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Curriculum guide - Grade 6

Farnsworth Middle School successfully brings students from the elementary school to the high school by meeting the unique intellectual, social, emotional and physical needs of 10-14 year olds. The program is designed to develop a student’s love of learning, strong habits of the mind and body, a commitment to high academic standards, an appreciation of the arts, an understanding of democratic principles, respect for self and others and responsibility for actions.

This web page outlines the major skills and content areas taught at the sixth grade level. All curricula are aligned with the New York State Learning Standards.

All students engage in learning that requires them to use their minds well, think critically and creatively, make informed and reasoned judgments, produce and invent, critique and analyze, develop personal responsibility and concern for others, and move towards greater independence as learners.

While students will study at least the topics indicated here, there are also opportunities for other areas of study based on their individual interests and needs. Parents can support their child’s school learning by:
        • Continuing to demonstrate the value of learning.
        • Talking with your child about what they are learning.
        • Using the vocabulary and discussing the concepts being presented.
        • Sharing reading, current events, field trips and other learning experiences with your child.
        • Communicating with school staff.

Please click on any link below to learn more about that topic:

Language Arts
Social Studies
World Languages and Cultures

Family and Consumer Sciences
General Music
Choral Music
Instrumental Music
Physical Education
Library Media
Enrichment/Gifted Programming
Technology Education


Language Arts

Students come to the Middle School with a strong foundation in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Sixth grade students will adhere to the K-12 Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and will learn to use language in increasingly sophisticated and complex ways.

Students will read at least two shared books, such as Long Way From Chicago and Pictures of Hollis Woods, which provide them with examples of quality literature. Our responsibility is to ensure that all students read from a broad range of literary styles, cultures, topics and time periods. In addition to the books students read with their class, they are expected to read 25 books, or the equivalent, each year. They will have opportunities to discuss their reading, respond in writing, and keep records of books read on individual book record sheets.

Reading also supports the writing students do. In sixth grade students read and are taught to write in a variety of genres. Some of these genres include literary responses, essays, memoir, and formal research. In addition, they select and practice other forms of expressive, narrative, expository and persuasive writing. Most students will complete ten pieces this year.

Writing is a complex process that requires frequent opportunity, appropriate direct instruction and feedback. Students need to know how audience and purpose influence decisions about their writing. They need to broaden their understanding of revision strategies, know what the qualities of good writing are and how to evaluate their own work. They need to become skillful, independent editors. Their final pieces should reflect a concern for correctness and a knowledge of mechanics, spelling, vocabulary and usage.

Listening and speaking are also important in the Language Arts program. Students participate in class discussions, group and individual project presentations, and demonstrations. They share research findings and use technology to enhance those presentations.

The New York State English Language Arts grade 6 assessment is administered in April.

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The middle school Math program is closely aligned with the New York State Common Core Learning Standards for Mathematics and share the same goals to provide students with the knowledge and understanding of mathematics necessary to function in a world very dependent upon the application of mathematics. Focus in the curriculum is meant to give students an opportunity to understand concepts and practice with them in order to reach a deep and fluent understanding. Coherence in the curriculum means progressions that span grade levels to build students’ understanding of ever more sophisticated mathematical concepts and applications. Rigor means a combination of fluency exercises, chains of reasoning, abstract activities, and contextual activities throughout the module.

The Mathematics standards presented by the New York State Common Core Learning Standards describe varieties of expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students. These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education. The first of these are the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections. The second are the strands of mathematical proficiency specified in the National Research Council’s report Adding It Up: adaptive reasoning, strategic competence, conceptual understanding (comprehension of mathematical concepts, operations and relations), procedural fluency (skill in carrying out procedures flexibly, accurately, efficiently and appropriately), and productive disposition (habitual inclination to see mathematics as sensible, useful, and worthwhile, coupled with a belief in diligence and one’s own efficacy).

