Question Detail

Help! I'm teaching 6th grade next year!

Apr 26, 2015 4:51pm

I came into education thinking I wanted to teach high school, but I interned in a middle school and loved it. I've taught 45 minute periods of 7th and 8th grade ELA for the past three years, but I just accepted a job teaching 90 minute blocks of 6th grade ELA next year. I think I'm worried most about adapting my instruction to a 6th grade level and engaging kids that age. Any suggestions to people who have taught 6th grade?

  • English Language Arts
  • 6
  • Planning


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    • May 1, 2015 2:01pm

      Hi Tyler. I don't teach 6th either. One idea is to ask your 7th and 8th graders! Find out what 6th was like for them and what ways their 6th grade teachers were helpful or not helpful; ways they made class engaging...Ask them to give you advice. I bet they'd love it. Also give a Twitter a try. Ask the same question you pose here & use hashtags like #ELA, #middleschool, or #6thchat. My advice to any teacher? Build relationships with your students. Make sure they know that they matter to you. Use effective instructional strategies (Marzano, SIOP, UDL and others). Make the content relevant. And have fun!

      • May 31, 2015 11:00am

        I taught mostly 5th graders last year to teaching a 6th grade class for all subjects in elementary school this year. It's been quite a learning experience for me as a teacher, as my room can feel like a hotbed of hormones, but my students have made such incredible growth and progress! For 90 minutes, you will likely to need divide the long block into couple of different activities or stations, especially at the beginning, because their attention and stamina isn't quite as high as when they are older. However, you will find that they need a significant amount of time for writing, even one paragraph, and you may need to (re-)teach basic essay structure, review grammar, and all the other elements of good foundational writing. My students have loved project-based learning, which we created analysis posters, video newscasts, Scratch coding quiz games, and am now in the midst of creating their own Google Sites for their Greek and Roman social studies unit. I am passionate about humane education, so I used articles and social issues they've observed in their community and globally for them to create presentations to address some possible solutions to unhealthy school lunches, pollution, and water conservation.

        When I notice overall class inattention or fatigue, I use quick dance/exercise videos as a movement break. A good website is with free brain breaks, Zumba, and quick workouts for students. Or, I find YouTube videos related to our social studies unit (i.e. Bollywood dance--Doonya has some great ones--for India, Taichi for China, etc.) Reflecting back on the year, I've really enjoyed teaching this age, even though there were times they drove me crazy with their drama, but they have demonstrated a positive awareness in conscientious citizenship and youthful innocence without the skepticism older students might have. Know that 6th grade is where you can make a powerful impact as they transition from childhood to adolescence.

        All the best!

        • Apr 26, 2015 8:52pm

          Congrats! I don't teach 6th grade, but I did run across this site that has links to several good looking 6th grade blogs.

          • May 3, 2015 12:23pm

            6th grade is sooooo different than HS! Remember they are just coming out of elementary school. Many will struggle with the changing of classes or more subjects to study. It really is a transition year! They need A lot of coaching and modeling of information. Boys tend to present a challenge to many teach that do not understand thier develeopmental level. They are antsy- silly- immature....exactly what they should be! Get them moving in class and challenge their creativity! 6th grade is the year to really develop skills for these kids to move to more independence and personal responsibility.

            • May 3, 2015 3:48pm

              I am currently teaching a 6/7th grade combo multiple subject and have taught 7th grade math with 90 minute blocks for the last 9 years. I understand your fears. The best advice I could off is have your structures in place by having rituals and routines that you do every day. Kids like to know what to expect from you. And practice, practice, practice them. And revisit them often throughout the year. Some places to get some helpful ideas: Rick Morris at and incorporate some Kagan strategies or whole brain strategies ( Chris Biffle), can be found on YouTube. Also use Pinterest for ideas when you need help as well. But the most important, get them up and moving, having conversations with one another and work independently while they are in groups. You should be doing 10% while they do 90% of the work. We tend to do the opposite as teachers. Time to flip the roles and you will be amazed at how much they can do and how fun it is to teach!

              • May 7, 2015 12:16am

                Hi. I've been teaching 6th grade for over a decade and love this age. They are children, as Pattu reminds us. Yet, they are capable of so much understanding if the content is provided in a relevant and meaningful way. My suggestions are to connect the content to them, and to you. Make the learning process transparent, as in 6th grade, you are also teaching them how to learn. Sing, dance, laugh, and create. Most of all enjoy it! I'm happy to provide further support. Cheers.

                • May 30, 2015 10:40am

                  I taught 6th grade for 15 years and now teach high school math. The best thing I did was to study developmental levels of the age group so I knew what was "normal" and how to cater activities to those levels. Doing lots of activities using what you have just taught gives them the success that so many at that age really need. Remember that many parents at this age don't know what to do with a prepubescent, so you may be the only adult not yelling at them Be positive as much as possible.

                  • May 5, 2015 8:24am

                    You are going to love sixth graders! I'm shifting from eighth grade back to sixth grade because I really enjoy this age. The kids have inquiring minds, and their creativity can really be unleashed. Enjoy!