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Thetford Elementary School

Thetford, Vermont

Dear Parents,

We have completed the first few days of the new school year, and are settling into the routines of the classroom and the sixth grade expectations.  We look forward to working with you and your student to make his/her year successful and enjoyable.  Our classes have had fun joining together several times this week to participate in cooperative games as an entire sixth grade unit. The following is an outline of the sixth grade curriculum for the upcoming school year:

6th Grade Math-- 

Math in the sixth grade will look different than it has in previous grades and even previous years in the sixth grade. We will be fully adopting the new Common Core Standards. What this will mean is that students will not just be following a math program. Students will work from multiple math programs to address the new standards for sixth grade. Our base program is Connected Mathematics, which is an extension of Math Investigations that students have used in the past. We will be using some units from the sixth grade Connected Mathematics program, as well as units from the seventh grade Connected Mathematics. There will also be several other sources used to design math programs that fit each individual student’s level. Sixth grade math is very different than what students have previously used. Students will be learning to transfer their work onto paper from a text, versus working on problems directly in a workbook. This will take a lot of modeling for the first few weeks, and samples of how to set up a math page will come home with their first few weeks of assignments. Mr. Tierney is happy to discuss any of the new standards and/or any of the many changes sixth grade math has to offer.The emphasis in the 6th grade mathematics program will be in the following content:

Number, Numeration, Equivalence, and Order Relations

Recognizing place value in numerals for whole numbers and decimals; expressing numbers in scientific notation; finding factors of numbers; representing rates and ratios with fraction notation; finding equivalent fractions; using ratio to describe size change.

Measurement, Measures, and Numbers in Reference Frames

 Using linear, area, capacity, and personal reference measures; using metric and U.S. customary units.

Operations, Mental Arithmetic, and Number Systems

Performing addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers, fractions, and decimals; evaluating symbolic expressions; applying the distributive property.

Algorithms and Procedures

Reviewing multiplication and division algorithms for whole numbers; developing algorithms for operations on positive and negative rational numbers.

Problem Solving and Mathematical Modeling

Using probability; using strategies for multiple choice tests; analyzing games of chance; exploring trial-and-error methods, maze problems, mobile problems, and maximum-minimum problems.

Exploring Data

Collecting, organizing, and analyzing data line plots, bar graphs, line graphs, circle graphs, and step graphs; interpreting persuasive graphs and mystery graphs; identifying land marks of data sets (median, mean, mode, and range).

Geometry and Spatial Sense

Measuring and drawing angles; investigating angles of rotation; making compass-and-straightedge constructions; drawing to scale; exploring tessellations, topology (rubber-sheet geometry), and Mobius strips.

Patterns, Rules, and Formulas

Applying formulas to geometric figures; using variables in formulas; working with Venn diagrams and tree diagrams; solving pan-balance problems.

Algebra and Uses of Variables

Creating number models; working with scientific calculators; exploring variables in formulas; simplifying algebraic expressions; solving equations and inequalities.

Science News--

During the second quarter the class will be using the FOSS Models and Designs Module.  We will assume the roles of scientists as we try to figure out what hidden systems look like and how they work.  Then we will change into engineers as we try to design self-propelled carts from simple construction materials. 

In this module, children learn about scientific models.  A scientific model explains a natural system or process that is not totally accessible to direct investigation.  An example from geology is the ongoing struggle to figure out what our planet is like from crust to core.   Each advance in scientific technology provides scientists with more information, and the model for the structure of Earth is refined.  But it’s still a model—no one knows for sure whether it’s correct, because no one has been there for a firsthand look.  In class we will be confronting less-imposing systems, but the processes of gathering evidence, sharing ideas with peers, creating models, and modifying them based on additional evidence are the same.  We will learn how to think productively about the unknown. 

After we tackle models and expand our points of view and ways of thinking about systems, we will become engineers who design and create products.  We will be designing and building carts from sticks, paper clips, wire, rubber bands, and the like.  With each passing investigation students face more demanding engineering challenges, and we expect to see a lot of creativity to tackle the problems. 

Later in the year, we will be studying human body systems. More information will come as we get closer to that unit.

Social Studies News- 

Throughout the year, we will be focusing on two major units in Social Studies.  We will study Ancient Greece and the Middle Ages through simulations of these civilizations.    Students will learn about the history and culture of these civilizations and perform independent studies in areas of interest of each civilization.  This may be an investigation of nearly any area of interest (clothing, weapons, government, children’s lives, etc.).  As they complete research, they will present to the class what they have learned and present an independent project to support the topic.  This study will require a lot of long-term planning, which we will monitor every few days to make sure students are sticking to their schedules to complete their projects by the due date.  Supported long-term planning is a wonderful skill to learn before the students move on to middle school.

As students are performing research, we will (along with support from Mary Wunderlich) examine the validity of websites and whether or not they are reliable sources of information.  Students will also be expected to use books to learn about their topics.  

These simulations are a fun and engaging way to get students to learn about cultures that are difficult to understand, because they existed so long ago and are so different from the present.


In language arts with Mr. McLaughlin, students will experience a balanced literacy program. Through an integrated reading and writing block as well as time for isolated word and language skill study, students will foster their love for reading as well as the literacy tools they will need to succeed in the future. We will begin the year with an in depth study of Greek mythology and later students will read a collection of medieval stories and legends in coordination with their social studies block. These topics will provide a rich body of literature to study and meet the sixth graders in a nourishing and enlivening manner. Throughout the year we will also have a variety of reading groups and literary discussions to build reading fluency and comprehension. Writing, spelling, and vocabulary skills will be woven into the curriculum as well as taught in isolation regularly during the week. Mr. McLaughlin is excited to be teaching this curriculum and enjoys conversations about literature and the language arts program in general.

Your child should be reading thirty minutes each night, at least four days out of the week (Monday through Thursday), reading material of their choice and at their independent reading level.  They will keep a Reading Log to document their progress, and request that parents sign the reading log before students turn them in every Friday. 

Additional Notes:

For parents, your daughter/son can expect up to 30 minutes of math homework each night.  Other assignments should take up to another 30 minutes.  Your child should also read at least 30 minutes.  If your child is spending more than one hour on assignments, please let us know.  We want school to be fun and exciting, not overly burdensome.  For some students, coming in before or after school for homework club may be a good option as there is adult help, and students have the opportunity to complete all homework at school.  If your child is having difficulty with homework, he/she should write an explanation of what is challenging so We can address it the next day.  We feel that communication between home and school is important, and we ask you to contact me with any questions, concerns, or information we should have about your child.

In preparation for Thetford Academy expectations for recording homework assignments, students will be recording their homework assignments every day in a provided assignment notebook. We will both check and initial these daily to make sure they are complete. For the first few weeks, we would appreciate if parents would sign or initial the homework pages, so students get used to showing you their notebooks. For long-term independent study projects, we will also send home a timeline for completion and we will have “check-in” days to monitor progress.


Please feel free to e-mail or call us if you have any concerns or questions: 


This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it 785-4030 ex. 228

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it 785-4030 ex. 227



James Tierney

Colin McLaughlin