The Common Core Learning Standards include six instructional shifts to facilitate student proficiency in mathematics. These Practice standards include:
1. Focus
2. Coherence
3. Fluency
4. Deep Understanding
5. Application
6. Dual Intensity

In Grade 6, instructional time will focus on four critical areas:
Connecting ratio and rate to whole number multiplication and division and using concepts of ratio and rate to solve problems;
Completing understanding of division of fractions and extending the notion of number to the system of rational numbers, which includes negative numbers;
Writing, interpreting, and using expressions and equations; and
Developing understanding of statistical thinking.

For additional information regarding the Common Core learning Standards for grade 6, please visit:

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The middle school science program has several specific objectives, including to develop in each student the knowledge, skills and attitudes to:
Perform basic laboratory skills.
Use the symbolic tools employed in science.
Use concepts that are foundational to modern science.
Engage in scientific inquiry.
Understand the sequential nature of the development of science.
Understand the relationships among disciplines of science.
Understand the nature of science.
Apply a knowledge of science to other areas of endeavor.
Recognize and make connections among science, technology and society.
Use scientific knowledge for decision making.
Internalize the values, attitudes, and traits necessary for successful endeavor in science.

The sixth grade curriculum includes an integrated approach to science and provides students exposure to life sciences and physical science. Through a series of laboratory activities students investigate the living and physical environment.

The topics and problems in the sixth grade program lend themselves to the development of basic principles of the physical and ecological sciences. Data, for the most part, point to specific conclusions. Skills are developed for handling data, designing experiments, and interpreting results, as well as for manipulating standard laboratory equipment.

The sixth grade curriculum covers the following topics:

Introduction to Science: Processes and experimental design, laboratory equipment, data collection and graphing
Physical Science: Introduction to the properties of matter (mass and volume) and density
Astronomy: Earth motions, moon motions, solar system and celestial objects, structure of universe and solar system
Topics in Earth Science: Weathering, erosion, deposition processes and features, rocks and minerals, plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes and associated land features of plate motion, geologic history of Earth, layers of and structure of Earth


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Social Studies

The sixth grade social studies program emphasizes the interdependence of all people, with a focus on the Eastern Hemisphere. Students learn how geography and economics shape social/cultural, political and historic aspects of life in this part of the world. Concepts and themes include: Change, Identity, Needs and Wants, Technology, Culture, Interdependence, Empathy, Values, The World in Spatial Terms, Place and Regions, Human Systems, Physical Systems, Nation/State, Environment and Society, Economic Systems, Scarcity, Government, Citizenship and Civic Life.

Students will develop their abilities with the following social studies practices:
Gathering, using, and interpreting data
Chronological reasoning and causation
Comparison and contextualization
Geographic reasoning
Economics and economic systems
Civic participation

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This ten week course meets daily for forty minutes. Throughout the ten weeks students are engaged in multiple lessons that coincide with The New York State Learning Standards for the Arts. The sixth grade art curriculum engages students in 21st Century learning through the use of inquiry, problem-solving approaches, and higher order thinking skills. Students use a variety of media including pencil, colored pencil, clay, and tempura paint while studying such genres as landscape, ceramic relief, and abstract painting.

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World Languages and Cultures

Students in the middle school world languages and cultures program learn to use a language other than English for communication, and as they acquire that language they develop cross-cultural skills and understandings. They begin their study of French, German, Spanish or Italian in grade 6. They continue in grades 7 and 8 and have the ability to earn 1 (one) high school credit towards graduation. The acquisition of basic skills takes place through exposure and interaction in activities surrounding the modalities of listening, speaking, reading and writing. The cultural implications of the language they are using help each individual to comprehend how language affects their ability to communicate with different people around the world. They also begin to develop ways to display their understanding of different cultures.

The primary purpose of world language study in the middle school program is the negotiation of meaning, exposure to culture, and to develop ways in which they can problem solve in another language. Students are given opportunities to simulate real life situations and to use language that will accomplish communicative interactions.

