Sixth Grade

Jax-berriesWelcome to the 6th Grade!  6th grade is a year filled with spirit, collaboration, independent thinking, and a growing sense of wonder in the world around.  In their 6th grade year, our students engage in an in-depth study of leadership.  In Humanities and Jewish Studies, our young leaders explore the struggles and triumphs of great leaders, both historic and fictional.  Students in mathematics and science engage in real-life experiences and problems to not only strengthen their analytical and reasoning abilities but work in teams to problem solve, innovate, and present and articulate their arguments. This year, students take pride in leading the Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom HaAtzmaut experience for the school and truly become lights of leadership in the Akiva community and the greater Nashville community.


The art program at Akiva is presented to students using the Discipline-Based Arts Education approach. DBAE includes four disciplines: arts production, arts history and culture, criticism, and aesthetics. An introduction to the use of various materials concerning both two and three dimensional art will be implemented as well as an appreciation and understanding for various historic and contemporary artists. Students will be exposed to a broad scale of exciting projects appropriate for each grade level.


  • Early Humans and the Rise of Civilization –  Students will be investigating the past and learning how early man made the transformation from a hunter-gatherer society to a farming society. Students will identify scientists who study the past. Students will also explore and create cave art. Students will explore the question of whether or not nomadic people exist today. They will also discuss how nomadic lives might be different today from nomadic lives in ancient times.
  • Ancient Egypt and the Near East –  This unit will cover both Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Students will learn about the Cradle of Civilization and define the characteristics of a civilization. Students will locate Mesopotamia on a modern map. Students will learn why rivers were and are still vital to the success of a civilization. Students will explore the Code of Hammurabi and explain the importance of having a system of law. Students will also learn about the role of women in the Babylonian society. Students will create a social class pyramid to represent the class system in ancient Egypt. Students will learn about the importance of a census in both ancient and modern times. Students will also participate in a discussion on how the history of Egypt is closely tied to the history of the Jewish people.
  • Ancient India –  Students will identify physical features of India on a map. Students will learn about Mohenjodaro and its significance. Students will compare and contrast the Hindu caste system to the Egyptian class system. Students will learn about Mahtma Gandhi and his influence on history. Students will learn about the Gupta Empire and how it advanced the Indian civilization and impacted the rest of the world.
  • Ancient China –  Students will create a physical map of China. They will learn about the burial customs in ancient China and draw comparison with those of ancient Egypt. Students will explain, compare, and contrast Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism. Students will learn about Emperor Qin and evaluate his effectiveness as a ruler. Students will study Emperor Han and the scientific discoveries made under his rule and determine whether or not those discoveries made an impact on our world. Students will map and study the Silk Road.
  • Ancient Greece –  Students will identify major cities, seas, and islands on a map. They will define and explain the role of colonies in the Greek Empire. Students will learn and write about various forms of government. Students will compare and contrast Sparta and Athens. Students will learn about the Persian Wars and the resulting changes in Greece. Students will study Greek Mythology and create myths of their own. Students will also discover the foundations for our government within the government of ancient Greece.
  • Ancient Rome –  Students will identify major territories, oceans, and seas on a blank map. They will read and retell the story of Romulus and Remus. Students will discover the impact that engineering feats had on the Roman Empire and how those discoveries impact our daily lives. Students will create a timeline on which key events in Roman history are accurately placed. They will study Julius Caesar, his rise to power, and untimely death. Students will uncover internal struggles of the Roman Empire and the changes that resulted from Caesar’s death. Students will learn about the role that Rome played in Judea and in the early Christian church. Students will determine events leading up to and causing the fall of the Roman Empire. Students will identify the legacy of Rome in the modern world.
  • Current Event –  Students will participate in Currents Events BINGO each week. Students will select a current events article, write a brief summary of the article, and create a pictorial representation of the article.

