It is a pleasure to share a brief overview of all areas of the Grade 6 West Hartford Curriculum, including descriptions of our Unified Arts program, School Counseling, Library Media Services, and Gifted Programs. Our curriculum is based on the Connecticut Core Standards and provides instruction on the essential skills and understandings necessary for success on both district and state assessments.
Inherent in our curriculum is the belief that every student can and should learn. Instructional strategies that your child will experience include but are not limited to: collaboration, active and direct learning, problem solving, guided discovery, independent activities, and differentiation.
This curriculum comes alive in the hands of our talented teachers who are committed to ensuring that our students reach their highest potential. We are dedicated to accommodating children’s diverse needs, the way they learn, their experiences and interests, and to facilitating continuous educational growth. If you should have any questions about your child’s curriculum, your classroom teacher is the best source of information.
No single document can fully explain the rich and complex nature of the school curriculum and instructional goals. We know that learning is optimized in a partnership with families, teachers, and schools. Working together, we can use your experiences as a family and our work in the classroom to create a respectful climate of academic success, healthy personal and social development, and joy for lifelong learning.
Paul W. Vicinus, Jr.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment
Our middle school students participate in 36-day unified arts rotations in the areas of physical education, music, art, health, and technology education in grades 6 through 8. The following pages include descriptions of the curriculum. Below please find a sample student schedule of Unified Arts courses throughout the grade 6 year.
Rotation 1: PE morning, Art afternoon
Rotation 2: Health morning, Music afternoon
Rotation 3: Technology & Engineering morning, Health afternoon
Rotation 4: Art morning, PE afternoon
Rotation 5: Music morning, Technology & Engineering afternoon
Teachers at this grade level have re-examined how powerful literature can be in teaching tolerance, recognizing prejudice, and addressing racism in our culture. This year will see the introduction of new texts and resources that will engage students in experiencing varied perspectives from diverse cultures, including contemporary authors and characters that allow them to see our society through different points of view. We will encourage you to speak to your student about issues that make them curious about how they can connect to others and to the world.
Students entering sixth grade will have read literature from a wide variety of genres such as mythology, folktales, and fables from around the world. They will have studied classic and contemporary fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction related to historical and scientific topics. They will apply this prior knowledge to the year’s overarching theme of exploring new perspectives.
Sixth grade students will study why point of view is important in literature through the analysis of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction texts. Through the examination of fantasy and realistic literature, students will explore the elements of fiction and informational text; they will identify and analyze complex characters, text structures, and the development of theme. They will explore these themes through the close reading of works in whole class novels and literature circles.
In addition, the year will center on three types of writing: narrative, expository, and argument. Students will engage in the writing process at least once a quarter, including the use of graphic organizers, drafting, and peer/self-revision to publish their work. By the end of sixth grade, all students will demonstrate their understanding of the writing process through one expository essay, one narrative, and one persuasive piece presented in a writing portfolio. In their literary analysis, research essays, narratives, and oral presentations, students will draw on multiple sources, including literary, informational, and multimedia texts. Students will write in a variety of genres including response to literature, narrative, persuasive, and expository as they develop writing portfolios. Students will continue to develop their vocabulary while investigating unfamiliar words from literature and using them in their own working vocabulary. Additionally, students will advance their communication skills as they explore various methods of presentation, including multimedia. Students will also develop and structure ideas in order to strengthen their argumentation skills exhibiting these in class discussions, debates, and presentations.
By the end of sixth grade, students will have a deeper understanding of new and varied perspectives. With this knowledge of point of view and perspective, they will be ready to critically examine the search for self-identity.
Writing in English Language Arts Grades 6-8
As outlined in the West Hartford District Curriculum Overview documents, writing is one of the basic skills developed over all three grade levels of middle school. Students learn the basics of grammar, usage, and mechanics through regular practice in a variety of writing genres, but their development as writers does not stop there. Students apply the skills they learn in English during other classes such as social studies and science. By the time students arrive at Conard and Hall, they have experienced instruction and assessment that calls for higher-order thinking, creativity, and reflection. Though the samples offered in this brief description indicate the thoughtfulness and care West Hartford Middle School teachers put into their instruction of writing, it is by no means a comprehensive list of student writing tasks and experiences in West Hartford middle schools.