For example:
Socializing (daily life, what you like to do, what you love to do, and want to do), and greetings (hello & goodbye)
Providing and obtaining information about facts, feelings and needs
Expressing personal feelings and opinions
Attempting to help others (persuasion) to adopt a course of action by requests and suggestions

While students learn the structure and syntax of the language, the primary daily focus of instruction centers on the ability for students to communicate in the target language. Additionally, they work to demonstrate practical use of the target language.

Language learning in sixth grade sets the foundation for students’ world language studies. There is ongoing assessment during the school year that prepares students to be successful on the Checkpoint A Exam that is administered to all students at the conclusion of grade 8.

General topics include:
Language basics
Personal identification
Family/ Pets

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Health is a condition of well-being that is required for the development of each individual and for society as a whole. Health results from interactions among physical factors, mental and emotional reactions and social context. It is influenced by the understandings, values, attitudes, beliefs, skills, culture and behaviors of the individual, his or her family, the community and the world. Health instruction at Farnsworth Middle School works to promote the health and well-being of our students. The health education program works in partnership with the home, school and the community. To support this partnership with the family, prior to instruction on each topic, a letter is sent home with students so that families can discuss the topics at home. Additionally, a list of videos that may be used with a short description of the curricular connection is provided for parent information at the beginning of the year.

The sixth grade health program is taught by a certified health teacher daily for a ten-week period. Instruction builds on prior learning and is integrated with other content areas. The instructional focus is on providing accurate, age-appropriate information to support students’ abilities to make informed decisions, to solve problems, to be safe and to achieve a high level of wellness.

Provide students with the understandings and skills required to set goals, make informed decisions and solve health problems
Develop awareness of the role of health in the lives of individuals, families and the community
Nurture the development of attitudes that place a high value on optimal health
Foster the development of self-awareness and self-esteem
Enable students to deal effectively with change and take increasing responsibility for health

Mental Wellness – decision-making, problem solving, goal setting, respect
Death/Dying – stages of grief, strategies and sources of help
Personal Safety – sexual abuse, abduction prevention - strategies for being safe
Substance Abuse Prevention – alcohol, tobacco and drugs
AIDS – nature of the disease, transmission and prevention

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Family and Consumer Sciences

Students follow a curriculum that is aligned with the New York State Learning Standards in Family and Consumer Science (FACS). The FACS curriculum focuses on life skills and offers students unique and active learning activities to develop and prepare for family life, work life, and their future careers.

Family and Consumer Science classes afford students the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed for:
Strengthening the well-being of individuals and families
Becoming responsible citizens and leaders in family, community, and work settings
Managing resources to meet the material needs of individuals and families
Balancing personal, home, family, and work lives
Using critical and creative thinking skills to address problems in diverse family, community, and work environments
Successful life management, employment, and career development
Functioning effectively as providers and consumers of goods and services
Appreciating human worth and accepting responsibility for one’s actions and successes in family and work life
Setting goals, making informed decisions and solving health problems
Developing awareness of the role of health in the lives of individuals, families and the community
Promoting optimal nutrition and wellness and understanding the responsibility for healthy choices
Fostering the development of self-awareness and self-esteem

The sixth grade FACS program is offered for 40 minutes each day for a ten-week period. Units of study include:
Food Preparation, Safety and Sanitation
Child Development (birth through age 5)
Sewing (construction of a Drawstring Bag)

New York State Learning Standards
Standard 1: Personal Health and Fitness
Students will have the necessary knowledge and skills to establish and maintain physical fitness, participate in physical activity, and maintain personal health.

Standard 2: A Safe and Healthy Environment
Students will acquire the knowledge and ability necessary to create and maintain a safe and healthy environment.

Standard 3: Resource Management
Students will understand and be able to manage their personal and community resources.

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General Music

The aim of the general music program is to inspire creative, innovative thinkers through a comprehensive music education. Educational research indicates that music understanding comes through a sequential learning experience that parallels the development of language. It is this sequence that we follow in our teaching.

