Advice for Teaching Sixth Grade?

Stephanie - posted on 04/20/2009 ( 10 moms have responded )

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I just accepted a position teaching sixth grade science and social studies in my building. I have always taught primary grades (second grade), so this is a new challenge! Luckily, the students I will have are all former students, but I still need advice for classroom management and lesson ideas. Also need tips to keep the kids interested in what we're doing rather than each other! Thanks!!!

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Julie - posted on 04/22/2009

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Since our school is a 6th grade school only, we have had to come up with a few common rules. Our students change classes either every 45 min. or they may have 93 min. block classes for ELA and math. Once the children walk in, they are in. The may not put their stuff down and go back to the restroom or hang out in the hall. There is a 10 min. rule. Nobody gets to leave the first 10 minutes of class and last 10 minutes of class and nobody goes out during the passing period during a block. When they do leave the classroom, they have a yellow vest pass that they must wear. There is a sign out sheet for their name and time they go and come back. That is to go to the restroom. If they need to go to the nurse or the library, we hand write passes with the name, date, and time. We give checks for talking, not following directions ( which could cover a lot of things), gum, tardies, and being out of dress code. Each teacher gives this list of checks to the team leaders. Those children that received 4 checks in one week from one teacher gets afterschool detention. We work in teams so if a child gets 6 checks across all their teachers, they also get detention. The assistant principal keeps track of who does not get checks and at the end of each semester, those children get a party. In addition to all of that, we follow what is called CHAMPS. C is for conversation level, H is for how to ask for help, A is for the activity taking place, M is for movement in the clasroom, and P is for participation expected. The conversation levels are: 0 no talking, 1 whispering, 2 partner or table talk, 3 is for group discussions across the room, 4 would be, say yelling, and 5 would be an outside voice. The acivities are: working alone, teacher directed, partners/small groups, and whole group discussion. From there you decide how the students can get help from you, how much you will allow them to move around the room, and how much participation is required. I know this seems to be a lot, but it works. This was the first year we used CHAMPS and the elementary schools that feed our school are going to adopt this system next year to prepare them for 6th grade. Just remember, it's your classroom. It will only be as strong as you are. Always follow through with what you start.

Anna - posted on 04/22/2009

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At the beginning of the year I have my students come up with 4 "expectations" that the class should have. I use expectations instead of "rules" because it seems less authoritative.
I start by asking the question, "What do you expect from your other classmates?" and then I usually can narrow it down to 4 main expectations.
Mine are "Hands to yourself", "Kind Words", "Respect other people's property" and "Ask Permission before leaving the area".
I have these "expectations" color coded and I write Rule #1, Rule #2, etc. on the board in the corresponding colors and any time the students show that rule, they get to put a tally on the board. The points are totaled up at the end of the day and a point value goal is set. When we reach that goal....we get to have a "party" which includes special food in the classroom for lunch and a movie.
The kids really get into it and since they are the ones that came up with the expectations, it is not an ADULT "telling them what to do."
I am using this with 6-8 graders with behavior/mental disabilities.
Good luck!! Let me know if you have any other questions!! :)

Julie - posted on 04/20/2009

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Science and Social Studies should be a breeze. The secret is keeping them busy. Too much lecture will lose them. If you set up good classroom management (clear expectations from the start, daily routines, some type of consequence system) they will know you aren't scared of them. I have taught 6th grade for 9 years now and love it! Sixth graders start out as babies and begin growing about Christmas time. About the time you feel stressed they suddenly get very funny and then the year is over. You can do it!

Debbie - posted on 04/23/2009

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I also went from teaching first and second grade to teaching sixth grade social studies. One thing I had to learn was that many of the "positive" statements I made to my younger kids did not work with the sixth graders (i.e. "I like the way you are sitting!"). You have to find a balance. They need to stay busy. One thing that works for me, that I used in elementary, was the use of centers with some of the concepts. They enjoy cooperative learning activities.

Anna - posted on 04/21/2009

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Classroom Management: Start strong....it is always easier to back off in seriousness and follow-through than it is to add more consequences in a "laid back" atmosphere.
As far as teaching the areas....the more technology the better!! Luckily, Science and social studies are easy to do so with.
Try the website www.brainpop.com. It has animated 6-10 minute videos with attached quizzes and other activities such as vocab., experiments and extension activities.
Good luck!!

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Esther E - posted on 04/24/2009

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Thanks for posting this thread...I'm currently on maternity leave and I took my baby to my school. While visiting, my principal dropped a bomb on me. She told me that she's moving me to sixth grade next year! This is my 4th year teaching and I've taught fourth the entire time. I have mixed emotions....stressed about learning a new curriculum; however, excited about reconnecting with some of my former students & their families. I appreciate all the advice.

Lina - posted on 04/23/2009

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I teach 6th grade science also and it really helps to put things into their world. For instance, how do minerals help them...their computers wouldn't exist without quartz. I find that when you put it in their terms they get it and listen more. I also find partner and group work to be successful.



As for rules...we have a weekly card that goes home and it is a grid that is divided into four boxes for each week. There are 10 weeks of boxes on the grid to cover one quarter. The first column represents homework, we list any missing work for the week. The 2nd column represents behavior and we mark any behavioral issues. The 3rd column is for communication, like things not signed by the parents including that card. The 4th column is for things like respect and kindness. The students get a stamp for each box that doesn't have any writing in it. At the end of the quarter, we look at the stamps and they can't miss more than 3 in the same column or more than 7 total. Those that have less than those requirements get rewarded with a party of some sort and the rest go into a study hall. It works and keeps the kids homework and behavior in check.

Mishael - posted on 04/23/2009

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6th grade is different from any other. By this time of year they should have matured a lot since September. They all seem to have spring fever though! Science is great! Do as many experments as you can. When they have to read try partner reading with assigned partners for a while then let them choose. As far as classroom management just post the rules and the set disciplinary action so they know what to expect, don't give in! You'll be fine!

Stephanie - posted on 04/23/2009

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Wow! These are fabulous ideas! The Expectations list is a great way to start the year. I used this with my second graders and it worked well. I actually had the kids create expectations for themselves and for me. I liked it because they took ownership of the classroom right on day one. I love the CHAMPS idea too! I love how it creates clear expectations for all the students to follow during daily lessons. Thanks for all of your help!!!

Stephanie - posted on 04/22/2009

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Thank you so much for the advice! Any suggestions on classroom management techniques? I used a token system with my second graders. They earned tokens for various things; grades, character, etc. and lost tokens for missing homework, poor character, etc. At the end of the week, the kids would use thier tokens to buy things from a treasure box (homework passes, candy, toys). Is this something I could use with sixth graders?

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