Language Arts and Literature

  • Writing –Writing will be taught through the Lucy Calkin’s Writing Workshop series. The students will write a variety of genres including: personal narrative, realistic fiction, personal essays, poetry, argument essays, and historical fiction. The students will learn how to gather ideas, draft, revise, and publish. They will explore other writer’s texts as a mentor for their own. During the course of the year, the students will learn many different revising strategies including: adding internal thoughts and feelings, using dialogue to give insight in the character, using paragraphs to enhance their writing, and using descriptive words. The students will use the skills they have learned throughout the year and apply them to each genre of writing they create.
  • Grammar –We use Shurley English Level 6 program for grammar. Grammar will also be reinforced during writing workshop. Through jingles, skill building, and classroom practice, students will be reviewing, learning about, and practicing parts-of-speech. Students will also learn and use editing strategies in their own writing.
  • Vocabulary –  Students will also be working to develop their vocabulary using a new program called Vocabulary through Classical Roots Level 6. We use this program to teach predominantly multi-syllabic Greek and Latin-based words. They learn skills to discover the meaning of thousands words through exploring the meanings of roots. They will also learn word strategies as well as word etymologies.
  • Word Study – We will also be using Words Their Way for spelling instructions. Based off of a spelling inventory that was administered at the beginning of the year, students will work in group at the developmental spelling level. The students will examine, manipulate, compare and categorizes words in order to make discoveries about how words are spelled. Each week students will learn a new group of words. The students will do multiple sorts with those words throughout the week to reinforce the spelling patterns they are learning.
  • Literature –In Literature,students will be exploring various genres of literature including, but not limited to, historical fiction, poetry, informational, and realistic fiction. Students will participate in literature circle discussions, book clubs, whole class novel discussions, and independent reading units. Students will take on different roles in discussion groups as a way for students to be interact with the novel in various ways. Each unit, we will focus on reading comprehension strategies and critical thinking skills in relation to the text of the unit. Most novels will be read in class, either as a whole group, with a small group, or with a partner. Some novels and texts that the students will engage in are: The Giver, Greek Mythology, Tales of Ancient Egypt, Tales of Ancient Greece, and When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. Throughout the year, students will engage in the Junior Great Books program. Students will listen to a short story, and will have an in-depth class discussion following the readings using the Shared Inquiry discussion format. Using interpretive questions where each student arrives at his or her own answer, the program encourages meaningful participation, and places an emphasis on the fact that there is no right or wrong answer to questions. Students are encouraged to use evidence from the text to support their answer.

Ivrit (Hebrew)

One of the main goals of our Hebrew program at Akiva is to provide our students with class experiences to learn Ivrit B’Ivrit (Hebrew immersion) that both challenges and supports them. Students are divided into sections based on teacher recommendations, class performance, assessments, and team discussions to help fulfill this goal Our classes reflect a commitment to Ivrit B’Ivrit, student centered classrooms, transparency (parents and students are aware of the struggles, goals, expectations, and accomplishments for each student) and a focus on developing units that always reflect the end goal for our students in all areas of their development. We developed our curriculum based on the extensive research that supports both the success of the “proficiency approach” and the value of thematic learning across grade levels. This program allows us to ensure that students leave Akiva both able to analyze grammatical forms and well-suited to engage in every-day conversation. Our standards and benchmarks are based on this approach and reflected in our comprehensive curriculum focusing on reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

The goal of thematic based learning is to create common learning experiences, commitment to shared vision and values, collective creativity, and common benchmarks for individual levels that are explored differently based on section. Themes for the two-year cycle include: Friendship, Me, Israel through the Arts, Animals, Family, Courage, Feelings, Let’s Travel through Israel, and Hobbies. The students are engaged, comfortable, and excited to learn about themes that matter to them and read collections of poems, short stories, essays, books and newspaper articles that lend themselves to discussions in which each student is able to express his/her thoughts, ideas, and responses to key questions around each theme. Students are aware of their strengths and areas of growth and often change levels in their last two years of study at Akiva.

Judaic Studies

The curriculum in 6th grade Judaic Studies is composed of the study of 3 main books: Deuteronomy, Samuel I, and Ethics of the Fathers. Students engage in the study of all 3 books through the lens of leadership and explore such topics as struggling with those we love, the impact of our actions on our future, the function of laws and boundaries in society, the value of reflecting on who we are and where we are going, and how we prepare for new lands. In addition to this learning, students prepare for upcoming holidays, and have the opportunity to meet key figures in our community (including rabbis and scholars) to help further explore Jewish questions they are curious about. Students read the texts both in their original and in their translations and analyze various commentaries on the text. In this class, students are asked to improve and hone various skills including: writing (both creative and informational), reading, comprehension, and analytical thinking.

In their struggles with complicated text studies and chevruta learning, our students discover the value of taking risks and gain a sense of confidence in their ability to state positions that are clear and textually supported. Students learn to challenge others’ opinions, listen and respect others’ ideas and gain a more nuanced understanding of themselves in the process. The class culminates in an election for the future leader of the People of Israel, where the students are asked to present their understanding of powerful leadership, using textual support for their claims. A major goal of sixth grade Jewish studies is to prepare our students to be Jewish leaders who proudly demonstrate the skills and confidence to ask important questions about their identity and who continue to find value in informed Jewish living.

Library And Technology

The Library program at Akiva is based on the  Standards for the 21st Century Learner  created by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). The four main standards are that learners use skills, resources, and tools to: (1) Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge; (2) Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge; (3) Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society; and (4) Pursue personal and aesthetic growth. Additionally, in the Technology classes, students will learn computer basics (hardware, software, typing) as well as databases, the Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL), Web 2.0 tools, and Internet safety.


The goal of the Akiva School mathematics program is to educate students who are competent and confident young mathematicians. At the core, we seek to help students build meaningful understandings of what they do and how they use math. Akiva School honors the learner as an individual with varied strengths and weaknesses. Taking learners at their own level, we help them along the path of learning and success.

