6th Grade English Language Arts Skills

In 6th grade, students read and understand a wide range of high-quality texts, including stories, plays, and poems from across cultures and time periods. 6th graders also read and understand informational texts from a variety of subject areas, including history/social studies, and science. 6th grade students use a number of strategies to learn new words, and use the words in stories, reports, and discussions. They write for a range of reasons: to argue a position, demonstrate understanding of a topic, and tell stories. Students also apply their skills to research, gathering information and learning to evaluate the sources.

Rich and Challenging Texts

Read closely from rich and challenging 6th grade-level texts, with guidance when text is particularly demanding.

Some sample texts for 6th graders:

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Roll

  • “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman

  • Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad, by Ann Petry

  • Preamble and First Amendment to the United States Constitution

  • Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction, by David Macaulay

Making Inferences

Cite evidence to explain what a story, play, poem, or informational text says, and what clues can be used to make inferences or “read between the lines.”

Identifying the Main Theme

Identify the theme or main idea in both literary and informational text, based on specific details; summarize the text without adding opinions.

Identify Essential Information While Reading
As the amount of reading material your child is assigned increases, he will need to develop new strategies for synthesizing all that he is learning. Help him figure out how to process information by asking questions such as “What was the main idea in the article you just read?” “What are the most important things you want to remember about it?” Learning how to identify and focus on essential information will be an important skill throughout his life.

Tracing an Argument

Trace an argument and specific claims in a text, differentiating claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

TIPS

Exploring Short Novels
Now that your child is in middle school he will be given longer reading assignments, such as short novels. These might be classics you remember, like The Witch of Blackbird Pond, or newer works, like the Hunger Games trilogy. Try to read these assignments yourself, if you have the time. You’ll enjoy them and will be able to discuss them in detail with your child. Ask questions that go beyond just talking about what happened in the book. Ask him what motivated different characters or how he thinks they felt in different situations.

Ask “What If” Questions
Ask “what if” questions about the books and stories your child is reading. What if the author had decided to change a specific plot point? What if a character in a biography had made a different decision at a key moment? Ask questions that prompt your child to think through the motivations behind the actions of different characters. 

Vocab, Text Meaning, and Tone

Read and understand 6th grade vocabulary, and determine how an author’s word choices affect the meaning and tone of a text.

6TH GRADE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS TIPS

How you can help your child master reading and writing skills outside of the classroom.

Understanding New Words and Phrases

Use different strategies to understand new words and phrases; for example, use context as a clue; use common Greek and Latin roots as a clue; consult a dictionary online or in print.

Examples of common Greek roots: biblio (book) as in bibliography; therm (heat) as in thermometer.

Examples of common Latin roots: aqua (water), as in aquarium; cent (hundred), as in century.

Tip: Ask "What If" Questions
Ask “what if” questions about the books and stories your child is reading. What if the author had decided to change a specific plot point? What if a character in a biography had made a different decision at a key moment? Ask questions that prompt your child to think through the motivations behind the actions of different characters.

Tip: Read Instruction Manuals
If you find yourself assembling household items, ask your child to read through the directions and guide you through the assembly process. The instructions often include technical words and sequencing concepts, which help your child develop important non-fiction reading skills.

Supporting Arguments

Write arguments that state a claim, and support the claim with clear reasons and relevant evidence from credible or trusted sources.

Informative Papers

Write informative or explanatory papers that examine a topic and express information clearly. Use facts, details, and other information to develop the topic.

Developing Story Elements

Write stories or narratives about real or imaginary experiences. Establish a context and develop story elements such as characters, a well-sequenced plot, and descriptive details.

Supporting Thinking and Research

Include evidence from text to support thinking and research

Using Technology

Use technology to produce and publish writing, and to work on writing with others.

Using a Computer Keyboard

Use a computer keyboard comfortably; type at least three pages in a single sitting.

TIP

Fun Writing Projects

Keep an eye out for fun projects that involve writing. If your child made a family tree when she was younger, she can update it with a companion piece of writing in which she provides short biographical entries about each person. She can make these as simple or as involved as she likes. An especially interesting relative’s entry could become a longer profile, incorporating information from an interview with that relative and external published sources. 

Using Basic Grammar Rules

Use basic rules of English grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in written work.

  • Use commas, parentheses, or dashes to set off parenthetical or added information: An apple, for example, is a type of fruit.
  • Use pronouns correctly in a sentence, as the subject (I, you, he, she, it, we, they); the object (me, you, him, her, etc.); or the possessive (mine, yours, his, hers, etc.). Recognize and correct errors (Incorrect: If a student doesn’t study, they won’t pass the test. Correct: If a student doesn’t study, he won’t pass the test.)
Class Participation

Participate in class discussions about complex 6th grade topics, texts, and issues. Be prepared to refer to evidence in a text when discussing ideas, to restate other people’s ideas, and to understand other perspectives.

Explaining Speakers' Claims

Listen to and describe another speaker’s arguments and claims, and explain whether the claims are supported by reasons and evidence.

Giving a Presentation

Give a clear, well-organized presentation about an argument or research finding. Support ideas with facts, details, and descriptions.

Research Projects

Conduct short research projects to answer a research question, gathering information from several print and online sources, and refocusing the question when needed.

Tip: Suggest Fun Writing Processes
Keep an eye out for fun projects that involve writing. If your child made a family tree when he was younger, he can update it with a companion piece of writing in which he provides short biographical entries about each person. He can make these as simple or as involved as he likes. An especially interesting relative’s entry could become a longer profile, incorporating information from an interview with that relative and external published sources.

Evaluating Sources

Evaluate whether sources can be trusted, and paraphrase or summarize the material without copying it. Provide a basic bibliography or list of sources.

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