of the house, etc. Sixth grade grammar focuses on four major areas: stem-changing verbs, direct and indirect object pronouns, reflexive verbs, and the preterit tense. A variety of instructional Powerpoints, handouts, and worksheets are utilized in the classroom to enrich the curriculum. In addition, we immerse ourselves in the rich history, culture, and traditions of Mexico. The sixth grade meets for three, forty-five minute periods each week.


As an Episcopal school, Christian values and ethics are two of the cornerstones of life at St. John’s. As such, the Religion program is of significant importance in a student’s life. Throughout their academic and spiritual career at St. Johns, students have been exposed to all aspects of the Bible.

By sixth grade, the emphasis shifts to a deeper understanding of the Old Testament. By focusing on the origins of the Bible, students learn to understand and identify the roots of the Christian faith. Students develop an understanding of the context, lessons, and stories of the Old Testament. Students study the stories and relationships in the Old Testament while they learn to think critically about their own lives, as well as to apply lessons and morals to their everyday lives.


During sixth grade, students participate in two technology-rich courses: Issues in Technology and ResearchIssues in Technology is a debate class in which students research controversial ethical issues in technology, such as cyber-bulling and privacy. They support their arguments with facts and are challenged to consider their own day-to-day actions. Research is a combined library and technology class in which students learn to conduct both online and library research. They learn how to correctly cite sources using an online citation generator, as well as how to organize their research using digital note-cards. Finally, students are challenged to evaluate Web sites for validity and credibility.

The Arts

The arts serve a two-fold purpose in education; academic and aesthetic. Students gain a foundational academic understanding of arts through general instruction and, when appropriate, focused creating and performing opportunities. Students also study the arts to provide an opportunity for social-emotional connections to general academic subject matter as well as to create an outlet for artistic expression. Intentional arts instruction is fundamental to a well balanced education.

The students of St. John’s will experience and gain understanding of the role of the Arts throughout the world and in their own lives through the acquisition of artistic vocabulary and skills and the exposure to a diverse range of artistic mediums. Students will build character and faith through participation in and appreciation of artistic performances both in the school and the community.

Upper School Visual and Performing Arts Rotation

The visual and performing arts program of STJES provides a broad spectrum of learning, performing, and appreciation experiences encompassing visual art, drama, instrumental and choral music, movement, and audio/visual production. Students in grades 6-8 received specialized instruction on a rotational basis in art, music, drama, and a/v production while having the opportunity to create and perform at high levels through band, private instrumental lessons, and chamber chorus. Arts instruction is also genuinely connected to the general academic subjects through collaborative projects, cross-discipline experience.

Video Production

Students participate in a trimester long course introducing them to the technological and aesthetic study of video production. They will learn basic skills for digital camera operation and digital video editing. Students will also have the opportunity to write and produce original work as they learn how to work as a team to organize and operate a school television studio.

Arts and Success

Students will examine the relationships between St. John’s Traits for Success, core values, and the visual and performing arts. Students will study and analyze great works of art, pieces of music, poetry, dance, and drama. They then articulate how they are representative of the success traits such as organization or courage. Students will also study profiles of great creators in this course. Students will demonstrate their understanding by compiling their collective work on a wiki.

Visual Arts

The sixth grade art curriculum provides opportunity for students to learn and develop skills in drawing, painting, composition and crafting, which were introduced earlier. Students will be working in variety of media and techniques which include: plaster, pencils, pastel, watercolor, tempera, acrylic, etc. Special attention is paid to observation and perspective drawing, proportions, balance and design. Demonstration and step by step explanation are used to ensure  understanding of the assignment and how to complete it.


Sixth grade students selecting Band will continue to build upon the musical foundation established in fifth grade. In addition to individual, weekly lessons and rehearsals in the Middle School Band, each trimester students can choose special projects that range from writing a report on an approved topic to participating as a soloist or part of an ensemble in the Young Artists program.

Physical Education

The learning tasks in Upper School Physical Education emphasize and teach problem-solving and decision-making skills.  The students participate in learning tasks that are organized from a strong and broad curriculum that include, invasions sports, net or wall sports, and personal development activities. The goal of the Upper School Physical Education curriculum is to help prepare students in a variety of activities for high school and beyond. The faculty at St. John’s makes a concerted effort, when possible, to provide co-curricular experiences. For example, when teaching Ancient Greece in Social Studies, the students may also engage in a form of Olympic Games in Physical Education class.

St. John’s students are exposed to and experience a wide range of activities that encompass shared experiences. The Physical Education department organizes and supervises school events such as Community Building Week, International Festival, Blue-Gold events and Field Day. Students are also introduced to the knowledge necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle through weekly wellness topics.


Every student is assigned an advisor who they meet with in small groups weekly. The advisor is a teacher or administrator who is an advocate for the student and offers academic, social and emotional support.

Field Trips

Students in sixth grade have a trip at the beginning of the year. This allows the student to focus on community building through games and ropes initiatives. Other trips are planned as opportunities arise to relate experiences to the curriculum.