In more and more Classical Conversations communities, sixth graders start their final year in Foundations already knowing a lot of the memory work. Many of these students began Foundations sitting on mom’s lap and soaking up the timeline cards as early as age three. How do we keep them engaged through Foundations and prepare them for Challenge A?
First of all, we can be glad that they know the memory work, but we can also teach them to be kind and compassionate to other students who have not yet mastered the facts. Their role can become one of mentor and helper, but only if their heart is in the right place. Shouting out the answer does demonstrate that they know the material, but it prevents other students from being able to hear the tutor and disrupts the class. So, talk to your student about avoiding prideful behavior and developing self-control. Those are important skills; be glad for the extra practice.
Second, we can capitalize on the presentation time. An experienced Foundations/Essentials student should be able to research a topic related to memory work, write a one-to three-paragraph paper, memorize the speech, and deliver it well during Foundations class. If memorizing the paper takes too much time, students can give their speech from their key word outline.
Third, older students can go further with science by writing a formal lab report for each science project completed by their Foundations class. They should pay close attention in class and take notes. At home they should write out: 1) the hypothesis, 2) the procedure and materials used, and 3) the conclusion. The final report should be well-written in complete sentences using nice handwriting and should be accompanied by an illustration. Some extra research may need to be done to adequately understand the experiment, too. The student should keep a science notebook for all the lab reports. In Cycle 3, while studying the human body, the student should research and write a paragraph about each organ/body system introduced in Foundations. This paragraph and a labeled illustration can also go into the science notebook.
In geography, Foundations students are only required to name the locations on a map, but an advanced sixth grader should draw the map every day at home and add the locations that have already been introduced on the community days. Students should continue to work toward being able to draw the U.S. map from memory and to label the states, capitals, and physical features by the end of the school year.
For extra memory work, older students can memorize important American speeches. Look for stirring speeches made by Abraham Lincoln, Patrick Henry, or Ronald Reagan. Words Aptly Spoken: American Documents is a great source for American speeches and poetry. Some can also be found on the internet. These speeches could be given in Foundations class, in opening assembly, and at home to family members.
Students should repeat the fine art assignment a few more times each week for practice. If the Foundations class drew objects upside down, older students should find four more pictures to draw upside down and draw one each day that week. If they copied Georgia O’Keefe paintings in class, they should paint four more similar paintings the following week.
At home, older students can begin practicing how to summarize a text. The students need to be able to read a chapter of a book and summarize it in one or two sentences. This can be difficult if the chapter is full of interesting facts. The student needs pull out the one main idea and express it in his or her own words clearly. For practice, you could choose a book such as a volume of The History of US by Joy Hakim. Students should file chapter summaries in a history notebook.
Finally, a sixth-grade student should read plenty of good literature. There is an enormous selection of great literature related to American history. For quality choices, check out Beautiful Feet Books. A U.S. history collection is available for purchase with one click. Many Newbery classics can enrich your American studies. Don’t forget to seek out good books about math, science, and geography, too.
Additional coursework should include Latin and spelling. Spelling Plus offers the most common words in the English language in lists which are organized by difficulty. Completing any of Latin’s Not So Tough Levels 3-6 will prepare students to study Henle I Latin in Challenge A.
As a parent and mentor, look at your whole child and make sure that you are developing mind, body, and soul. Seek out opportunities for students to develop character through Christian youth theatre, sports, or Bible studies. Look for ways to instill virtue, truth, beauty and goodness. These are skills and talents that will prepare them for Challenge A and adulthood.