In sixth grade, our students are divided into two groups for math instruction, an on-level group and an accelerated group. The on-level math group uses a sixth grade math curriculum that focuses on building math skills and problem solving. Students extend the fundamental mathematic concepts learned in the early grades to include more sophisticated mathematics. While the students will practice and improve their number sense, measure sense, and estimation skills, they will work with fractions, decimals, percent, and integers (positive and negative numbers). They will expand their understanding of geometry, with a focus on compass-and –straightedge constructions, transformation of figures, and volumes of 3-dimensional figures. They will begin to use variables and open number sentences to represent problem situations; evaluating algebraic expressions and solving linear equations with one and two unknowns by performing the same operation to both sides of the equations. Finally, they will begin to explore probability and statistics. Throughout the year, an emphasis will be placed on realistic problem solving, frequent and distributed practice, and activities that explore a wide variety of mathematical content and offer students opportunities to apply their skills. Our resource for mathematics instruction is Everyday Math.

Students are identified for the accelerated group based on multiple factors, including teacher observation and recommendation, class performance, overall mathematical aptitude based on scores from a variety of standardized test measures, as well as the student’s ability to organize and his/her readiness to handle an accelerated program. In this class, the students will focus on some of the same concepts covered in the on-level class, only in greater depth and at a faster pace. These concepts include solving linear equations and inequalities, graphing on a coordinate plane, performing operations with integers, working with exponents and scientific notation, extending skills with fractions, decimals, and percents, data, geometry, probability, and ratios and similarity. Students will use a variety of resources to accomplish the course goals including a pre-algebra textbook.


Science in the sixth grade will engage students in the scientific processes as they explore the natural world. They will begin to understand the fluid nature of scientific thought by studying the history of science, learning our current understanding of the world, and finally designing their own experiments. In the sixth grade we will continue to explore the scientific process through experimentation including writing in scientific notebooks and designing experiments. This is the right time. Sixth graders have the cognitive ability to identify and manage the many factors that define a good experiment and they will be guided through this process. While the scientific process is taught throughout the curriculum, we will start the year with a VariablesUnit, which will further explore controlled experimentation. In addition, it will help students see the relationships between actions and reactions, between cause and effect.

Once the students have begun to use the scientific process, we will apply these skills as we study physical, earth and life science. In the sixth grade the physical science unit is Force and Motion. We will  investigate linear motion, including position and several aspects of change of position—distance, displacement, speed, velocity, and acceleration.

The Planetary Science unit  emphasizes the use of knowledge and evidence to construct explanations for the structures and motions of objects in the Solar System. Students study the Earth as a celestial object before progressing to lunar science and lunar exploration. They then move on to the Solar System and the objects that exist and move within the system. Activities explore the origin of the Moon, celestial motions, Moon phases, lunar geology, cratering processes, imaging technologies, scaling and space exploration.

Finally, in Life Sciences we will focus on aquatic environments. The Environments unit teaches that all living things depend on the conditions in their environment and that changes in an environment can be hard on organisms. Such knowledge is important because humans can change environments. To do so without awareness of possible consequences can lead to disasters. Our resource for science instruction is the FOSS curriculum.

Special Topics In Jewish Studies

Special Topics classes are unique to our 5th and 6th grades. They meet twice a week for half of the school year. Sixth grade will study the Holocaust in the first quarter. This class uses the text The Holocaust: A History of Courage and Resistance by Bea Stadtler and explores the Holocaust through a number of different lenses. We will be using Raul Hilberg’s Six Stages of Destruction as a framework for understanding the big picture of the Holocauset. We conclude by studying the heroes of the Holocaust, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and the unit culminates with the Holocaust Hero research project at the end of the quarter. In the 3rd quarter, we will study Israel Today. In Israel Today, we study the modern State of Israel through looking at its culture, history, and politics.

Signature Projects & Field Trips

  • Cultural Fair – For the cultural fair, the students will be comparing and contrasting Ancient Civilization to the lifestyle and culture of the current countries that occupy the same land as the Ancient Civilization.
  • Greek Myths – Students will write and illustrate their own myths using the Greek myths as a guide.
  • Parthenon Visit – Students will explore Nashville’s Parthenon as a part of our unit on ancient Greece.
  • Holocaust Hero Project – Students research a hero of their choosing from the Holocaust and write a report on how the hero changed people’s lives for the better.
  • Model Seder – Students prepare and lead a seder for Pesach after learning about its distinct parts, symbolism behind these steps and a sense of the history that led up to the various ways this holiday is celebrated today.
  • Leadership Project – Students reflect on the leaders they have learned about in Judaic Studies and run in part of an election to be the future leader of the People of Israel. Their speeches are presented to friends, family and a set of community judges.
  • 5th/6th Class Trip

Sixth Grade Daily Schedule

  • Tefillah
  • Ivrit
  • Judaic Studies
  • Science
  • Math
  • Recess/Lunch
  • Humanities
  • Specials (P.E./Dance, Art, Music, Special Topics in Judaic Studies, Choice)

Contact Information

David Williams
Rena Malkofsky-Berger
Michal Zidkyahu