How to succeed in 6th grade

Students in 6th grade are in the midst of many changes.

In most cases students will switch their school building, become once again the youngest students at their school, and interact with fellow sixth graders who attended different elementary schools from themselves. In addition, students will transition from a world in which the classroom is largely self-contained to one in which different subjects are taught by different teachers to students grouped by varying ability levels.

With more independence comes an intense focus on academic achievement.
Science becomes more analytical and demanding.

During this time science becomes increasingly math-based, so it is important that students have a firm grasp of the math concepts taught in elementary school.

Read literature on a higher reading level.

They will be expected to express their responses to questions on these texts via short answers and essays.

Math in sixth grade will build upon previous concepts.

Students will begin to face questions such as word problems that are foundationally similar to algebra (including the concept of x.)

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Most students are excited about their new independence in sixth grade.

This reality is one in which students must display greater independence to follow their class schedule, complete a larger quantity of homework, and meet greater academic expectations. While middle school curriculum can vary depending on the state, there are general content areas that most students will study during 6th grade.

Beyond academics, many schools provide sixth graders with the opportunity to be involved in band, art, or sports.

Students can use this time to continue exploring the passions and talents that will motivate continued extracurricular participation during later grades.

It is also important to consider how social, and possibly physical, changes students are experiencing can impact their academic mindset. It may be necessary to continue to reinforce the importance of school and attempt to engage a student’s burgeoning academic interests outside of just the content they are learning in the classroom.

Opportunities for Growth

A Students

The academic achievement that 6th grade students have demonstrated through elementary school must continue to be a focus at this point in time. While social and intra-personal considerations have impacted student learning to this time, sixth grade is when these areas of a student’s life can begin to overshadow their interest in academics. Thus, it is important to monitor for any fledgling academic apathy or downward trend in grades.

One way to confront the complex landscape in which students find themselves is to address study skill building and time management approaches. Students who succeeded in elementary school with minimal effort may begin to find that they may need refined habits in a grade with increasing rigor and additional extracurricular concerns.

A component of students thriving in the face of these challenges is to develop a mindset which encourages a student’s confidence and sense of self.

B Students

Students in 6th grade who have received the equivalent of B grades in elementary school can use the transition to middle school as an opportunity to revisit earlier skill and content areas. This is particularly important because as the grades progress from this point forward, they will more and more build upon content learned during a student’s earlier schooling.

One year out of elementary school, students still have a mental plasticity which allows them to learn information more quickly than they will be capable of in later grades. Thus, individualized instruction in core skill areas such as math and reading can place these students on a trajectory for A’s later in middle school and beyond.

While students can grow academically more easily than in later grades, the social and physical changes students are facing can make this easier said than done. It is important to develop a student mindset which encourages self-assuredness during this time.

C or Below Students

Students in 6th grade who are receiving predominantly C grades or below have an opportunity to make changes in study skills and improve curricular knowledge that will become more challenging during later grades. As these students are still early in adolescence, sixth graders still have a mental plasticity that, with the proper individualized instructions, allows them to adopt and implement academic learnings at a rapid rate.

However, this learning can only occur if a student has the confidence in themselves to achieve academically in a way that they did not during elementary grades. A significant aspect of achieving growth is thus to work on developing a student’s mindset and presenting middle school not as a burden with more challenging concepts, but as an opportunity to use the new environment to approach academics in a new, more confident manner.

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