Students practice writing in genres, understanding the characteristics familiar to readers and the organizational structures authors use. Comparison and contrast essays, narrative fiction in creative writing tasks, and reflective journaling in response to literature require students across the grade levels to see how organization and development shape the author’s message and create the means of understanding for the audience. In works collected throughout the year in student writing portfolios, students practice the skills of word choice and sentence fluency displaying voice in their personal narratives and reflective essays. As writers across the disciplines, students practice expository writing skills of descriptive language and supporting points with details from non-fiction texts. This is especially true in social studies where students practice open responses citing the text, respond critically to primary source documents, and employ steps in the writing process as they complete a research experience. As they progress, middle school students at the honors level will interweave supporting examples with commentary required in advanced courses at Conard and Hall.
Students at the middle school level begin regular practice with sentence fluency, developing the skills of writers who vary sentence length and type to communicate both with an audience and for a purpose. Students at the middle school level are encouraged by all teachers to practice the skills of topic development and elaboration, as these skills are put into practice in both everyday writing tasks such as open-ended questions and complex writing tasks such as formal thesis papers and research papers requiring multiple drafts. Teachers differentiate instruction in writing by addressing specific student needs and providing focused correction for classes, small groups, and individuals. Students then use the feedback in teacher comments to practice the skills of revision and editing in their own written work. These skills are shared across the curriculum, so that what is practiced in English language arts class is applied in other subjects requiring a variety of writing tasks.
Parents are welcome to ask questions and discuss the focus of writing instruction in the classroom. English teachers across the district are willing to share their students’ writing development and discuss how parents can help with writing outside of the classroom. Here are a few good questions to ask your son or daughter about their writing:
- What is this assignment asking you to include in your writing?
- Have you included supporting evidence for your written answers?
- Have you made your points to the reader in clear and concise language?
A good way to start the conversation about his or her writing is to act as the reader in a writing conference where you provide a real audience for their writing.
The Middle School Mathematics Grade 6 Curriculum incorporates the Connecticut Core Standards for Mathematics (CCS-M). The program goals focus on the following content domains:
- Ratios and proportional relationships
- The number system
- Expressions and equations
- Statistics and probability
In all grades, the following mathematical practices are integrated throughout the program:
- Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
- Reason abstractly and quantitatively
- Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
- Model with mathematics
- Use appropriate tools strategically
- Attend to precision
- Look for and make use of structure
- Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning
In grade 6, the major themes include extension of understanding and application of ratios, rational numbers, one-variable equations and inequalities, area, surface area, volume, data distribution, and variability of a data set.
The World Language Curriculum incorporates the National Standards and the State of Connecticut Frameworks for World Languages. Students may study Chinese, French, or Spanish. Our program goals focus on:
- Communication: to use language in three modes: interpersonal, interpretive and presentational
- Cultures: to understand cultures through products, practices and perspectives of speakers of that language
- Connections: to understand relationships of language to other disciplines and new frontiers
- Comparisons: to develop insight into one’s own language and culture as well as those of the new language
- Community: to apply language beyond the classroom in a global setting
In grade 6, listening and speaking skills are emphasized to build upon the elementary language experience. Reading and writing are provided regularly as the students develop these skills and integrate them with the others. Students complete a variety of performance tasks and are encouraged to speak the language as much as possible. Students are able to ask and share information about themselves, their families and friends, talk about school, shopping, food and other topics. Many geographic and cultural topics are woven throughout the different themes, including Canada, China, and Mexico.
The sixth grade science program focuses on the development of science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas focused on ecosystem dynamics, environmental studies, earth surface processes, and processes associated with heat transfer. Students will engage in engineering tasks that involve designing, testing, and modifying solutions to solve real world problems. Our curriculum is developed from the Next Generation Science Standards and seeks to present science learning in a three-dimensional method that integrates Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts.
During the 6th grade, students will explore the following concepts and skills:
Scientific Investigations: Students will engage in engineering and scientific processes that allow them to ask questions and define problems, construct and interpret models, plan and carry out investigations, analyze and interpret data and effectively communicate.
Ecosystem Dynamics: How do matter and energy cycle through ecosystems, factors that affect biodiversity and population dynamics, and food webs.
Environmental Studies: Human resource consumption, the impact of catastrophic events of the environment, and environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels.
