Main Lesson Teacher

John Trevillion
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6th Grade Block Descriptions

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Here are the curriculum blocks for the 6th grade in 2013-14:

Mineralogy (Sept. 4-Oct.4)

Throughout this block the students will examine various rocks, describe them, and try to sense their origins. In this way they will come to learn about the three great classes of rock – igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic – and the powerful forces at work in the earth to form them, destroy them, and transform them. Out of our experience in the classroom of various rocks we will strive to get a sense for the parent rock of which they are fragments. We will learn about volcanoes, erosion, caves, and the deep forces at work beneath the continents and oceans. Careful examination will also reveal to them the minerals out of which rocks are composed. They will learn to recognize the signature characteristics of some of these minerals. The students will also learn about the origin of fossil fuels – coal and petroleum. The biography of Will Smith and the study of fossils will help us learn to “read” the script of nature locked in the rocks of the earth’s crust. Field trips to natural caves and the Field Museum will make some of these classroom experiences “life-size.”

History: Rome (Oct. 7-30)   

The Mediterranean world gave birth to many a great civilization, but it fell to one of them to unite them all: Rome. We will follow the story of this great civilization that consolidated the great achievements of the Greeks and left an enormous imprint on all humankind from its birth and infancy (the first kings), through its youth (the republic), and its coming-of-age crises (e.g. the Punic Wars). The biographies through which this great story will be told will seem all too human for  their virtues and vices, but the Roman willingness to submit to the law – even if it means death - will stir the students’ souls with respect and admiration. We will strive for a hands-on experience of Roman engineering genius by building arch, column, vault, and dome in a Roman city of clay “bricks”.  Nor will we ignore the Roman genius for war – we will pay special attention to weapons and the mechanical insights they afford.

Business Math (Nov. 4-27)

Money! This is a subject about which most 6th graders have a growing curiosity. How and why did it come into use? How is it changing in our own time? And just what on earth is money anyway? How do we use money responsibly (e.g.. balance a checkbook)? These are among the questions we will explore and discuss in this block. The students will be introduced to the concept of “percent”, and learn how to compute arithmetically with percent (i.e. using its common and decimal fraction equivalents). Knowledge of percent will provide the opportunity to present the business practices of discount, commission, profit and loss, and taxes. The practice of simple interest an important stepping stone that will lead to the introduction of the formula I=PRT, in the 7th grade.

History: Rome (Dec 2-20)

We will continue our story of Rome as it grappled with questions of its identity: proud but divided republic or powerful empire? The stories of Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Cleopatra, and Augustus Caesar will provide the centerpieces of this stage of history. We will learn also of the birth, life, and death of an obscure Jewish prophet in a distant part of the empire whose deeds would, 300 years later, transform the empire and ultimately impact the entire world.

Geometry (Jan. 6-31)

Formal geometry, like its 5th grade freehand predecessor, will begin with the circle – this time, however, with circles accomplished with a compass. With compass, straight-edge and pencil the students will discover the 6-fold, 12-fold, etc, divisions of the circle and thereby open up fascinating realms of geometric order and beauty. From these forms we will recognize instances of line and angle bisection, and of perpendicularity, and derive construction techniques to produce those results at will. The students will learn to identify angles by size relationship (acute, right, obtuse, etc) and by measurement using a protractor. We will also explore relationships arising from the construction of triangles, rectangles,
and pentagons.

History: Middle Ages (Feb. 3-14; May 12-16)

This block begins with the chaos and cultural near-oblivion that attended the fall of the Roman Empire. We follow the wanderings and eventual settlings of the “barbarians”. We learn of the crucial role of the Church, and particularly the monasteries, in preserving “the light” of civilizations now extinct. The students will be given living pictures of the new social hierarchy of nobles, clergy, and serfs that arose in this time. The European “Dark Ages” occurred simultaneously with the birth and flowering of Islam, a subject that will be explored through the biography of Mohammed and the later conflicts with Christianity (the Crusades). The role of the Vikings-come-Normans, their conquest of Britain and, through the succession of kings, the cultural separation of Britain from the continent will be investigated. The rise of chivalry and respect for women will be approached through the life of Eleanor of Acquitaine. The power of one man’s effort and sacrifice to influence entire cultures will be seen through the life of St. Francis
of Assisi. The students will participate in the life of the Middle Ages by learning and practicing the art of calligraphy and illuminated lettering. Our trip to the
Art Institute will provide an opportunity to experience the genius of medieval
art and architecture.

