Steps to Success: What Language Arts Skills Does My Sixth Grader Need?

Steps to Success: What Language Arts Skills Does My Sixth Grader Need?

By: Renae Blum

As another semester begins, get a head start on what your sixth grader will need to know, courtesy of the Common Core Standards Initiative.

Read widely. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t love reading – yet. The educators and scholars who developed the Common Core curriculum encourage students to try out a variety of genres in their 6th grade year: adventure stories, historical fiction, mysteries, science fiction, even graphic novels. Beyond mere reading for fun, encourage your child to try out poetry, biographies, magazines and newspapers to become a well-rounded reader.

Sink your teeth into a text. It’s not enough to skim the page. Educators expect a sixth grader to be able to pinpoint the main idea of a text, and to give evidence of how that idea is developed. They’ll also need to be able to tease out the meaning of words or phrases in a text, as well as how a character, setting, or sentence contributes to an overall story. A good way to develop these skills in a sixth grader is to ask them questions about what they read. Forming your own opinion helps pull together all these different strands of thought.

Apples and oranges. According to the Core, students should be exposed to material given in different genres – perhaps reading a book, and then watching a movie adaptation, or comparing how a newspaper account and historical fiction cover the same event. Encourage your child to attend live theatre, or to watch a film version of a play or novel. It’s a fun and easy way to meet the Core’s standards.

Give me a reason. An “on-track” sixth grader should be able to write a paper that has a central argument, with evidence supporting it. He or she should also be able to explore a topic through writing – selecting and organizing material, and finally analyzing it. If your child is headed to college, these are skills he or she will need to master! Practice makes perfect. A way to practice with your child is to ask their opinion on current issues.

Speak up! Finally, the Core recommends that sixth graders be able to work well in groups, and can give short presentations to the class. These presentations should involve multimedia and/or visual displays. To develop these skills, encourage your child to do homework or study for a test with a friend.

With these tips under your belt, you can send your sixth grader to school with confidence, knowing that he or she is on track for a great year.