This trimester, sixth-grade scientists are studying the five essentials of life. In Social Studies, they’re investigating the hierarchies in social pyramids. This is all to say that students are beginning to understand the foundations of success, whether that means survival in a desert, on an exoplanet, or in a classroom. In the first trimester, one of their classes is Study Skills, which they have twice weekly. Students learn how to organize their time, materials, and spaces. They come to understand “the why;” organization leads to efficiency, autonomy, and thus deeper learning. During study skills, study hall, and core classes, we practice, practice, and practice some more. Organized time means learning how to master their planner, prioritize work, use a to-do list, and backward-plan to meet deadlines for long-term assignments. An organized space means keeping one's bookshelf, desk, and cubby organized so that use of time can be optimized. Finally, organized materials mean keeping the binder, folders, pencil pouches, and other supplies where they are supposed to be.
For the first trimester, students had a “Study Skills” class twice weekly, and in our second trimester, we teach it once a week. The topics we introduce and reinforce in sixth grade are based on a healthy balance of routines and habits, both physical and thinking routines. For example, the year starts with how to sit at your desk. Seriously! It’s been a long time since fifth grade! As the trimester progresses, we cover how to connect with teachers via email, Google docs, and meetings during study hall, how to leverage a variety of strategies to prepare for tests and memorize information, and how to talk to parents and guardians about test reviews.
Perhaps the most important skill we teach is how to advocate for oneself. Developing their metacognition gives our students a tremendous boost in terms of developing independence. Students learn to identify when they need help and what to do to get the support they need. Sixth graders are encouraged to email their teachers directly when they have a question or concern about an assignment or any content they are not fully understanding. The thrice-weekly Study Hall times allow students to meet with teachers individually to get extra help. Sixth graders learn the habits of scholarship that will help them navigate not only the upper grades of our Middle School academic program but also will serve them in life as they graduate to high school and beyond.