5th & 6th Grade Curriculum


The fifth grade Social Studies program focuses on building skills in reading, research, and test taking. The year begins with a focus on Medieval Asian Civilization: the Golden Ages of China, Feudal Japan, the Mughal Empire in India, and the conquests and campaigns of Genghis Khan and the Mongols. From there, students will focus on European medieval history and Christendom, followed by a study of the Byzantine and Muslim Empires (including the foundations of Islam), carefully looking at the Crusades from both the Christian and Muslim perspectives. Lastly, classes will examine Moorish Spain, where society brought together Christians, Jews and Muslims.

The Language Arts program in fifth grade complements the Social Studies curriculum. Students read contemporary novels as well as novels which are set in the Middle Ages, such as The King’s Shadow and The Boy and the Samurai. The Language Arts program seeks to better develop students’ skills in reading comprehension, understanding literary elements, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and various forms of writing.

The sixth grade Social Studies program centers on world geography, global issues, cultures and current events. Map skills, the five themes of geography, and the connections between global issues are introduced at the beginning of the year. As students survey regions of the world, topics include the definition of culture, resources of the world and how they are distributed and used, population growth and distribution, the use of the land, the definitions of developed and developing nations, how people adapt to and change their environments, and the importance of sustainability in our modern world. Research skills are developed through personal short reports and culminate in the writing of a longer paper. Students also use their mapping skills by mapping the world by heart.

The literature selections for sixth grade Language Arts emphasize fiction that is appealing to young adolescents. Sixth grade favorites include Roll of Thunder,Hear My Cry, The Giver, and Esperanza Rising. Students also read essays, short stories, and poetry, and discussions, group activities, and projects push students to develop a deeper understanding of the material they are reading.

Language Arts instruction incorporates practice in spelling, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. Formal grammar study continues with a focus on proper sentence construction, correct word use, and parts of speech. Students write regularly in a variety of ways: journaling, poetry, short stories, personal expressive writing, book reviews, and commentaries.

A part of every student’s day in fifth and sixth grade is Math.  The Middle School utilizes grouping in all four grades.  However, the school remains committed to the goal of flexibility as students move from one year of Math to the next, and parents who are anxious about their child’s placement in a Math group should be assured that choices remain open to students throughout the four-year program.  Grouping, after all, is a tool for best serving the needs of individual students.

The fifth grade math program continues instruction in computation of whole numbers, fractions, and decimals.  Problem solving and work with mathematical tools pervade the entire curriculum as students practice estimation and geometry skills, apply principles of ratio and proportion, and write simple equations.

The sixth grade math program develops a greater mastery of computation and estimation through applications in various problem-solving activities. Among the topics that students cover are ratios, percents, fractions, variable expressions and simple equations, operations with integers, solid figures and plane geometry. Students demonstrate their understanding through a range of activities including projects and written assessments.


5/6 Classes Outside the Homeroom

The Physical Education program offers students a chance to learn and improve on a number of sports skills.  The Physical Education program classes are approximately an hour long and meet five days a week. More information about the program can be found in the "Sports" section.

In addition to Language Arts, Social Studies, and Math, fifth and sixth grade students are taught the following subjects outside the homeroom setting:

Library class meets once a week for the entire 5th grade year and once a week for one trimester in 6th grade. The program is designed to develop and expand student reading interests through weekly booktalks, discussion, and author visits, and to strengthen student research skills. Students  learn the fundamentals of sound academic research; they learn to use and evaluate library resources in print and online; and they learn the role libraries play in a democratic society.

The fifth grade Science curriculum introduces students to concepts in life, Earth, and physical sciences with a focus on the characteristics and classification of organisms, gravity, motion and force, simple machines, meteorology and astronomy. Students meet every day to research, explore, engage in hands-on lab experiences and practice scientific process through interactive journaling, thereby building scientific knowledge and developing critical thinking skills.

Sixth grade Science provides an introduction to chemistry and physics with environmental science woven throughout. Highlights include a unit on toxicology in which students study how chemicals impact our environment and human health and what we can do to minimize the impact; an energy unit with a cross-curricular focus on sustainability, for example wind and solar power; and a green-engineering unit investigating the nature of light, how it is harnessed for electricity through the solar panels on our school roof, and the designing and building of solar-powered cars.

Fifth and Sixth grade students take Spanish three times each week.  Classes are conducted almost exclusively in Spanish, and students are expected to use English only minimally.  Through exposure to comprehensible input, students learn a variety of vocabulary words and expressions.  The program promotes using language in meaningful and expressive ways, and highlights underlying grammar structures once students have already developed an intuitive sense of these rules and patterns.  Tests incorporate listening comprehension, oral and written components, and other assessments include projects, skits and presentations.   In addition, students read short stories, accompanied by visual aids and kinesthetic activities to enhance comprehension.  The curriculum also emphasizes the cultures and geography of the Spanish-speaking world as an essential and integral aspect of language study.