Physics (Feb 24-Mar. 19)

In this block we will explore the utterly familiar phenomena of sound, light, heat, electricity, and magnetism. The difference is that we will be structuring experiences of the familiar (experiments) that call upon our full powers of observation, our capacity for remembering our sense experiences, and for expressing these in rich, accurate language. We will strive towards simple, truthful conclusions that take into account every aspect of the experiments and the circumstances in which they occurred.

Astronomy (Mar. 24-Apr. 11)

Ancient myths of beings inhabiting the night sky will spur us to locate star constellations as well as particularly bright stars in the night sky. We will experience and come to know the slow and ceaseless apparent movement of the stars, sun, moon, and planets across the sky. We will learn to appreciate how the relationship of sun and earth as it is experienced at different earth latitudes determines the plant, animal, and human life in those regions. We will discover a simple method to find our own latitude on earth. The students will learn the annual paths of sun and moon, and the strange wanderings of the inner and outer planets. These latter movements will raise the same questions for us as they did the ancients, questions that will find answers in the 7th grade with the lives of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. The students will be asked to make nightly observations and keep a journal. On at least one field trip we will seek opportunity to witness the night sky in un-light-polluted skies.

Grammar (Apr. 14-May 9)      Karen Hartz

Over the course of the entire year the students will learn to recognize and use transitive, intransitive, and linking verbs, the active and passive voice of verbs; and the perfect tenses of verbs. We will expand our knowledge of the parts of a sentence (syntax) from our fifth grade awareness subject, predicate, and direct object to include indirect objects, adjectival and adverbial phrases. We will anchor this knowledge by learning how to diagram sentences. The students will also be introduced to complex sentences (i.e. involving dependent clauses). In writing the students will learn how to write in paragraphs, to recognize and write topic sentences, to develop a paragraph, and to order paragraphs in such a way as to develop coherence in compositions.

(During this block while Karen Hartz is teaching the 6th grade, I will be teaching the 8th grade, and Lauri Sullivan will be teaching the 7th grade. It has become our standard practice to arrange for one block rotation for the teachers of grades 6-8.)

Geography of the Americas (May 19-June 13)

We will continue to expand our geographical knowledge and awareness from city (4th grade), to continent (5th grade), to the western hemisphere in 6th grade. The children will hear stories of my youth in Canada, and learn of the great continent to our south. We will use our newly acquired knowledge of geology and astronomy to inform our study. The students will choose, research, and report upon a South American country of their choice.

Language Arts

There will be regularly scheduled language arts skills classes all year; these will be shown on the weekly schedule which I will send you when set. In these classes as well as in morning lessons we will continue to study vocabulary (especially words with Latin roots), spelling, parts of speech, dictionary definitions, antonyms and synonyms, and a variety of other exercises.

The students will be asked to write many short compositions and dictations, mostly out of morning lesson work. We will vary the style to include the narrative, descriptive, and expository. We will also pay some attention to writing personal and business letters.

The students will also be asked to research and write at least two reports, and present their work to their fellow students orally. 

We will read several books together over the course of the year, out of which will arise discussions and possibly some assignments. I will also provide a list of books from which the students may choose, read, and write book reports.

We will learn and practice dictionary, encyclopedia, and library skills.


There will be three regular math skills periods per week. Besides practice with skills introduced in the Business math and Geometry blocks, we will also review and practice skills learned in earlier grades, and introduce the Metric System,

Class Play
To be determined...

Class Trip (Sept. 23-26)

The class will be travelling to Blue Hills Caverns and Marengo Caves in southern Indiana in order to explore several caves. This will occur in the fourth week of our Mineralogy block.

Although the caving trip will constitute our main class trip for the year, we will also travel to Glen Falls Recreation Park south west of Chicago in late May in order to participate in an experience of orienteering; i.e. finding your way across country to a designated goal using compass and map. We will be joined in this undertaking by students of the 6th grade at DaVinci Waldorf School (in Wauconda) and Four Winds Waldorf School (in Naperville). I hope for this to be a one night camping experience as well.

IOWA Tests (June 2-5)

In 7th grade the students at Chicago Waldorf School take the IOWA Tests for Mathematics and Language Arts. These test results are useful should parents be seeking to place their child in a high school other than CWS. They also supplement and sometimes refine our own evaluations of the students’ achievement levels.

In order to give the students preparation and experience in taking a standardized test, we give the Mathematics and Language Arts IOWA tests in 6th Grade as well. These tests are usually given late in the school year.


(See the bottom of this post for a link to a color coded blocks calendar)

  Block Plan Calendar Schedule for 2013-14