Sixth Grade

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Sixth Grade Parents' Guide to Student Success

English Language Arts & Literacy

In 6th grade, students apply skills they learned in earlier grades to make sense of longer, more challenging books and articles. That includes learning about how authors try to influence readers and find reasons to support their ideas. Focusing on how authors make their points and support their arguments with evidence and reasoning helps 6th grade students sharpen their ability to write and speak with more clarity and coherence. Students also will expand their vocabularies and use new words in their stories, reports, and essays. To meet these literacy goals, students must devote significant attention to precise details in their reading and when writing.

A Sample of What Your Child Will Be Working on in 6th Grade

  • Analyzing how chapters of a book, scenes of a play, or stanzas of a poem fit into the overall structure of the piece and contribute to the development of ideas or themes
  • Gaining knowledge from materials that make extensive use of elaborate diagrams and data to convey information and illustrate concepts
  • Evaluating the argument and specific claims in written materials or a speech, and distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not
  • Presenting claims and findings to others orally, sequencing ideas logically, and accentuating main ideas or themes
  • Writing arguments that provide clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources
  • Writing brief reports that examine a topic, have a clear focus, and include relevant facts, details, and quotations
  • Conducting short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and sharpening the focus based on the research findings
  • Reviewing and paraphrasing key ideas and multiple perspectives of a speaker
  • Recognizing variations from standard English in his or her own and others’ writing and speaking, and using this knowledge to improve language use
  • Determining the correct meaning of a word based on the context in which it is used (e.g., the rest of the sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence)


The skills and understanding that your child will gain during 6th grade are among the most important foundations for college and career readiness. These include working with ratios and rates and working with variables and variable expressions — the building blocks of algebra. Many of this year’s topics will remain a major emphasis throughout the middle school years and into high school.

A Sample of What Your Child Will Be Working on in 6th Grade

  • Understanding ratios and rates, and solving problems involving proportional relationships (e.g., if it took 7 hours to mow 4 lawns, then at that rate, how many lawns could be mowed in 35 hours? At what rate were lawns being mowed?)
  • Dividing fractions and solving related word problems (e.g., how wide is a rectangular strip of land with length 3 ⁄4 mile and area 1 ⁄2 square mile?)
  • Using positive and negative numbers together to describe quantities; understanding the ordering and absolute values of positive and negative numbers
  • Working with variables and expressions by generalizing the way numbers work (e.g., when adding numbers, the order doesn’t matter, so x + y = y + x; likewise, properties of addition and multiplication can be used to rewrite 24x + 18y as 6(4x + 3y), or y + y + y as 3y)
  • Understanding the process of solving simple equations
  • Writing equations to solve word problems and describe relationships between quantities (e.g., the distance D traveled by a train in time T might be expressed by an equation D = 85T, where D is in miles and T is in hours)
  • Reasoning about relationships between shapes to determine area, surface area, and volume

Help Your Child Learn at Home

English Language Arts & Literacy

  • Listen with your child to a television reporter, politician, or other speaker. Ask your child to tell you the speaker’s main points. Was the speaker trying to convince the audience of something? How?
  • Visit a library or book store together and ask the librarian or bookseller to recommend young adult books, such as Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. To find more books for your child to read, visit
  • Invite your child to participate in an adult gathering, such as a meal with friends, to practice listening skills and making conversation.
  • Encourage your child to learn at the library or on the Internet what life in your community was like 100 years ago. Have your child write a story, poem, or play about that time.  


Look for “word problems” in real life. Some 6th grade examples might include:

  • Determining the average speed of a family trip, based on the distance traveled and the time taken; or estimating the time that a trip will take, given the distance and an estimate of the average speed. (Examples can also come from the news — for example, a swimmer crossing the English Channel or a space probe traveling to another planet.)
  • Finding the surface area of the walls and ceiling in a room to determine the cost of painting the room.