The core of the general music curriculum is singing, tonal, and rhythmic skill development with creativity, composition, and improvisation encouraged at every level of instruction. All sixth grade general music students are therefore expected to work at developing these skills to their fullest potential. It is through singing, tonal and rhythm reading that one acquires music literacy skills. Since music is a language, students acquire fluency through the practice of reading, writing, and performing rhythm and tonal patterns in the context of American and multi-cultural songs.

The culmination of this course is a performance of a rhythm composition. Students work together in cooperative learning groups to create this composition using the computer program Sibelius.

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Choral Music

Choral music is an extension of the music literacy acquired in general music. Historical events, cultures and eras are taught through a variety of choral literature. Emphasis is placed on proper vocal executive skills, intonation and rhythm. Chorus is dependent on cooperative learning since this is the only way to achieve balance and blend which enables students to sing in harmony.

Many of the choruses participate in NYSSMA Majors, which is a formal New York State Assessment of the students’ performance. Choruses also participate in several public performances throughout the year. Students have the opportunity to audition for Select Choir in addition to their participation in chorus.

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Instrumental Music

Learning to play an instrument is an excellent way for a student to gain a wide range and rich variety of musical experiences that can last a lifetime. Students who have a strong interest in music and are self-disciplined are encouraged to participate.

The band program provides activities for interested students to develop their musical skills and knowledge through learning to play a wind or percussion instrument. Students gain experience in performing as soloists and as part of a large ensemble. Band also teaches the self-discipline necessary to work in a large group situation. Developmentally appropriate literature is selected exposing students to a wide variety of styles and genres. Students continue to expand their tonal, rhythmic, and executive skills on the road to mastery and musical independence.

The band meets as an ensemble on alternating days as a graded class during the school day. As begun in the elementary school, all students receive a weekly small group lesson on a rotational schedule. It is in this group lesson setting that students receive instruction on developing executive skills specific to their instrument. Students are required to develop a regular home practice routine to stimulate their progress and preparation of ensemble parts. Cooperative behavior is promoted at all times in the rehearsals. All students in band participate in at least two concerts during the school year. Other performance opportunities arise for students in recitals, festivals, field trips, NYSSMA and extra-curricular ensembles.

The orchestra program consists of a string orchestra for each grade level. The string orchestras composed of violins, violas, cellos, and basses, meet every other day for a 40-minute rehearsal. Rehearsals explore various styles and genres of string literature expanding students’ technical music skills. All string students perform in a minimum of two concerts throughout the year. Other performance opportunities arise for students in recitals, festivals, field trips and extra-curricular ensembles.

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Physical Education

In today’s society, physical education may well play a more crucial role than ever before in our history. Young people need to learn to be physically active in their daily lives, establishing a foundation in their early years that can influence a lifetime of health and physically active behavior. The primary goal of our physical education program is to develop the physically educated person through a program of developmentally appropriate activities, concepts, and skills through the K-12 school experience.

National Standards for Physical Education describe a physically educated person as one who:
Demonstrates competency in many movement forms and proficiency in a few.
Applies movement concepts and principles to the learning and development of motor skills.
Exhibits a physically active lifestyle.
Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.
Demonstrates responsible personal social behavior in physical activity settings.
Demonstrates understanding and respect for differences among people in physical activity settings.
Understands that physical activity provides opportunities for enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and social interaction.

New York State Learning Standards in Physical Education require that students:
Have the necessary knowledge and skills to establish and maintain physical fitness, participate in physical activity, and maintain personal health.
Acquire the knowledge and ability necessary to create and maintain a safe and healthy environment.
Understand and be able to manage their personal and community resources.

Students at Farnsworth Middle School meet every other day for physical education for the entire school year. Assessments are made three times during the school year in the area of fitness.

