6th Grade

In the Middle School the primary objective of the English course is for students to build and enrich their reading, writing, thinking, and communication skills while using language to live more thoughtful, creative, and examined lives. Students use reading and writing to forge a deeper understanding of themselves and their roles in the world around them. We encourage students to gain an appreciation and love of language that will sustain them as lifelong learners.

Students read and write extensively in the genres of non-fiction, fiction, and poetry. Students also learn presentation skills, the conventions of the English language, and mechanics of good writing in the context of literature studies and writing projects.
In Middle School the focus of mathematics is a balance between an understanding of basic mathematical operations and math concepts and the abstract application of these concepts. During the middle grades, students solidify attitudes about themselves as learners of mathematics. They arrive at conclusions about their competence in mathematics, their attitudes, their interest, and their motivation. These attitudes will influence how they approach the study of mathematics in later years. Students learn a variety of content, building new mathematical knowledge through problem solving; they apply and adapt a range of appropriate strategies to solve problems; and they monitor and reflect on the process of mathematical thinking. Topics covered include: number sense, patterns and algebraic thinking, decimal operations, data and statistics, number patterns and fractions, fraction operations, integers, equations and inequalities, functions, ratios and proportions, percents, properties of geometric figures, and geometric measurements.

The goal of the 6th grade history course is to present and reinforce the basic skills necessary to be a successful student of history. These basic skills include:
  • Drawing meaning from text
  • Presenting ideas clearly and concisely, through a variety of formats
  • Developing strong research methods
  • Working smarter, not faster
  • Working cooperatively as members of small and large learning groups
  • Note taking, including highlighting, underlining, split notes, post-it notes, and note cards in preparation for study and test taking
The course includes the study of world geography and the themes of government, human rights, world religions, and inspirational figures in history.
Sixth grade science strikes a balance between the acquisition of conceptual and factual knowledge and the development of scientific process skills. Math skills are also utilized. Topics include lab safety, microbiology and hydrology, the sun-moon-earth system, structural technology, energy, and geology.

Students gain experience in:
  • Use of the scientific process, including observing, measuring communicating, comparing, contrasting, organizing, classifying, analyzing, inferring, developing hypotheses and predicting outcomes
  • Scientific literacy by communicating ideas about science topics both orally and in writing
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving in cooperative and individual settings
  • Development of collaborative work skills
  • Application of scientific concepts to “everyday” situations
Problem Solving -- SEED
Problem Solving is a SEED course (Social, Emotional and Ethical Development) focusing on the relationship between learning and problem solving. The essential questions behind the curriculum are, "Do I commit to putting the effort in to attempting to learn this concept?” and "Do I commit to putting the effort into solving this problem?" This approach helps students to realize many academic, social, and emotional tasks are akin problems that need to be solved, and if they approach them systematically, with a growth mindset, they can solve most of them. This approach also reinforces the importance of students taking into account the unique perspectives, emotions, and character strengths of everyone involved, including themselves, and using those important components to guide the problem-solving process. Applying learned strategies, students recognize if they have all of the information and materials they need to solve a problem and how to use the resources available to them. During this course, the students learn about themselves as individuals, including their own unique combination of character strengths, their individual learning style, their relationship tendencies, and their personal approaches to both challenges and feedback. The academic focus of gathering information and using resources incorporates the skills of note taking, studying, homework completion, and organization.
This problem-solving course includes both high and low-tech approaches to design, bridging its full expanse from conceptual work, modeling, and drawing to final fabrication. Students learn about the iterative design process and prototyping through a series of building activities. One day they could be competing with each other to see who can design and build the best paper airplane, while making incremental improvements to their designs. In subsequent weeks, they could be focused on designing and prototyping products that make everyday life a little better. Starting by creating blueprints and schematics for their product concepts them might model them using cardboard before finally 3D designing and printing working versions of their ideas.

What happened to Lester? Why was he found floating facedown in his swimming pool? Whose fingerprints are those? Who could have a motive to want him dead?
In this course, students act as detectives using science process skills and logic to figure out what happened. They study a crime scene, cull through forensic evidence, decipher the statements of suspects, analyze newspaper and journal articles, parse legal documents, and examine photographic evidence. Eventually, with students acting in various roles as suspects, their defense attorneys, or lead prosecutors, a criminal trial is conducted to determine who is responsible for the death of business tycoon Lester Hempstead.


Our art program helps students to enhance their creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities, as well as learn to think “outside of the box.” The 6th grade art program revolves around the discovery and exploration of new media, first focusing on the technical aspects of art, such as drawing and shading, line, shape, texture, and color theory. The course also includes painting, graphic design, sculpture, and an integrated curriculum project.
Music & Drama
All students participate in both music and drama classes. These performing arts classes focus on building confidence and artistic literacy through teamwork. Foundational skills are introduced and reinforced through creative collaboration and hands-on experience. We believe that there is a place for every student, especially those who feel they do not have any performable talent! In addition to the drama class that all students participate in, sixth graders also choose between choir, handbells/percussion, strings*, and band* for their ensemble experience.

*It is recommended that students signing up for strings or band have at least one year of prior experience on the instrument of choice. 

In 6th grade STEAM, students learn how to use their new laptops as educational tools in a 1:1 educational environment. Topics covered include organization, safe search practices, digital citizenship, and collaboration. Beyond this, the core of the 6th grade STEAM course focuses on learning the basics of code through block coding in Scratch. Students learn how to structure their code using booleans, loops, and conditional statements which help them with their capstone project, the 6th Grade Arcade, in which students must create their own multi-player game using Scratch. Finally, students are introduced to the tools and resources available to them in the Middle School Makerspace via interdisciplinary projects in coordination with their other academic classes.

At Shipley we believe that each student should have a time in his or her program to explore talents, passions, and interests. Our mini-courses are designed to meet that goal. Because they are offered as electives, there is usually a mixture of students from all three Middle School grade levels in each course. Recent mini-course titles have included: Stock and Chess Club, Indoor Wiffle Ball, Backgammon, Reading Olympics, Movie Club, Science Olympiad, Pickle Ball, and Meditation, to name just a few.
Physical Education

Each season, all 6th grade students participate in a sport of their choosing. During the first few weeks, in order to provide exposure to a variety of sports, the students rotate through the sports offered and then choose one sport to play for the rest of a season. From that point forward, students participate in daily practices during the school day and conclude with two or three after-school games played against other schools. Sports offered include:
  • Fall: Soccer, Tennis, Field Hockey
  • Winter: Basketball, Squash, Volleyball
  • Spring: Lacrosse, Softball, Baseball
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.