Skills kids need going into sixth grade

By Amanda Morin

At a glance

  • Organization and independence are important sixth-grade skills.

  • Sixth graders need to understand place value and be able to work with decimals up to the hundredths place.

  • Sixth graders have to write to provide information, to support their opinion, and to tell a story.

Sixth grade is a big transition year. In many school districts, this is when students begin middle school, which involves moving from classroom to classroom throughout the day as well as an increased workload. Academic expectations take a leap forward, too.

Your state’s academic standards outline the skills students need for each grade level. Here are some of the key skills kids are expected to learn by the end of fifth grade to be ready for sixth grade.

Skills to get ready for grade 6: English language arts and literacy

To get ready for sixth grade, fifth graders start reading plays, poems, and news articles in addition to short stories. They build a larger vocabulary by studying Greek and Latin roots of words. They also work on skills to help them summarize the things they learn — in both writing and speaking.

Kids write daily and improve their research skills of gathering information as well as interpreting, organizing, and presenting it. They learn to do the following kinds of activities that help develop language and literacy skills:

  • Identify themes of stories, poems, and plays by looking at how characters respond to challenges.
  • Compare stories and poems that talk about the same theme.
  • Support ideas with facts and details from a text.
  • Use information from many different sources (books, articles, websites) to find an answer to a question or problem.
  • Learn the conventions of Standard English and learn topic-related vocabulary (like science words) to use in writing and speaking.
  • Understand similes, metaphors, and other figurative language.
  • Participate in conversations and discussions not only by listening, but also by asking questions and adding their own ideas.
  • Give presentations, tell stories, and write reports, research papers, and opinion essays in a logical order and with supporting details.

Download graphic organizers to help your child with writing, and learn how to help your child break writing assignments into chunks. Is your child struggling with reading? Discover ways to build phonological awareness in middle school. And see which reading and writing skills kids typically develop at different ages.

Skills to get ready for grade 6: Mathematics

By the end of fifth grade, students are expected to understand place value and to work with decimals up to the hundredths place. They’re also expected to know how to add, subtract, and multiply fractions. Fifth grade is also a year for building geometry and measurement skills.

Here are some math activities kids do to get ready for sixth grade:

  • Compare two decimals and figure out which is greater or less than the other.
  • Solve word problems using multiplication, fractions, or mixed numbers.
  • Represent math problems on a graph.
  • Measure volume and relate volume to multiplication and addition.

How to help your rising sixth grader

Kids develop at different rates. But if your child hasn’t mastered most of these skills by the end of fifth grade, it’s a good idea to talk with your child’s teacher about your concerns. Together, you and the teacher can come up with a plan for addressing your child’s trouble spots.

You can practice skills at home with your child, too. Here are some things you can do:

  • Ask your child to read and discuss details about both fictional and informational texts of varying lengths.
  • Practice multiplication and division without paper (“mental math”).
  • Practice rounding decimals with dollars and coins, or with the prices of objects listed in advertisements.
  • Discuss positive and negative numbers in terms of credits and debits using a bank account or a bill.
  • Discuss the volume of objects around your home, like a water bottle, a box, or a container.

Keep in mind that the activities kids do in sixth grade require good . Explore ways to help your child build these skills. And follow steps to prepare your child for changes to routine in middle school.

Key takeaways

  • To be ready for sixth grade, kids need to know many ways to find answers to questions and support their answers with facts and details.

  • If you notice that your child is having trouble keeping up, talk to your child’s teacher about your concerns.

  • Practicing math and reading skills at home can help your child prepare for sixth grade.

    Tell us what interests you

    Share

    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days. 

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Kristen L. Hodnett, MSEd is a clinical professor in the department of special education at Hunter College in New York City.