Earth Surface Processes: Earth’s geologic history and a review of the fossil record, mantle convection and plate tectonics, and the water cycle.
Heat Transfer Processes: States and properties of matter, conservation of matter, laws of thermodynamics, and factors that affect weather and climate.
The purpose of history and social studies is to prepare students to ask and seek answers to meaningful questions and prepare them with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to become informed participants in an ever-changing global community and to act responsibly to improve its condition. The social studies curriculum is aligned with the national College, Career, and Citizenship (C3) frameworks as well as the Connecticut state social studies curriculum frameworks. Key disciplinary content and skills, as well as core literacy standards for reading, writing, speaking and listening are embedded within our curricula. Our curriculum is driven by student inquiry and requires students to engage with compelling questions in order to understand the world around us and take informed action based on their learning.
In addition to disciplinary content, students are equipped with the tools necessary to engage in inquiry. In particular, students will learn to:
- Recognize, develop, and articulate compelling questions.
- Gather and evaluate sources and then use evidence to understand the complexity of multiple social studies topics.
- Explore multiple perspectives to develop their own understanding of history and social studies topics.
- Engage in conversations and share their understandings of the world around them.
The sixth grade social studies program begins a two-year program in world regional studies. Students will cover one major region each marking period focusing on the history, geography, economics, and politics of the region. Students should take away from each unit a sense of place and an understanding of contemporary issues affecting the region. The regions of study in sixth grade are: Middle America and the Caribbean; South America; Western and Eastern Europe; and sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, students will practice research and argumentative writing skills with an emphasis on developing claims and supporting claims with evidence.
The Library Media Services Department endorses the national mission of the American Association of School Librarians which is “…to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information.” Library media specialists carry out this mission by “…empower[ing] students to be: critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers and ethical users of information.”
Read widely and deeply in multiple formats, across a variety of genres, to develop empathy and tolerance for diverse ideas, to become an informed citizen, as well as to satisfy their own personal curiosity and interests and to develop the lifelong habit of reading.
Engage in a sustained inquiry-based research process for academic and personal growth.
Evaluate information sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.
Generate products that demonstrate learning, problem solving, and communication skills.
Participate responsibly in personal, social, and intellectual networks by using a variety of tools and resources to communicate ideas locally and globally.
Follow ethical and legal guidelines for gathering and using information and acknowledging authorship and intellectual property rights.
The middle school curriculum emphasizes understanding the creative process through the Visual Arts. To align with state and National Standard (NCAS) students focus on: Connecting / Exploring Culture through learning about concept and skill, Creating and developing skills through exploring art materials and techniques, Responding through applying appropriate vocabulary in critique and reflection and having Aesthetic Discourse while supporting one’s own judgement.
The curriculum, which is currently being revised to align with NCAS, is grounded in inquiry, Assured Learning Experiences, concept and skill and specific vocabulary.
Middle School students have the opportunity to experience such art processes as printmaking, drawing, painting, and using technology applications to make art, and creating three dimensional art.
The middle school music curriculum includes classroom instruction for all students in grade 6 and is aligned with State and National Standards to ensure a comprehensive and sequentially appropriate experience. The elective program includes band, orchestra, and choral ensembles. Further extension and enrichment of the curriculum is offered through co-curricular ensembles: jazz band, select string, and vocal ensembles.
Performance Ensembles Performance ensembles focus on building individual and ensemble skills through a broad selection of music literature. Components include:
- Ear Training
- Bow Control
- Sight Reading
- Tone Quality
Instrumental students also receive small group instruction focusing on individual technique within a specific instrument grouping.
Students continue the development of musical skills from elementary school. Reading, writing, improvisation, and listening skills are emphasized. The music of Mexico and Canada, as well as songs and dances from around the world, are included in the curriculum.
STEM: Science → Technology → Engineering → Math
Helping student’s gain the skills required to succeed in today’s challenging world including critical thinking, problem solving and the ability to drive advancements in STEM. The Technology & Engineering Department puts the “T&E” in STEM.
