Learning Guide: Sixth Grade

With their bodies changing, these busy students on the cusp of junior high are self-conscious yet still somewhat naive.
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Portrait of a Sixth Grader

Public awareness and body awareness -- you'll see dramatic interest in both. Boys and girls may become involved in a school charity project, for instance, and be equally fascinated by why and how their own and their classmates' bodies are changing. Sixth graders are increasingly self-conscious: Boys want to wear deodorant and cologne, and girls want to wear bras even if they aren't ready. In a move toward independence, sixth graders begin to emotionally distance themselves from their parents.

There may be mild interest in the opposite sex reflected in teasing, note passing, handholding, even kissing. These classic interests have a high-tech wrinkle now: The Internet, with chat rooms and Instant Messaging, is where kids increasingly spend their time. In some ways, however, the gap between boys and girls may be at its widest during this year: Girls are not only further along in physical development, but many of them are also more adept at abstract reasoning and other intellectual skills than their male friends.

What your child will learn

This is a transitional year: Your child will be a member of the oldest class or the youngest, depending on whether your school system starts middle school in sixth grade or seventh grade. In either case, in sixth grade academic demands intensify, with homework often assigned in three or four subjects each night. Reading assignments often involve sophisticated fiction and non-fiction. In math, they are being asked to handle more complex computations, including complicated functions with fractions. Like fifth graders, they still love science projects and hands-on experiments. In some school districts, sixth graders take their first formal sex-education course. In others where no such courses are offered, teachers may informally fill in the gaps as questions from students arise. Kids this age can still be very naive. Many teachers report that sixth graders, like many junior high students, are vulnerable to dramatic mood swings. They're high one minute and low the next. Some teachers believe this moodiness is caused by hormonal changes and anxieties about peer rejection.

Continued on page 2:  In the Classroom


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