Most Sixth Graders have never had a Humanities class. What is it? We think of it as the language, literature, history, art, music, and philosophy that has to do with the human race.
In Sixth Grade Humanities, the focus is on the connection of these disciplines and choice. It is the year where students get to explore how reading, writing, and history blend together.
Language Arts and History are kept fairly separate, but students are always using the skills learned in one class for the other. For example, in a reading project based on Francisco Jimenez’ book The Circuit, they might look up some information about the lives of farmworkers in Coachella, California in order to write a letter to the Senator. Later, they might use the skills of internet research and note-taking again in order to get ready for their teaching lesson to Third Graders about the benefits of shopping at a Farmer’s Market for History class.
Our first writing project is to make a class book of important recipes. By reading Olivia’s essay about Yaya’s Greek Spaghetti, Xela’s Pozole, or Louie’s Fried Chicken and Waffles, you not only get insight into the lives of your classmates, but you see the end result of building paragraphs to form an essay and word choice that allows readers to see what the author is describing.
Students write daily about topics and in styles they want to pursue in their personalized Writer’s Notebook. Writing includes: personal essays, a research essay for a TED talk, short stories, memoir, and poetry. Students follow a process of writing for each piece that includes exposure to mentor pieces, brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revision, and publishing that allows them to explore voice, wording, tone and sentence structures to say what they mean.
In reading, students embark on a challenge to read 30 books. They are encouraged to read everyday to help build a life-long habit of reading. We also read class and book club books that drive heated discussions about character motivation, author’s meaning, race, identity, and inclusion in society. To build vocabulary, we use the time-tested book Wordly Wise.
The year begins with an in depth look at the world through maps (reading and interpretation) and through a unit about World Food that allows students to see how the world is both dependent on and suffering from globalization. We explore the trends in eating, why some people in the world are starving, and what students can do in their home lives to vote for healthy eating.
The rest of the year is consumed by a study of ancient civilizations and how geography influences culture and history. In groups the students explore five Chinese dynasties through art, drama, making timelines. Each group teaches the rest of the class so that everyone has an understanding of what makes a successful civilization.
The Silk Road unit has the students exploring medieval China, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe by learning in depth about a leg of the journey from Xi’an to Venice. They create brochures for caravan companies that show their understanding of the goods and ideas that were exchanged, along with the cultural impacts of trade, the terrain, and the dangers of embarking on the journey.
In equally exploratory methods, the students learn about Prehistoric people and the advent of villages and cities through the Agricultural Revolution. We explore the differences between Sumerian City-states and the unified land that was Egypt. As well as how geography played an important role in the history of these civilizations.
The year ends with research project called Proteus, where students learn to ask important research questions, search for answers and present their understanding through an essay and another method of their choosing, such as a podcast, an interpretive dance, a cooking show, a model of a Phoenician ship, or a board game.
This project pulls together all of the work they have done to organize project work, research ethically, write well, revise, and present their understanding. We celebrate in a Travel Fair.