In the sixth grade experience students pick up the transition from concept learning at the elementary level to application in individual and team sport activities. There is a great emphasis on cooperation, teamwork, conflict resolution and mutual respect built into all activity classes. Students remain in their contained team setting with one physical education instructor for the entire year.

Initial goals are to help the sixth grade student become comfortable in a new school and build a sense of self-confidence in physical and social environments. Curriculum activities in the sixth grade year include:
Adventure I (intro)
Cross Country
Adventure II
Track and Field
Softball or Lacrosse or Paddle Sports

All sixth graders are encouraged and provided the opportunity to participate in intramurals during activity period at the end of the school day.

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Library Media

The Library Media Program plays a vital role throughout all aspects of the curriculum to engage students in the process of research. A unified research model across all grades and teams emphasizes learning to:
Question deeply
Investigate using a variety of resources (books, databases, multimedia, and the Internet)
Manipulate databases for optimal search results
Evaluate the validity and relevancy of resources for a specific need
Collect and analyze data
Collaborate with others
Construct new knowledge
Cite sources
Share the knowledge through presentation options including digital technology
Evaluate the process and product

In addition to instructing learners through the research model, the school librarians train students and staff in emerging technologies. They develop and manage book collections, databases, and web pages for diverse needs. They foster inquiry-based learning and literature appreciation which is crucial preparation for the information-rich world students encounter. 

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Enrichment/Gifted Programming

Enrichment programming offers a wide variety of opportunities for challenging activities. These activities take place before and after school and Humanities Enrichment and Math/Science Enrichment are semester-long classes scheduled weekly during access time. School wide competitions like the Spelling Bee and Geography Bee, occur throughout the year. Occasionally, day-long workshops or field trips may be scheduled.

Some of the enrichment opportunities offered before or after school include the following:
Future City (7/8),
Future Engineers/Architects (6/7),
History Club (6/7/8),
Math Olympiad (6),
Math Counts (7/8)
Newspaper Club (6/7/8),
Debate and Law (6/7/8),
Vocabulary Challenge (7),
WSWHE BOCES STEM Academy (6/7/8),
Chess Club (6/7/8),
American Math Competition (7/8)
History (6/7/8)

The primary goals for these enrichment offerings are:
Finding and nurturing talent in students by providing and supporting opportunities for them to pursue their interests at an appropriate pace and level of complexity.
Improving students’ competence and confidence in various areas of further study.
Nurturing student enthusiasm for learning.
Broadening their learning experiences to include “real world” applications and studies of/in their field of interest.
Maximize the number of learners given the opportunity to work with rich and demanding curriculum beyond the classroom with appropriate coaching, support, and mentoring.
Establishing community partnerships as resources for intellectual expertise and professional experiences.

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Technology Education

Technology Education at the middle school level is an introductory course that examines a multitude of technologies that exist in our world. New York State requires one full year of technology education by the end of the 8th grade year. At FMS we now offer three, half-year courses at the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade levels.

Introduction to Technology - Part I

Students will participate in technology education for 20 weeks (either from Sept. to Jan. or Jan. to June). Units of study for the 6th grade course include the following:

Computer Labs - 10 weeks
Keyboarding - UltraKey Software
Computer Skills - File structure, Respectful use of school computers, Google Apps, Google Mail, Wiki Spaces
Microsoft Office - Including MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, MS Publisher
Library Literacy - Effective internet searches, Website evaluation, Digital Citizenship, and Web 2.0

Technology Labs - 10 weeks
Computer Aided Design (CAD) - Students learn to visualize products in both 2D and 3D which will be created in computer software for production.
Manufacturing Technology - Students manipulate materials to create the project they designed in CAD. Emphasis is placed on tool & machine use/safety. Students learn measurement, layout techniques, and learn to follow technical directions
Paxton Patterson Modules - Flight Technology Module - This module starts with the history of flight and covers everything to present day and future space exploration. Students build their own air powered rockets while they explore aerodynamics, lift, thrust, drag, Newton’s laws, and how they affect man-made air & spacecraft.

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