Our program goals seek to enable students to:
- Advance technological and information literacy
- Apply creative problem solving and critical thinking skills within the design process
- Understand the impacts of technology on society
- Collaborate to enhance experiential learning and communication in a diverse environment
- Develop STEM career awareness and exploration
Focus: Exploring Technology
In 6th grade Technology & Engineering students look at how technological systems affect people, society, and their environments. Technologies are artifacts we have designed and engineered to solve problems and improve the world around us. Students will begin to examine the benefits and consequences of technology by designing and testing aerodynamic vehicles, building model structures, and programming. The units of study introduce the engineering design process, CAD software, 3D printing, coding and computer science principles.
Health education emphasizes students developing healthy lifestyles.
Fundamental to developing healthy lifestyles are opportunities to learn to apply health literacy skills. These skills include decision making, goal setting, effectively communicating, accessing information and resources, analyzing what influences our actions, and advocating a healthy position. These align with National Standards.
Students practice these skills using different health contents. The major topics are listed below.
- First aid
- Puberty, reproductive systems
The goals of physical education are for students to develop fitness and skills in the movement areas of dance, adventure education, and sports. An integral part of physical education is the development of the responsible and respectful behaviors in both cooperative and competitive activities. The sequential and varied experiences contribute to the total well-being of each student. Concepts, strategies, rules, sportsmanship, teamwork, and basic movement skills are all woven into the offerings. After-school intramurals provide additional times for students to participate in fitness activities according to their interests.
Sixth grade students will participate in a number of activities that may include the following:
- Invasion sports (basketball, flag football, lacrosse, soccer, Ultimate Frisbee)
- Track and Field
Changing for Physical Education is optional; it is not a requirement. Students should be dressed in clothing that allows for maximum participation. Sneakers are a requirement. Appropriate attire for colder, outdoor classes is recommended.
Special Education, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), remedial reading services, and math support are available for students who may need them.
A comprehensive school counseling program model is planned, preventative and measurable. It is based on developmental theory and designed to meet the needs of all students as they progress from grades K-12. Content standards define what students should know and/or do at each grade level and provide a scope and sequence for program implementation.
School counselors provide skills and experiences that promote student academic, social-emotional and career development. These skills and experiences are provided through both Direct and Indirect services and define the nature and role of today’s school counselor.
Direct Services are face-to-face interactions between the counselor and students. Examples include:
- Delivery of the school counseling curriculum
- College and Career Readiness Activities
- Individual/Group Counseling
- Crisis Intervention and Responsive Services
Indirect Services are interactions the counselor has with others on behalf of students. Examples include:
- Advocacy to ensure equitable access and opportunities for all students
- Consultation with parents, school-based personnel and community agencies
- Collaboration within and outside the school community
- Program coordination and management
- Leadership initiatives to enhance student learning and promote healthy development
- A Guide to Comprehensive School Counseling Program Development : State of Connecticut: State Board of Education 2008
- American School Counselor Association (2012). The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs, Third Edition. Alexandria, VA: Author
QUEST, WHPS Gifted and Talented Program, has been serving the needs of high-ability, creative, and motivated students since 1994. The program provides services to support an individual student’s social, emotional, and unusually advanced academic development. The curricula support student choice and voice, extensive research, and inquiry-based learning combined with personalized project-based learning guided by the QUEST teacher. QUEST teachers foster an environment where students are inspired to participate and show a high level of practical skills that integrate with a capacity for creative thinking. By developing and applying these tools for learning, students can realize their innovative potential to Question the world around them, Understand the need to learn and grow, Explore the past, present, and future, Search for solutions and meanings and Think creatively and critically.
Per the CT state regulations, a “Gifted and Talented means a child identified (1) possessing demonstrated or potential abilities that give evidence of very superior intellectual, creative or specific academic capability and (2) needing differentiated instruction or services beyond those being provided in the regular school program to realize their intellectual, creative or specified academic potential.”
Identified students have unique individual educational and social and emotional characteristics. These students require services or activities not ordinarily provided to fully develop their capabilities as mandated by state statute. The responsibility of the school committee is to identify specific academic student needs that require appropriate supplementary services. Once identified at the elementary level students continue participation in middle school QUEST.
The QUEST program is committed to providing challenging experiences for all learners. It nurtures the student’s ability to view lessons as a means for a different way to solve problems - the personalizing of learning, based on strengths while optimizing student’s academic potential. The program is committed to a broad-based inclusion of students from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds that ensure that all students have an opportunity to be recognized for their unique gifts, talents, and socio-emotional needs. Additional pathways for identification are in grades 6-8.